From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Recently, I joined Gov. Pat McCrory and several members of the legislature for a bill signing ceremony at the Capitol for the N.C. Farm Act of 2013. This was an important piece of legislation that clarified a number of laws of an agricultural nature and also included liability limitations for farm animal activities and for producers that are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practices and the Good Handling Practices Audit Verification Program.
The N.C. Farm Act of 2013 had overwhelming support. It passed in the house with 109 voting yes and 3 voting no. It passed in the Senate with 41 voting yes and 3 voting no. The primary sponsors of the bill were Sens. Brent Jackson and Andrew Brock, with support of Reps. Jimmy Dixon and Chuck McGrady in the House.
The liability legislation for farm animal activities was important because of the inability of petting zoo owners and others working with farm animal exhibits to obtain insurance for their operations. Insurance costs are skyrocketing for those who operate farm animal activities.
This year, for the first time, we did not have a petting zoo at the Got to Be NC Festival because of the insurance issue. Without liability limitations, we likely would also see ag education programs, such as the FFA, have to remove animals from their educational curriculum, which is not good.
It is important to teach children about raising farm animals and how to care for them, and I believe farm animal exhibits are important teaching tools.
This bill also limits the liability of North Carolina farmers who invest a lot of time and money in becoming certified by the USDA for Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices and have taken other steps to ensure food safety. It applies only to farmers selling to wholesalers and retailers. It does not apply to farmers selling directly to consumers.
Some producers may be familiar with an annual survey of users who withdraw 10,000 gallons of water per day or more for agricultural purposes. Such users were required to submit their data to our department annually. This bill changes that reporting cycle to every other year.
There is also a clarification for agritourism operations involving the use of farm buildings for public or private events such as weddings, receptions or meetings. Under this bill, the buildings used for these purposes can retain their farm building status, which clarifies a gray area in the law.
There are many other items covered in this bill. If you want to know more, it is referred to as Senate Bill 638.
This was the first time I have participated in a bill signing with a governor, and I was proud for North Carolina's leading industry to be recognized in such a way.
I have said many times that I believe we can grow agriculture into a $100 billion industry, and good governmental policy is one of the keys.
I am especially proud that the Governor has taken an interest in agriculture and agribusiness and that he understands the potential growth and economic impact of this industry to our economy.