On the scene at the North Carolina General Assembly

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Farm Bureau was on the scene when the North Carolina General Assembly convened its 2011-12 legislative biennium at noon, Jan. 26.

This year’s long session will find the state’s 47 newly elected legislators acquainting themselves with the people, issues and rules that govern our state and its laws. The session will also provide many opportunities
for Farm Bureau members to get to know their new lawmakers or simply become reacquainted with their legislative friends.

Fortunately for farmers, rural residents and urban dwellers alike, the state’s largest general farm organization has always worked with legislators across both sides of the aisle as a regular part of its advocacy mission. After all, agriculture’s farming and rural issues are not partisan ones by nature.

The main issue facing the state’s 120 representatives and 50 senators is, of course, the $2.2 billion to $3.7 billion budget deficit. North Carolina residents, both urban and rural, would like to see a legislature that works together to help bring the state out the economic drought. There are many tough decisions to be made, and Farm Bureau is going to be right there to offer advice to help farmers and rural communities. As the debate grows, Farm Bureau staff will be watching and providing technical assistance to members of the General Assembly.

In early February, more than 200 of our volunteer leaders visited their members of the North Carolina House and Senate. We visited the legislature to let them know that agriculture, forestry and agribusiness
combined is still the largest industry in the state, generating more than $74 billion in annual cash receipts. Without farmers, the economy and all of us would be much worse off.

Like every small business, farmers need to stay organized in order to protect their rights. From our perspective, when the state keeps laws and regulations fair for farmers, it is really protective and beneficial for the general public.

Some of the main issues of concern farmers discussed with their legislators included animal care, the budget deficit, property rights, regulatory fairness and water policy.Larry  Wooten NCFB President

While the start of the 2011-12 session represented another in a row of billion-dollar budget deficits, it also made history with a significant first: Republicans claimed control of both houses of the General Assembly for the first time since 1898. In the N.C. House, there are 67 Republicans, 52 Democrats, and one unaffiliated member. In the N.C. Senate, there are 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

The GOP majority elected N.C. Rep. Thom Tillis, of Mecklenburg County, and N.C. Sen. Phil Berger, of Rockingham County, as the top leaders in their respective chambers.

North Carolina Farm Bureau has been working with both Republican and Democratic leaders throughout its 75-year history in the state because food impacts everyone. Accordingly, Farm Bureau of North Carolina has focused on working with the lawmakers who can best impact the laws, regulations and policies that affect the ability of the state’s 52,000 farmers to grow, distribute and earn a living from the land. We will continue to follow this philosophy in order to best represent our members.
Larry Wooten
NCFB President

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