Legislatures and supporters of the 2018 N.C. Farm Act are not pleased with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s rejection of the plan, which pushes lawsuit protection for farmers.
Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County released a statement in response to the veto. The local Republican was the chief sponsor of the 2018 Farm Act, or Senate Bill 711, which would make various changes to the agriculture laws. Farmers and supporters held a pro-agriculture rally Monday afternoon in Raleigh. According to a news release from Jackson’s office, the bill addresses a number of issues facing North Carolina’s farming community and makes changes to the state’s right to farm law after “a recent court ruling dismantled the law and rendered all farmers vulnerable to malicious, unfounded lawsuits.”
Cooper, a Democrat, felt differently about the bill and explained his reasons why in a veto message.
“While agriculture is vital to North Carolina’s economy, so property rights are vital to people’s homes and other businesses,” Cooper stated. “North Carolina’s nuisance laws can help allow generations of families to enjoy their homes and land without fear for their health and safety. Those same laws stopped the Tennessee Valley Authority from pumping air pollution into our mountains.”
Cooper added that laws must balance the needs of businesses versus property rights.
“Giving one industry special treatment at the expense of its neighbors is unfair,” Cooper said.
The bill was returned to the state’s senate for reconsideration on Tuesday. Jackson is encouraging legislators to override Cooper’s decision.
“It’s a sad day when the governor of North Carolina chooses to stand up for out-of-state trial lawyers over our family farmers, and this veto has left our rural communities wondering where the Roy Cooper who grew up in rural Nash County has gone,” Jackson stated. “I will urge the Senate to promptly override this misguided veto and restore meaning to the right to farm in N.C.”
His office added that “Roy Cooper turned his back on rural North Carolina continues to grow.” Along with the farm bill, one of the listed incidents was House Bill 467, which would limit liability in nuisances cases for agriculture, forestry operations and hog farms.
S.B. 711 legislation was backed by the agribusiness industry after lawsuits filed against pork producers from residents uncomfortable with odors from facilities. According to Associated Press reports, Smithfield Foods is facing a $51 million verdict — cut to about $3 million because of punitive damage limits.
Jackson’s office said the “Farm Acts puts the teeth back into the law to give our family farmers the protections the legislature has intended since passing the right to farm in 1979. This legislation comes in response to the hundreds of politically motivated and frivolous lawsuits that have threatened to bankrupt many farmers.”
NC Farm Families, an organization that advocates for farmers, also expressed disappointment with the governor’s decision.
“This bill provided protection for not just the pork industry, but all of agriculture,” said Maria See, interim president for NC Farm Families. “Our farmers deserve better than lawsuits after they’ve worked hard to do things the right and the responsible way. This veto leaves our farmers and their families open to further needless lawsuits.”
The state’s farm bill is one several affecting farmers and community members. Nationally, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2 — The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. Rep. David Rouzer, R-7th District, released a statement showing support for the bill.
“A strong farm bill is critical to our farm families and rural communities — not to mention its role in providing every American with the safest, most affordable food supply in the world,” Rouzer stated. “The 7th District will especially benefit from the Farm Bill because of the steps taken to prevent potential animal disease outbreaks, the enhancements made to the farm safety net and the investments made to help address the infrastructure needs of our rural communities.”
Rouzer also made a statement regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides assistance to low-income applicants.
“The Farm Bill also makes critical reforms to (SNAP) in an effort to maintain vital nutrition assistance for those who truly need it while providing work-capable adults receiving these benefits with the incentives necessary to get a job, participate in workforce training if needed, and improve their lives,” Rouzer stated.