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Local Farm Bureau Board Discusses Issues

Most opinions from the Giles County Farm Bureau Board of Directors seemed to follow those of the Tennessee Farm Bureau based on a questionnaire discussed recently by the county group.

A variety of agricultural and governmental topics were discussed, ranging from foreign ownership of agricultural land to the selection process for Tennessee’s Attorney General to cybersecurity and implications of the Greenbelt Acreage Cap, among others.

One of the most widely discussed topics of the day, “impacts of Covid 19” was part of the survey.

Background information for the survey from the Tennessee Farm Bureau indicated that “food markets continue to deal with unprecedented and simultaneous shocks to supply and demand that impacted the entire supply chair and caused significant shirts in demand patterns.”

“The most recent report from the U. S. Census Bureau on sales for retail and food services shows that demand for food at grocery stores has declined from the record levels we saw in March but remains 13 percent higher than the same period last year.”

“On the supply side, there have been temporary closures of a number of meatpacking plants and a slower pace of slaughter at others due to Covid-19, which led to tightening supplies of some meat products over the past few weeks.”

“All facets of the supply chain have been impacted by labor shortages.”

“Tightening meat supply and food price increases resulted from demand changes and temporary disruptions in supply. They don’t imply long-term food shortages or a fundamental breakdown in the supply chain.”

Farm Bureau’s policy is driven by the belief in free market enterprise.

Urbanization

Though Giles County is not an urban county, urbanization was part of the Farm Bureau survey.

Tennessee’s population grew to 6,910,840, over the past decade up 8.9 percent since 2010, according to the 2020 Census results. Projections anticipate anticipate the state’s population is going to grow to 7.8 million by 2040 and 9.3 million by 2070. Much of this growth is expected to to be in Davidson and surrounding counties, according to other information from Farm Bureau.

There has been legislation to amend or even delete the state’s Urban Growth Boundary Law. That required a comprehensive growth policy plan in each county to include anticipated development areas for a county and its cities for 20 years.

In 2014, the General Assembly, with Farm Bureau support, eliminated annexation by ordinance and provided that annexation within the urban growth boundary can only occur by referendum or with written consent of the property owner(s).

“As Tennessee’s population grows, Farm Bureau leaders should be aware of the significant implications of their community’s plans for growth,” according to Tennessee Farm Bureau.

Zoning and Agricultural Issues

County and city governments are not given the authority to regulate normal agricultural activities through zoning as long as the farming operation also meets the state’s legal definition of agriculture.

A recent Tennessee court case surrounding an agri-tourism operation used as a wedding venue has brought some clarity to the state court’s perception of how agri-tourism fits within the legal definition of agriculture, according to Tennessee Farm Bureau.

In the past year, several livestock slaughter facilities have been built or planed to be built, according to Tennessee Farm Bureau.

As these facilities have been planned, local zoning regulations have become an issue. Inherently, slaughter facilities are outside of the scope of the state’s definition of agriculture and can be considered industrial/commercial to local zoning regulations. These regulations can vary between the local governments.

Farm Bureau was urged to continue to work to protect agriculture’s exemption from local zoning regulations.

Partition of Heirs Property

Heirs’ property is property held by tenancy in common by heirs without clear agreement as to ownership.

Congress placed a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill allowing farmers utilizing heirs property to receive a farm number allowing participation in Farm Service Agency and United States Department of Agriculture programs if their state passed the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act.

Tennessee has not adopted this Uniform Act. A working group of different organizations is working on potential legislation for 2022.

Tennessee Farm Bureau has engaged with the working group to represent farmers and rural people.

Cybersecurity

Recent cyberattacks on JBS Foods and Colonial Pipeline raised awareness to vulnerabilities in the supply chain and national security, according to information from Tennessee Farm Bureau.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimated daily livestock slaughter report showed drops in processing of about 27,000 cattle and about 95,000 hogs from the week prior to the hack on JBS Foods.

The agriculture sector faced a great threat as the attack on Colonial Pipeline occurred in the midst of the planting season.

Implications of the Greenbelt Acreage Crop

Tennessee Law allows an individual to enroll 1,500 acres per county in the Greenbelt Program.

Non farm landowners believe the Greenbelt Law impacts local government revenue by reducing the tax base likely leading to a combination of of higher property tax rates and taxes on those property owners not enjoying greenbelt valuations.

Tennessee’s Attorney-General Selection Process

Since 1870, Tennessee has selected its attorney general and reporter by a method outlined in Article VI. Section 5 of the state constitution by vote of state senators.

Lawmakers also have repeatedly discussed changing the selection process.

One way, which has gained some support, is through nomination by the state supreme court and confirmation by the General Assembly.

“Farm Bureau policy supports an independent judiciary,” according to information from Tennessee Farm Bureau.

Carter Witt, a member of the Giles County Farm Bureau board and a former state legislator, seemed to favor not making changes.

“Tennessee has done two things right,” he said, “the selection of the lieutenant governor and the attorney general.”

Selection of the lieutenant governor was not part of the survey.

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