There is an issue that transcends all levels of government in the United States. It is an issue that affects our security as a nation and our very livelihood as farmers: farmland and farm operation protection. To continue to feed and clothe the nation, farmers must have protection from urban sprawl and rural development including nonreciprocal setbacks, burdensome regulation, and reactionary economic policies.
The United States has had a long-standing public policy promoting the importance of agriculture as the foundation of a free and prosperous nation. The US public is generally oblivious to all the threats facing agriculture and we must depend on our elected officials to engage and save the farm.
The 2023 Legislative Session is underway and the SCFB Government Relation’s team is hard at work to ensure our members’ issues are heard and addressed. Below is a synopsis of the priority issues the team will work on this year:
- Single agency water - Currently, water is managed by multiple government agencies. All the red tape (different for each agency) leads to discrepancies in policy and efficiency and makes accessing this resource difficult for SC farmers. SCFB believes water management should be handled by a single agency to increase transparency and reduce burdensome regulations for agriculture.
- Loss of Agricultural Land – Continued urbanization of agricultural land is shifting South Carolina’s rural landscape. This puts tremendous pressure on farmers, making farming responsibilities harder to accomplish through reduced access to farmland, negative external influences and the competition for land. SCFB is committed to working with local, state and national elected officials to ensure agriculture is part of the conversation as our rural lands become more and more desirable.
- Rural broadband - As has been made abundantly clear as we have transitioned to a “virtual meeting society,” access to broadband in rural areas must be improved. SCFB is working with the General Assembly to increase funding and access to broadband for our rural communities.
- Agricultural Funding - The pandemic has magnified the challenges and obstacles for our agricultural industry. Securing equitable funding to alleviate the pronounced disruptive impact on agriculture will allow our farmers’ resiliency to shine locally and globally while continuing to serve our population.
- Problematic Wildlife - Wildlife damage control is an increasingly important part of the wildlife management profession because of expanding human populations and intensified land use practices. Wildlife damage must be controlled. South Carolina farmers reported damage and economic losses from feral hogs to be $151.5 million annually (Rodriguez 2016). Economic losses to crops from deer damage is estimated to be $52 million annually (Smathers et al. 1993). Other wildlife, such as coyotes, are having significant negative impacts on livestock, fruit and melon production and native wildlife.
On the federal level, SC Farm Bureau works closely with American Farm Bureau to advocate for policies beneficial to farmers nationwide. This year’s Strategic Action Plan focuses on the following issues:
- 2023 Farm Bill
- Farm Bill priorities:
- Increase baseline for farm bill program spending;
- Maintain a unified farm bill which keeps nutrition programs and farm programs together;
- Any changes to current farm legislation must be an amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 or the Agricultural Act of 1949;
- Prioritize risk management tools and funding for both federal crop insurance and commodity programs; and
- Ensure adequate USDA staffing capacity and technical assistance.
- Farm Bill priorities:
- Agricultural Labor Reform
- Water of the US: AFBF joined 17 other organizations in challenging the new WOTUS rule in Federal District Court. Mace, Timmons, Duncan and Norman all signed on to a letter to the President denouncing the new WOTUS rule and the timing of its publishing given that the Supreme Court has yet to decide the current WOTUS challenge (Sackett v. EPA).
We encourage all Farm Bureau members to become involved in county and local government, and to share their involvement and activities with the membership of other county Farm Bureaus and the state Farm Bureau office.