Hotlist 8/6/19: The Farm Act Rears Its Ugly Head

The 2019 Farm Act has been a hot topic this session, with a long war waged over how to regulate smokable hemp. But unfortunately, less attention has been paid to the bill’s continuing erosion of protections against hog and poultry pollution.

On July 25th, the House Judiciary Committee reverted the bill to Sen. Brent Jackson’s problematic original version, effectively undoing the amendments adopted in other House committees over seven distinct bill editions and four long months of session. The original iteration banned growing smokable hemp, effective in 2020. This action was supposedly a compromise between law enforcement, who fear officers will not be able to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana, and farmers who seek to capitalize on hemp’s projected success as a new cash crop.

But the most concerning thing about the latest version of the bill is its troubling implications for the environment. Foremost is a provision exempting biogas-producing hog farms from North Carolina’s odor rules. While there are problems with compounding pollution in biogas itself, this section’s language also creates a loophole in 2005’s moratorium on swine farm lagoons and expansion. The bill also seeks to make confidential many public records regarding soil and water conservation and industrialized livestock operations.

Rep. Harrison unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill several times, in an effort to remove the odor rule exemption and operation expansion provisions. In response, Rep. Dixon noted his personal affinity for bacon, and requested a no vote, “since we continue to love the smell of breakfast.”

In another valiant effort, Rep. Hunt sought to strike the confidentiality provision, asserting the bill violated the Sunshine Law, and that “in the spirit of transparency, the public needs to be aware of this information.” Always quick with a retort, Rep. Dixon responded that he thought “there [was] plenty of sunshine.”

The current version of the Farm Act is a threat to our air and water. Further, the bill enables Big Ag to hide its pollution, while robbing North Carolinians of their ability to seek justice.

We encourage legislators to vote NO on the Farm Act!

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