Ag Policy Library

2016 Policy Development Backgrounders

Veterinary Feed Directive (pdf)
In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule. The final rule mandates certain feed administered antimicrobials (antibiotics) be prescribed by a veterinarian after December 31, 2016. With the changes, farmers must have been prescribed the antibiotic by the veterinarian with whom they have established a veterinarian-client relationship. The veterinarian must have examined the animals within one year of the request. With the final rule in place, are there needs the industry should meet before farmers are subjected to these new regulations?

2014 Farm Bill (pdf)
Congress is expected to begin hearings in preparation for a new Farm Bill in 2017. The three main components of the commodity title that were overhauled in this Farm Bill are Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), and Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP). These components are receiving attention now that prices for most commodities are receding from previous levels. As congressional agriculture committees focus their attention to a new Farm Bill, Farm Bureau must provide direction for lawmakers regarding changes to these programs and others such as the loan programs in the Farm Bill.

Hunting Hogs with Dogs (pdf)
Wild hog issues persist in Tennessee. Last session, some lawmakers believed taking a different strategy than recommendations of the Wild Hog Eradication Action Team (WHEAT) would help alleviate pressures in areas densely populated by hogs. WHEAT recommends restricting the use of dogs to hunt in order to disincentive hunters from potentially spreading the animals across the state for recreation. WHEAT members disagreed with legislation allowing hunting with dogs without a depredation permit. Meanwhile, resources are being utilized to defend the position.

Farm Lease Agreements (pdf)
Land rental agreements are an integral part of farming. It is very common for rented land to make up a sizable portion of a farmer’s total operation. There are many types of rental agreements. An oral lease agreement is most typically found across the state. These leases are usually based on a “handshake agreement” and the farmer keeps control of the land based on a past agreement.

Property Tax Boundaries (pdf)
In the 2016 legislative session, legislation was introduced to change laws guiding how property boundaries could be appealed. The legislation came as result of a finding that in Tennessee, if one party fails to pay property tax on a part of a piece of property for twenty years, the property owner loses their interest in the property. The legislation asked that property owners be given the opportunity appeal in this particular situation. As written, today’s law means the property shall be overturned by default.

Agribusiness Mergers (pdf)
Farmers depend on inputs more than ever. Technology costs are built in to the prices of seed and crop protection chemicals and the markets have fair competition. Mergers of some of the world’s largest agricultural chemical and seed providers could be of little consequence or even benefit farmers. In converse, producers may face other complications as a result of mergers. As these unfold, we will learn details and perhaps have a clearer picture.

Tennessee Nutrient Reduction Strategy (pdf)
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation released a strategy in 2015 for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus into streams and lakes. EPA is pushing states to develop strategies in an effort to reduce the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The strategy aims to reduce by 40% the amount of nutrients washing into streams and lakes. Agriculture will use voluntary best management practices for reducing nutrient loads. However, what if Tennessee and/or other states do not reach the targeted reductions?

Retail Meat Sales (pdf)
There continues to be a growing demand for farm products sold retail by the producer. Meat cuts are no different. Retail meat sales present a unique and increasingly popular niche which livestock producers are filling. As the trend grows more popular and the waitlist at slaughterhouses licensed to process meats for retail sale grows longer, more processing capacity may be necessary.


2015 Policy Development Backgrounders

Avian Influenza (pdf)
With confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the United States, the time is now for discussions about how agriculture deals with a devastating issue. The virus could be catastrophic for the Southeast and Tennessee’s poultry industry. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture and much of the industry have turned their attention to mitigating a potential and what some consider eminent outbreak.

Corn Check-off (pdf)
A growing number of farmers are highlighting the need for a state corn check-off. There is an active check- off program nationally for soybeans, cotton, pork, dairy, and beef. Beef is the only commodity with a state check-off to compliment the national check-off. These commodities have benefitted from the promotion, production research, and product research. Corn, wheat, and grain sorghum are major commodities in the state. However, farmer funded research and promotion does not exist for these commodities as it does for others.

Fuel Tax Increase (pdf)
The state’s network of highways and roads plays a very pivotal role in moving agricultural goods from one place to another. This network allows products to be transported to the consumer. Road building costs continue to rise with flat revenues. A major issue for legislators is how to fund these road projects and keep them maintained.

In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students (pdf)
Education plays an important role in the social behavior of any society. However, in Tennessee there are children who are not legal citizens because they were born out of country and may have been relocated to the United States at a very young age. These students may have a successful academic record with potential for a productive career. They are eligible to attend a state university but because of their legal status must pay out-of-state tuition even if they meet the Tennessee residency requirements.

Long Term Funding of Extension and Agriculture Research (pdf)
Extension and agricultural research all touch the heart of rural Tennessee. The programs provide essential unbiased and accurate research then take the findings and apply them to real life, on farm applications alongside producers. Even 4-H integrates a critical youth education and development component that has for over a century taught leadership and science based agriculture through K-12 programs. Traditional funding sources are making reductions and difficult spending decisions by prioritizing. Funding for these areas are not always prioritized near the top.

Rural Internet Services (pdf)
Internet speed and capabilities continue to grow in urban areas across the country. However in many rural areas the option for even the most moderate speed internet services is not available. Wireless and satellite services, which are the most likely to be available in these areas, offer limited speeds and capped usage amounts. There continues to be a growing demand for moderate speed access in the agricultural sector. Many areas across Tennessee still lack these options in order to make necessary and economically prudent upgrades.

Tennessee Nutrient Reduction Strategy (pdf)
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation released a strategy for reducing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus into streams. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pushing states to develop strategies as an alternative to a federal regulatory approach imposed on all states. This strategy has a goal of reducing nutrient run-off by 40%. The strategy divided sources of nutrients for regulatory purposes into two categories: 1.) regulated point sources from waste water treatment plants, industry, and MS4s and 2.) non-point sources from agriculture. Agriculture would be encouraged to use voluntary means for reducing nutrient loads. This would be highly dependent on production methods that limit the amount of nutrient run-off. Some concerns for agriculture are the methodology used to determine agriculture’s contribution and methods to measure success for agriculture.

Weight Limits on Country Roads (pdf)
Farmers and loggers rely on safe and consistent roads. Amendments added to legislation in 2014 would disallow counties from lowering weight limits on county roads below the state minimum of 80,000 lbs. (10% variance). Farm and forestry trucks have historically loaded to these limits to keep transportation efficient, economical and legal. Lowering limits on roads between the farm and state highways will virtually make the state limit submissive to any others.


2014 Policy Development Backgrounders

Agricultural Promotion Board Structure (pdf)
In the 2014 legislative session, both the Tennessee Dairy Promotion Committee and Tennessee Soybean Promotion Board were extended until 2015. In an effort to synchronize with sunsets of other agricultural promotion boards, both government operations committees chose to extend the boards by only one year as opposed to the traditional multiyear. Aside from some technical corrections to the language of the bill which extended the Soybean Promotion Board, committee structures and processes remained largely unchanged. It is possible, but not likely, efforts to amend the board member selection process will resurface with the sunset hearings.

Crude Oil and Natural Gas Severance Tax (pdf)
Over the past several years, drilling counties have been assessing “ad valorem” taxes to surface owners for oil and gas drilling on their property. By 2013, almost all of the drilling counties were beginning to assess this tax. Tennessee Code Annotated 60-1-301(c), which deals with the oil and gas severance tax, says that “No other tax shall be imposed on such gas and oil by the state, counties, or any other political subdivision of the state.” The oil and gas industry maintains that the ad valorem tax equates to a second severance tax based on the fact that the tax is calculated using annual production reports.

Food Deserts (pdf)
Food deserts are a rapidly expanding problem. While they generally occur in urban, low-income areas, they still have the potential to effect many rural areas. In the absence of financial resources or transportation needed to reach a grocery store, consumers turn to local convenience stores that rarely stock fresh, healthy foods. In turn, experts suggest food deserts lead to an epidemic of malnourished and obese Tennesseans.

Grain Checkoff (pdf)
Check-off programs provide research, new markets, enhancement to existing markets,
and education for certain commodities. Most of the current commodity check-off programs exist on the federal level and Tennessee receives promotion funds based on in-state production. Tennessee farmers produced approximately 128 million bushels of corn and 38.3 million bushels of wheat in 2013. However, there is not a corn or wheat check-off in Tennessee.

Growth Management (pdf)
In the 2014 legislative session, legislation abolishing annexation by ordinance was signed into law. Annexations can only take place by referendum or if property owners request to be annexed. However, land in agricultural use may only be annexed with consent of the farm owner regardless of the method of annexation. The legislation also directs the Tennessee Advisory Commission for Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to conduct a comprehensive study of state policy related to growth plans and changing city boundaries. This is an issue which is expected to be discussed increasingly as the life of growth boundaries comes to a close.

Natural Gas Infrastructure (pdf)
One of the recommendations in the Governor’s Rural Challenge is to advance agriculture, natural resources and rural infrastructure as Tennessee business priorities. Agriculture is highly dependent on energy and a clean, efficient, and cost effective energy supply is required in all types of commodities. The availability of abundant domestic natural gas supplies has driven down the cost of natural gas and makes it very competitive as an energy source for irrigation, heating of poultry and livestock barns, transportation, and other needs for agriculture. Natural gas is also considered a clean energy which will reduce regulatory burdens in the future. If agriculture is to benefit from natural gas, the rural infrastructure for natural gas will need to improve. This will take funding, planning, policy changes, and regulatory changes to accomplish this goal.

Pollinator Awareness (pdf)
Over the past decade, beekeepers have reported significant losses within their hives due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Colony Collapse Disorder is the significant or total absence of adult bees in a hive. With about 2.5 million hives being managed in the U.S., CCD is a major threat to the beekeeping industry economically. Additionally, a wide variety of crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables rely on pollination from honey bees. States are working to proactively find a balance between pollinators and pesticide use. The strategy is to prove to federal regulators that a voluntary, best management practice approach will prove label requirements are not necessary. The foundation of this strategy is better communication between farmers and beekeepers. Tennessee farmers may need to explore efforts for row crop producers and beekeepers to better coexist cooperatively.

Privacy or Right to Know (pdf)
Privacy issues are not just a concern of the farm community. The last couple of years while the agriculture community has dealt with legislative issues addressing covert filming on farm operations others have been addressing their own covert photography concerns.”Paparazzi” legislation has been gaining attention across the country ever since Princess Diana’s 1997 fatal car crash during a high-speed paparazzi chase. Even Tennessee has had legislation introduced to curtail unwanted photography. Legislation introduced in Tennessee would have created a civil cause of action against any person who physically invades the privacy of another or attempts to capture a visual image, sound recording, or any other physical impression of a person engaging in personal or familial activities.

Regional FFA Coordinators (pdf)
The FFA is a statewide, intracurricular youth organization supported by only two full-time staff members. Regional staff members are needed to provide support for and coordination between local programs at the district, section, region, state, and national level of competition and affiliation.


2013 Policy Development Backgrounders

Annexation (pdf)
A common reason active farmers do not want to be in the city is because they do not perceive they get the full benefit of services in return for the taxes paid. Proposed legislation in 2013 attempted to give those property owners in a proposed area the right for a referendum and thus the ability to decide whether they will be annexed or not. The Tennessee General Assembly has placed cities under a temporary moratorium on forced annexations of farm or residential property until May 15, 2014. What should the role of TFBF be in cases where legislation is introduced proposing annexation by majority vote only? Should Farm Bureau work with sponsors to include or exclude any provisions relative to agricultural lands?

Drones in Agriculture (pdf)
In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be allowing commercial and private Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to use the National Airspace System. It is speculated one of the biggest markets for drones would be in agriculture, reducing input costs for agricultural operations. Many citizens have privacy concerns about drones. A majority of these concerns are focused on government owned drones used for surveillance. Commercial and private drones are raising new concerns. The minimum altitude of flight for the drones would be approximately 500 feet in most areas, well within the operational range of modern recording devices. Citizens are concerned their neighbors or businesses could use drones to view their property without consent. Many are worried about the privacy and trespassing implications from these incidents. Agricultural operations are concerned about drones operating near their facilities because of the trespassing and security implications.

Farm Equipment Safety on Roadways (pdf)
As a result of urban encroachment, heightened driver distractions, increasing driver impatience and other factors, roadways have become more dangerous than ever for agricultural equipment operators. What should be done to improve the safety of Tennessee farmers while transporting equipment? What guidelines should escort drivers follow in order to be safe and fair to all users of public roads?

Farm Lease (pdf)
Land rental agreements are an integral part of farming. A typical rental agreement that exists across the state is an oral lease agreement. These leases are usually based on a “handshake agreement” and the farmer keeps control of the land based on a past agreement. Competition for farmland, changes in ownership and estate settlements have increased the number of disputes between farmer tenants and landowners wanting to terminate the oral agreement. No statutory law protects farmer tenants in this type of dispute.

Fracking (pdf)
Abundant reserves of shale gas have been discovered across America. East TN is above a major expanse of gas rich Marcellus shale. Shale gas has the potential to become a major part of Tennessee’s economy due to rising demand of natural gas. Unlike conventional gas extraction, shale gas must be extracted by more energy intensive means. Fracking has become a controversial method nationally, especially from environmental groups. Valid concerns exist about fracking, but many concerns have become sensationalized.

Greenbelt (pdf)
The Tennessee General Assembly established the “Agricultural, Forest, and Open Space Land Act of 1976,” commonly referred to as Greenbelt, out of concern of the threat urbanization and high land taxes have on agricultural and open lands. Lands have been eligible for property tax benefits as one of three classifications: farm, forestry or open space. 93 percent of Greenbelt property is enrolled as agriculture, 7 as forest and 1/50th of 1 percent as open space. Are some “open space” lands actually being classified as agriculture or forestry?

Irrigation (pdf)
Farmers are taking advantage of the benefits from large scale irrigation. The public and policy makers on the local and state level are paying attention to the increase in irrigation. Farmers need to consider two issues related to the increase in irrigation: 1.) developing a history of use on each farm to protect individual water rights in the future, and 2.) potentially being required to comply with the state’s water management laws designed for major water users.

Livestock Protection Act (pdf)
In recent decades, farm operations have been subjected to undercover intrusion. These activities have uncovered animal abuse and malpractice, which many activists use to sensationalize their cause. The evidence is released to the public to damage the reputation of animal agriculture and cause negative economic impacts to the industry.Should the Livestock Protection Act be pursued again? How could the legislation be improved? Animal abuse is not tolerated or sanctioned by the agricultural sector and the industry is actively reiterating this point to the public.


2012 Policy Development Backgrounders

Property Rights Collide with Second Amendment Rights (pdf)
Private property rights and the efforts of some to diminish their significance are a serious concern among farmers, landowners and business owners. Along with that, many of those same concerned property owners believe in the importance and maintenance of Second Amendment gun rights. Recent legislation would allow individuals to transport their own personal firearms onto private property regardless of the policies put in place by the owner. It also seeks to provide statutory protection to gun owners from employment policies regarding guns. This causes a direct conflict between property rights and gun rights.

Aflatoxin Testing for Crop Insurance (pdf)
Frequently, producers’ grain is docked because of the presence of aflatoxin when offered for sale at the local elevator although the grain is subsequently found to be free of the fungus when samples are submitted for crop insurance reimbursement. In Texas, state officials have developed a voluntary program to remedy this situation. The One Sample Strategy (OSS), administered by the Office of the Texas State Chemist (OTSC), allows grain elevators choosing to participate to use the same aflatoxin test results for both grading and for valuing an insured loss. This single test procedure is conducted at the initial point of sale and the test result is then tagged to the grain to satisfy regulatory requirements and to collect insurance indemnities.

Port Infrastructure (pdf)
Development and maintenance of U.S. inland waterways and ports is a shared responsibility of federal, state, and local governments, with extensive private sector participation. Without routine dredging, rivers can accumulate sediment at a rate of five to six feet each year, prohibiting many ships from entering channels or forcing ships to carry only a fraction of their intended load.

Futures Market (pdf)
If futures markets are going to continue to function as a useful means of managing price risk in agriculture, meaningful steps to restore that confidence are required.

Pre-harvest Food Safety (pdf)
Pre-harvest food safety has become a topic of increasing focus, particularly in the beef industry.

Animal Disease Traceability (pdf)
Foreign animal disease outbreaks have the potential to create massive financial losses in the livestock sector through loss of access to foreign markets, a decline in meat demand by domestic consumers, and direct production losses (death loss and morbidity). Disease outbreaks also put export markets at risk, as was amply demonstrated by the 2003 Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) event. Last year, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed a rule to establish minimum identification and documentation standards for animals shipped across state lines.

Retail Agriculture (pdf)
More farmers and ranchers are getting closer to their customers, and finding that they can capture a higher margin when they grow vegetable or meat products with a specific consumer market segment in mind. Whether they sell direct-to-retail or through wholesale channels, if it is sold with special product attributes such as being local, organic, grass-fed, or small farm-raised it may have a higher value. A significant portion of the value is based on retail consumer demand. This sector can be called “Retail Agriculture.”

Sales Tax on Internet Sales (pdf)
Many rural communities find themselves losing their retail base. Local retailers are competing with Internet retailers who do not have to collect sales tax if they do not have a physical presence in that state. This deprives local and state government of tax revenue needed to provide essential services.

2011 Policy Development Backgrounders

Corporate Contributions  Now Allowed in Tennessee (pdf)
A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door for state to allow corporations to make political contributions. The Tennessee General Assemble promptly made changes to state law allowing corporations to legally contribute where they once had been banned.  Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation members have opposed the formation of a Political Action Committee. In light of recent developments, how should the Federation respond to requests for corporate contributions?

Funding Infrastructure Projects (pdf)
Summary: Many of the roads and bridges needed to transport our children safely to school, deliver our goods from the farm to market or even allow barges to move down the river are in serious need of repair and modernization.

Tax Reform (pdf)
Summary: Congressional fact-finding hearings are underway that could lead to an overhaul of the federal tax code. As in 1986, Congress will most likely opt to modify the tax code instead of doinga full rewrite. Farm Bureau in on record in support of repealing the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and capital gains taxes.

Antibiotics  (pdf)
Summary:  Antibiotic resistance in human medicine is a serious and growing public health concern. While antibiotic use in health care increases, it is agriculture that continues to come under serious scrutiny for its production practices.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – Early Out  (pdf)
Summary:  CRP was created to help producers cope with Highly Erodible Land restrictions in the 1985 Farm Bill. Today, ending stocks for many crops are at or near historically low levels. Considering the conservation purpose of the CRP, can some CRP acres be brought out in an environmentally sensitive manner?

Futures Contract Regulation  (pdf)
Summary: The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) represents some of the most sweeping changes to financial markets in decades.  The new law will increase regulation of agricultural swaps and agricultural trade options. Some believe the proposed regulations will negatively impact agribusiness firms, particularly farmer-owned cooperatives.

Food Traceability (pdf)
Summary: Full traceability of food from the farm gate to the retail level has become standard in some countries, and U.S. retailers and consumers increasingly express interest in developing similar systems in this country.