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.