Ag Policy Library

2019 Policy Development Backgrounders

Imitation Meat Products (pdf) Several states have passed legislation mandating the way food products which imitate traditional agriculture products are labeled. There was legislation drafted in Tennessee pertaining to the use of term “meat” on products that are plant based or produced in a lab but no action was taken.

Grain Grading (pdf) During last year’s harvest season, Farm Bureau heard concerns from farmers that grain dealers were using grain quality unfairly to dock prices on contracted and uncontracted grain. Some states have programs through their department of agriculture to develop state standards for sampling and grading grain. The laws also establish procedures for settling disputes between dealers and farmers.

State Inspected Slaughter Facilities (pdf) Retail meat sales present a unique and increasingly popular niche which livestock producers are filling. Farmers accessibility to these facilities is not always ideal with some driving over 100 miles one-way to deliver to their retail processor. Farm Bureau policy recognizes there is a shortage of slaughter capacity and supports programs to enhance opportunities for farmers selling products directly to consumers.

Lemon Law for Farm Equipment (pdf) Typically, lemon laws refer to motor vehicles. Some states have lemon laws pertaining to farm equipment and machinery not conforming to the express warranties offered by the manufacturer, and there is interest in applying Tennessee’s lemon law on passenger motor vehicles to include farm equipment and machinery.

Homestead Exemption (pdf) State legislation filed in 2019 would have significantly raised the homestead exemption and included language pertaining to farm property. Farm Bureau does not have policy pertaining to homestead exemptions. There have been state laws, known as exemption laws, protecting certain property from the claims of creditors that date back to the early 1800s. Homestead exemptions usually protect a certain amount of equity held in a home and the value varies state to state.

Proposed State Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting a State Property Tax (pdf) In the 2019 legislative session, legislation filed would set into motion the process of amending the State Constitution to prevent the state from collecting a state property tax on individuals.

Tobacco Age Limit: 18 to 21 (pdf) In 2019, several bills were filed in Tennessee to increase the age to legally purchase and use tobacco products to 21 years old. The legislation would have included the purchase and use of nicotine vaping products. Furthermore, there is a national movement to change the tobacco age to 21 on the federal level which is supported by some tobacco companies and US Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R) of Kentucky.

Hemp (pdf) The 2018 Farm Bill amended the Controlled Substances Act and removed hemp and hemp seeds from federal authority from products containing THC levels not greater than 0.3%. However, farmers still must receive a permit from their state department of agriculture. In the U.S., hemp is still a new crop and shows potential but issues remain such as developing the supply chain, branding the product, educating consumers and policymakers, developing end markets and other challenges.

Medical Marijuana (pdf) There are now thirty-four states which have some form of medical marijuana allowed. At the federal level, marijuana (or cannabis) is considered a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. However, medical journals have signaled there are some potential medical uses for marijuana. There has been legislation from members of both political parties in recent years in Tennessee to allow for medical marijuana.

Raw Milk Cow Share Regulations (pdf) Retail sale of unpasteurized milk (also known as raw milk) in Tennessee is illegal, however a consumer can access raw milk through purchasing a portion of the cow/cows in which they intend to consume the raw milk from a “cow share.” There are no state regulations when it comes to these arrangements. After several outbreaks of food borne illnesses relating to raw milk in the state, legislation was filed to address the issue but was not successful in passage in 2019.

UTK/UTIA Unification (pdf) The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees recently voted to approve a resolution to unify the UTIA and UT Knoxville – this change was effective July 1. Specifically, it is expected the unification will raise the ranking of the new unified UTK in the National Science Foundation (NSF) rankings of research institutions.

Rural Healthcare (pdf) Access to healthcare services is an important necessity, especially in times of emergency. Distance from emergency services can mean the difference between life and death. Across the country, there is a trend of rural hospitals closing because of financial pressures. Since 2010, at least ten rural hospitals have closed in Tennessee. Beyond just access to healthcare services, hospital closures hurt the local economy and potential economic growth in the future.

Constitutional Carry (pdf) Certain legislators in the 2019 session made public their intention to bring “Constitutional Carry” legislation next year. Currently, in Tennessee it is required that individuals have a permit to carry a handgun. Farm Bureau policy supports property rights, Second Amendment rights, and less regulation for business owners. Historically, Farm Bureau has taken the position that a property owner should have the final say regarding firearms on their property. Tennessee allows handgun carry permit holders to store loaded firearms in vehicles no matter where they are parked. The discussion of “Constitutional Carry” could cause a collision of interests between property rights and second amendment rights.

2018 Policy Development Backgrounders

Blockchain (pdf)
Blockchain is a buzzword in technology circles. Just like any new technology, the agricultural industry will look to take advantage of this advancement. Blockchain is a public list of transactions held on a decentralized set of computers, much like the internet is a group of interconnected computer networks. This technology is already being used in food safety to pinpoint a source of contamination quickly and efficiently. Other areas predicted to be of benefit to farmers are traceability of products, reduced transaction costs and intermediary costs when trading commodities, new markets for products because farmers will not have to verify trustworthiness of buyers, and more efficient logistics in the supply chain.

County Attempts to Regulate Ag Practices (pdf)
Tennessee law is clear. County governments have no regulatory authority over agriculture and cannot use zoning as a way to accomplish regulations. Through the years, numerous Attorney General Opinions have confirmed this. However, some counties have ignored the state law and adopted zoning ordinances pertaining to agriculture, often targeting livestock operations. Similarly, counties cannot require building permits for agricultural operations, though state law does allow cities this ability. Some counties have also attempted to penalize agriculture by subclassifying the property for property tax purposes.

Deannexation (pdf)
Legislation abolishing annexation by ordinance was passed in 2014. A critical provision in the law specified land in agricultural use may only be annexed with consent of the farm owner regardless of the method of annexation. Proponents of the legislation believe this change was necessary to facilitate planned growth by ensuring cities and communities work together to expand municipal boundaries. They also believe the next step is to provide a process for communities to deannex from a city. Legislation has been filed in the last two General Assemblies to give landowners the right to petition for deannexation in certain conditions.

Water (pdf)
Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) have established an effort to develop a water plan for the state. The TN H20 steering committee, which was established in January 2018, is charged with submitting the report to the governor by October 2018. A major concern voiced in many discussions around the TN H2O meetings has been that agriculture is not required to report water usage in Tennessee law. Often in water cases, historical usage is the key to the court allotting future usage of water between the parties. Because the state does not require water reporting for agriculture, a historical usage precedent is not available. Farm Bureau policy supports continuing the exemption of water reporting for agriculture.

Online Sales Tax (pdf)
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled states may require online retailers to collect sales tax. In the last legislative session there was much discussion about the process and how to use the additional revenue resulting in online sales tax collections. It is estimated Tennessee loses $450 million in revenue from online sales. What to do with additional revenue, along with changes that will need to be implemented to comply with the Court’s standards for collecting sales tax will also be issues in the next legislative session.

Lab Grown Meat (pdf)
For years scientists at startup and established food companies have been working to develop a meat substitute in labs that looks and tastes just like meat from livestock. Products have been produced that simulate beef but did not go through the traditional cattle grow and harvest practices. This budding industry is seeking a name such as “clean meat” whereas some in the traditional agriculture sector suggest “in vitro meat.” Food and Drug Administration has thus far claimed jurisdiction of regulatory oversight, but USDA has signaled interest due to the department’s jurisdiction over plant based biotechnology. Once perfected, lab grown meat could be a huge disruptor to the current livestock sector.

Sustainability Projects in the Supply Chain (pdf)
The retail sector is becoming more involved in the production practices of farmers. While the farm community has been able to stall governmental regulatory actions through political engagement, it will be very difficult to influence the retail sector’s demands on the supply chain. This trend will only increase, and farming practices of the future could be dictated by the retail sector.

Veterinary Technician or Veterinary Nurse (pdf)

In 2018, legislation was filed in Tennessee to change the name of the profession traditionally known as “Veterinary Technician” to “Veterinary Nurse.” The measure did not pass but is expected to come up again in the future. Proponents of the change believe the change better acknowledges the true nature of the job requirements. Similarly, proponents
believe this would attract more people into an industry with a growing need for these professionals.

2017 Policy Development Backgrounders
Dicamba Resistant Seed Technology (pdf)
Monsanto developed Dicamba resistant traits for soybeans and cotton to give farmers another option for weed control and herbicide resistance. Dicamba is very volatile and damaging to non-resistant crops when off-target movement occurs. Monsanto and BASF each developed labeled Dicamba products for over-the-top spraying of soybeans and cotton which contained new formulations designed to lessen off-target movements. There have been numerous complaints of damage from farmers who did not plant Dicamba resistant crops. Reports to TDA involve several thousand acres. As a result, the department issued emergency rules placing new restrictions on the use of these Dicamba products.

Tennessee Corn Check – Off Program(pdf)
Tennessee ranks 17th in corn production nationwide. Had there been a one cent per bushel check-off in 2016, $1.25 million could have been available for Tennessee focused research and development, as well as in-state promotion of corn products. Tennessee is the only state in the major corn growing area of the country without a corn check-off. Farm Bureau policy supports a one cent per bushel state check-off for corn.

State Implementation of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule(pdf)
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law January 4, 2011. The final rules are in place and some requirements began in September, 2016. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) signed a cooperative agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin implementing the rule. TDA is at a decision-making point, should the state continue to implement the rule or pass it back to the FDA?

Animal Disease Traceability (pdf)
Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) is the mechanism by which the United States tracks and traces animal diseases through the animal agriculture population. The intended goal of the system is to provide rapid and effective response to a disease outbreak. ADT was initiated by USDA-APHIS in 2013 as an evolution of previous animal disease traceability programs, including the precursor National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

As the United States faces increased demands from foreign trade partners and foreign animal disease pressures domestically, we ask for our members to critically evaluate the current policy in an effort to streamline and prioritize components of an animal disease traceability system they would like AFBF to focus on in future rule-making.

Mississippi vs. Tennessee Water Lawsuit (pdf)
The state of Mississippi has filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee over the matter of water usage. The Memphis Sand Aquifer serves as the main source of drinking water for many residents of Memphis. The state of Mississippi claims that 30% of the water being pumped from the aquifer resides under their state. They believe Mississippi should hold rights to the water. Because of this, Memphis and the state of Tennessee are at risk of losing several hundred million dollars in damages to Mississippi.

State Invasive Species Fund (pdf)
During the 2017 legislative session, there was an effort by some legislators to prevent any of Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s (TWRA) revenue from hunting and fishing licenses to go to the wild hog eradication program the agency performs. Farm Bureau opposed this effort, however the legislation remains and can be brought again next session. The legislative process started a larger discussion about how state government should pay for programs for different types of invasive species such as wild hogs and Asian carpe.

Right to Repair (pdf)
When attempting to repair much of today’s farm equipment, farmers have been left with few options other than to call the dealership where they purchased it if the repair involves copyrighted software. Because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, farmers or third party mechanics could be subject to fines and lawsuits for tampering with the software. This could include everything ranging from simple jobs such as replacing sensors or more complex tasks like updating computer software.

Coyotes (pdf)
Reports of damage by coyotes have increased across the state. Coyotes can cost livestock producers thousands of dollars each year. Hunting and trapping of coyotes are allowed year-round in Tennessee. There is no limit to the number of takes for coyotes in Tennessee. There are restrictions placed on coyote hunting by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC). Some farmers would like more freedom to take coyotes on their property.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Permits (pdf)
Permitting of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) has evolved on the federal and state level since Tennessee law required all CAFO operations to be permitted in 1998. Federal regulations have changed numerous times because of court rulings which also required changes in state regulations. Tennessee producers believe the permitting process is over burdensome and more restrictive than surrounding states. Legislation was introduced in the 2017 legislative session to only require CAFO operations that discharge wastes to be permitted. The Department of Environment and Conservation would no longer provide a state operating permit for producers unless the operations discharge. This concerned some producers who want a permit to prove compliance with water quality laws. This is an effort to provide permit coverage as a means of protection in the event a CAFO has an alleged violation or third party legal action.

Milk Unfair Trade Practices (pdf)
Tennessee law regulates the retail and wholesale trade practices for milk products however, market conditions for the original purpose of the law no longer exist. The dairy industry is national in scope and endures lower consumption and oversupply. Current law prohibits milk products from being sold below cost at the wholesale and retail level in an effort to prevent price wars and milk being used as a loss leader to entice customers. Since the 1970s, milk has become less of a staple product in homes and competes with other beverages on store shelves which do not have the same trade practice restrictions.

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. (TCA 28-2-110)

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.