Things are a lot quieter around the Department of Agriculture now that the legislators have gone home, but I won’t dwell on that. Instead, I will fill you in on what exactly we accomplished during this short session.
This week I helped Joy complete a session wrap up document that she will present to the Commissioner and his immediate staff. Below I will talk about some of the highlights.
HB 1030 – 2016 Appropriations Act
- New Market Opportunities – $180,000 (Non recurring)
- Healthy Food Small Retailers – $250,000 (Non recurring)
- 9 Positions at NC Forest Service – DuPont State Recreational Forest
- 1 Position at NCDA – Animal Welfare
- Elimination of Certain Vacant Positions
- Spay/Neuter Program Eligibility
- Healthy Food Small Retailer Program
- Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Eligibility for DuPont Forest
SB 770 – NC Farm Act of 2016
- Sleep Products Enforcement Authority
- AERTS Authorization
- Rendering Plant Inspection Streamline
- Soil and Water Commission Training for All Supervisors
- Technical Correction for Animal Shelter Fund Rule-Making
- LEA Permissive Allowance for Local Preference in Food Procurement
- Allow Chorionic Gonadotropin Injections for Veterinary Use
- Establish Voluntary Assessment on Deer Feed – Cervid Farmers ONLY
- Exempt Horticultural Uses from Sedimentation Pollution Control Act
HB 992 – Industrial Hemp Program
HB 1021 Amend Sex Offender Certain Premises
These are the things we accomplished in this session. You may recognize some of them from my previous posts. I will start at the top, with the budget. The positions at DuPont State Recreational Park are something that I heard about from the beginning of my internship. The park was part of the set for a movie we are all familiar with, The Hunger Games. Since the movie came out, attendance at the park as risen significantly and in order to keep up with the traffic and ensure the park is in optimal condition, we were asking for people to help fill that void. (The link for more info about the scenes shot at DuPont is at the bottom of the page)
Another project that was funded in the budget was the Corner Store Initiative, otherwise described as a project to refund convenience store owners who participate, by buying refrigeration or other coolers, so that they can sell fresh fruits and veggies to people in rural areas. We also got a provision that helped clarify who was in fact eligible for the spay/neuter program that our animal welfare division is responsible for. While there used to be hoops that had to be jumped through before a family could have their pet spayed or neutered, the process was made a little simpler with allowing Medicaid to be a form of eligibility.
The NC Farm Act would be next on the queue of accomplishments for this session. As you can see above, we were responsible for ten of the nineteen sections. A couple of the sections were technical items like giving NCDA the authority to make rules or enforce rules. Other sections had larger impacts like breaking down an inspection committee that needed to be restructured to work more efficiently or allowing local schools to pick a local farmer to source their food from for the Farm to School program. There were a few slightly controversial parts like allowing chorionic gonadotropin injections (which is a schedule III controlled substance) and a deer feed assessment, but with some conversations and explanations we were able to find middle ground on both issues.
The Industrial Hemp Program is a new pilot program that NCDA is looking forward to getting off the ground in the next year. This bill amended a few definitions and generally describes what all will be involved with the pilot program and how to move forward. In the beginning there will be an Industrial Hemp Commission who will be the rule making body and will help run the program under the NCDA. There will be licenses given for small plots and they will be carefully monitored by law enforcement. The program all hinges on research and will be based out of NC A&T and NCSU, assuming professors can be found to take on the project.
The final bill that was passed during the session (that we were rooting for) was a bill that amends where a sex offender can visit. One of our goals during session was to clear up any doubts about sex offenders being on the premises during the NC State Fair. Personally, this is one of my favorite times of the year. The bill was written to say that sex offenders were not allowed on the State Fairgrounds during the time the State Fair was being held, this holds true for the property that the Mountain State Fair is held on, as well as any agricultural fairs held within the state.
While that sounds like we got a ton accomplished this session, believe it or not, there were things left undone. But, that just gives us something to do when session starts back in January.
I hope you enjoyed this brief recap of what we did this session. It was very interesting to see how everything in state government and the general assembly works. I have a new appreciation for the people who are responsible for creating, writing and researching everything that goes in the budget and all the other bills that are passed (and the ones that aren’t).
DuPont Forest and the Hunger Games: http://www.visithendersonvillenc.org/dupont-hunger-games-shots.pdf