From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
This past legislative session, the General Assembly passed what I think is one of the most important bills for agriculture in recent memory.
The bill accomplishes three things: First, it gives specific examples of items or documents that can serve as evidence that property is being used for bona fide farm purposes. Any of the following items will count:
- farm sales tax exemption certificate;
- a copy of the property tax listing that shows the farm is eligible for the present use value program;
- a copy of Schedule F from the farm owner's income tax return;
- a forest management plan;
- a farm identification num-ber issued by the Farm Service Agency.
The second thing the bill does is prohibit cities and towns from annexing legally identified farms without the consent of the owner.
Third, the bill states that legitimate farms in a city or town's extraterritorial jurisdiction are exempt from zoning requirements and ordinances.
These changes in legis-lation are important for North Carolina farmers. As cities across the state have grown, so has their extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. ETJ is the legal ability for a local government to exercise authority beyond its normal boundaries.
There have been num-erous instances where a farmer out in a county had a farm building in need of extensive repair. But when the farmer went to do the work, he found out that his farm had become part of an ETJ and was subject to local zoning and regulations. That meant a farmer had to get a build-ing permit and deal with more regulations than he previously had to meet.
I have heard from many farmers on this issue because it was significant and costly to their farms.
I believe – and the legislature agreed – that if you have a farming operation, you should be entitled to the same exemptions in the ETJ that you were entitled to prior to becoming part of the ETJ.
I appreciate the support of the legislature in passing this legislation, which took effect in late June.