John Bell: Standing with our farming communities

Kinston Free Press | By John Bell
July 3, 2018 | Link

Last week, over 2,000 people traveled to Raleigh to participate in a rally in support of our farmers and agriculture. While it did not get the media coverage that a hand full of liberal activists generate when they routinely stage arrests and disrupt official business, these folks did it the right way.

They were respectful, but forceful. They came with a simple, but strong message. And Gov. Roy Cooper and other elected officials better pay attention. A sleeping giant has been awakened – and our farmers and agriculture communities will not be ignored.

It was truly inspiring to see so many hardworking farmers – who took the day off of work – to come make their voices heard and fight for their livelihoods.

I have the honor of serving four Eastern North Carolina counties in the N.C. General Assembly – Craven, Greene Lenoir, and Wayne counties. Eastern North Carolina is my home and agriculture is our way of life.

We hear a lot about what farmers do and the crops they grow, but we rarely hear what else they do. They’re deacons at church and Sunday school teachers. They’re the first one called to support the local booster clubs, BBQ suppers and community organizations. They voluntary their time as youth group leaders and little league baseball coaches – simply because they love their communities.

I will never forget how our farmers were also there to help in our time of need when Hurricane Matthew ravaged Eastern North Carolina. In addition to taking care of their farms, they serve as voluntary EMTs, firemen and reserve deputies in the sheriff’s department.

Our farmers truly are the backbone of our state, particularly in Eastern North Carolina. If it wasn’t for agribusiness, so many small town would not exist today. Agriculture, agribusiness and farmers keep these communities afloat every single day of the week.

However, for far too long, our farmers have been ignored. But something special is happening. They are making their voices heard and their presence felt, which is needed now more than ever.

Despite being there for generations and following every single law and regulation, N.C. farmers are being targeted by out-of-state trial lawyers and extreme environmentalists who want to put them out of business.

In response, the N.C. General Assembly passed the N.C. Farm Act of 2018 that puts in place common sense protections and provides certainty for our farmers and their operations – ensuring they can continue feeding the public and driving our economy.

Sadly, shortly after last week’s rally, Gov. Cooper ignored the concerns of our agriculture communities and vetoed this vitally important bill. Nevertheless, the General Assembly stood strong with our farmers and voted to override Gov. Cooper’s veto – making it the law of the land.

Going forward, we must learn from this and stay engaged. People need to know that food does not come from the grocery store – it comes from hard work on our family farms. Farmers drive North Carolina’s economy – and it’s time they get the respect they deserve.

I promise to always stand with our farmers, agriculture producers and rural communities. We must join together and work hard to protect, promote and preserve our agriculture heritage.

John Richard Bell IV is a Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly. He represents the 10th district. Representative Bell was honored with the “2014 Rising Star” award by the North Carolina House Legislative Partners.