On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed SB 355 the The North Carolina Farm Act 2024 into law. This followed last week’s unanimous passing of the bill by the North Carolina General Assembly before they adjourned for the short session.

The Farm Act, SB 355, passed unanimously 104-0 in the House and 40-0 in the Senate. The bill was then sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature or veto. 

“The conservation tax credit I proposed in my budget and passed into law with this bill will help us reach the goal I set of permanently conserving one million new acres of natural lands by 2040,”  said Gov. Cooper in a press release. “Protecting forests, wetlands, and farmlands makes us more resilient to climate hazards, reduces carbon in our atmosphere, promotes military readiness, and supports local economies.”

This is the first time that the Farm Act has unanimously passed the legislature since Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Bladen, took charge of guiding the legislation through the legislature. 

“I am honored to work on this legislation on behalf of North Carolina farmers,” said Jackson in a press release. “I am grateful to Rep. Jimmy Dixon and conferees Sen. Bill Rabon and Sen. Paul Newton for their work on this bill, as well as my colleagues in the General Assembly who unanimously approved this crucial piece of agricultural legislation. Agriculture is North Carolina’s No. 1 industry, and it is critical that we do all we can to support all the families who depend on agriculture to support their livelihood. We are all touched by agriculture daily, and this legislation shows the General Assembly’s commitment to protecting agriculture in North Carolina today and for generations to come.” 

The Farm Act includes provisions to reduce regulations that burden shellfish farmers and increase penalties for those who transport live, feral swine. It also includes provisions to extend general animal waste management system permits and to improve the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). 

One noteworthy addition to the bill is that horses are now included in Section 1 covered under both (a) “Agriculture defined” and (b) “right to farm defense; nuisance actions.” These sections of the bill now include the raising, management care, boarding and training of horses. 

Another addition is in section 5.3, “a Type 1 compost facility” has been added to the section on the “right to farm defense; nuisance actions.”

A cost-sharing program for prescribed burns has also been added (section 8). “The purpose of the program shall be to support prescribed burns on privately owned forest lands…” according to the bill.

“The agriculture industry is a $111 billion a year industry,” Rep. Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth. 
“It is the largest industry in the state of North Carolina, and it’s incumbent upon us and the General Assembly to do everything we can to continue to help that industry flourish.”