2022 Legislative Priorities
WATER AND ENVIRONMENT
Surface Water & Ground Water Withdrawal
Surface and groundwater withdrawal legislation and regulations remain a significant issue for agribusiness. Despite the 2018 DHEC Board approval of additional capacity use areas within the state, PABC continues to support water legislation and regulations based upon a Statewide Assessment of Water Resources, and all decisions regarding water withdrawal should be based on sound science. PABC support remains in place for SC agribusinesses to access needed water in a timely and cost effective manner.
Dams and Reservoirs Standards
Given flood issues that have surfaced periodically over the past several years, landowners have been notified of the need to repair or upgrade dams and reservoirs on their properties due to increased hazard ratings. These actions can be quite costly and are often driven by new landowners near the properties that were not there when dams or reservoirs were initially constructed. PABC supports financial assistance for these landowners who have to expend funds to repair these land improvements through direct payments or tax credits. Additionally, PABC supports repairs being required on only high hazard dams and/or reservoirs.
Waters of the U.S. aka “WOTUS” / Navigable Waters Protection Rule (Federal)
EPA is presently considering the issue and indications exist that any new rule will include components of both WOTUS and the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. EPA has already started the process of hearing comments from stakeholders and has specifically cited the desire to hear from the agribusiness sector. Improvement occurred under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as to defining navigable waters and PABC supports a ruling which includes a similar definition.
Clean Air Legislation and Regulations
SC agribusinesses in both the agriculture and forestry sectors remain concerned relative to enforcement of air regulations and any potential future legislation and/or regulations regarding air emissions. PABC opposes regulations and legislation which are overly burdensome on agribusinesses.
Climate Impact (Federal)
The debate as to changes in the climate impacted by all businesses including agribusiness has increased dramatically during 2021. The Growing Climate Solutions Act was approved within the US Senate earlier in 2021 and will now be considered by the US House of Representatives. Agribusiness groups have been generally supportive of this legislation, and PABC supports this effort.
TAXES AND FEES
SC Tax Reform – Maintain Agribusiness Sales Tax Exemptions/Property Tax Assessments
Tax treatment for agribusiness continues to be a major issue requiring close monitoring in an effort to assure we maintain all agribusiness sales tax exemptions and ag use property tax assessments.
Federal Tax Reform
PABC is not supportive of legislation which would effectively increase the tax burden of agribusinesses.
Agribusiness Trade (State/Federal)
PABC continues to support improved trade efforts which will benefit our SC agribusinesses. Trade negotiations should be monitored closely as to the effects upon SC agribusiness.
Death Tax and Stepped-up Basis
Support exists to retain the highest level of estate tax exemptions possible and to retain stepped up basis at the death of an ag or forestry landowner. These issues are integral to retaining land assets within family farms, which includes both agricultural and timberland operations. PABC supports appropriate tax policy which allows for retention of family farm assets integral to agricultural and forestry operations.
Nuisance “Safe Harbor” Consideration
As nuisance lawsuits and policy changes relating to agribusiness operations occurring in other states continue to negatively impact the agribusiness industry as a whole, “safe harbor” solutions should be considered within SC either by strengthening the SC Right to Farm statutory provisions or through other available legislative consideration for SC agriculture and forestry.
Private Property Rights (State/Federal)
PABC supports the private property rights of agricultural and timberland owners.
Immigration (Federal )
For agribusiness to remain profitable and viable for the long-term, we must have federal immigration reform that allows access to a stable and legal workforce. Immigration reform can affect both relocated full-time employees and seasonal labor. PABC’s strategy is to monitor closely and continuously consult with member organizations which are vulnerable to an available workforce.
Guestworker Programs (Federal)
Guest work programs such as H-2A and H-2B are essential for our agribusinesses to remain viable. PABC supports all efforts to make these programs as user friendly and cost effective as possible for agriculture and forestry while providing for the necessary labor needs within SC agribusiness. Federal legislation has been filed, the Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021, to reform H-2B by addressing existing concerns and mitigating such concerns. PABC supports this proposed legislation.
Agribusiness Labor (State/Federal)
PABC opposes unionization of agribusiness labor and along with other organizations, will continue to review/study labor legislation enacted in other states or which could be proposed in SC.
Limited Liability Business Protection due to COVID-19 or Similar Health Crises (State/Federal)
PABC supports legislation at both the federal and state level providing limited liability business protection to SC businesses impacted by COVID-19 or similar health related issues when businesses have appropriately followed governmental agency health guidelines.
CDL Liability Insurance and Driver Shortage
PABC supports taking the necessary steps to lower costly insurance premiums associated with the trucking industry in our state. Efforts to attract commercial truck drivers within South Carolina to offset the current shortage that exists are also supported.
Highway Infrastructure (State/Federal)
PABC is in support of efforts to secure both state and federal funding for South Carolina’s highway infrastructure and will continue to monitor the progress of the infrastructure funding bill approved in 2017. PABC is concerned with the state of all road systems in SC including our rural roads where commodities and products are transported. Load restricted bridges are a growing concern as these are adding cost to transportation of commodities throughout the state and repair of these bridges should be a priority.
Vehicle Weight Limits (State/Federal)
PABC will continue to support an effort to increase trucking weight limits for agriculture and forestry which compares favorably with the surrounding southeastern states. In 2021, a federal bill entitled the Safe Routes Act of 2021 was introduced which would allow log trucks that meet state-determined legal requirements to travel up to 150 air miles on the Federal Interstate Highway system. PABC will support this proposed federal legislation.
AGRIBUSINESS AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Skilled Workforce Development Initiative
The Associated Industries of SC formally took the lead on Be Pro Be Proud SC in 2020, and this effort should lead to improved recruitment of high school students into much needed skilled trade careers. This program should benefit SC agribusiness in many ways, and PABC remains supportive of this program within in our state.
Right to Repair
As technological advances continue to occur relative to both agricultural and forestry equipment, it is important that the agribusiness operator retain the right to work on their equipment and/or choose who will do so in order to appropriately manage operating costs. PABC supports this need within agribusinesses.
Rural Utilities and Telecommunications Infrastructure
Access to broadband continues to be an issue in many areas of SC and especially in the rural areas of the state. COVID-19 has only made this need more obvious. PABC continues to support affordable access to broadband within all of South Carolina.
AGENCY REFORM AND FUNDING
PABC has remained supportive of the reformation of DHEC which will likely impact other state agencies. Senate bill S.2 was introduced during 2021 and is being debated in the General Assembly. As these efforts continue, PABC will monitor this legislative process closely and will support reform efforts considered beneficial to agricultural and forestry operations.
Support funding for the budget requests of the SC Department of Agriculture, SC Forestry Commission, SC State University 1890 and Clemson PSA.
PABC will support state financial aid to the conservation districts established within the state. Additionally, PABC supports efforts throughout the state to retain agricultural and forestry landholdings, which represent existing farms and timberland utilized for timber production, as ongoing working operations. PABC intends to support the SC Conservation and Antiquities Act subject to closely monitoring the progress of the bill to assure distinct benefits are afforded SC agribusiness.
There is an obvious need to educate students and stakeholders at all age levels as to the facts surrounding agriculture and forestry. PABC supports funding utilized to provide such educational and information sharing efforts and to supply the necessary tools needed to accomplish such efforts. Through such investments, the goal would be a better understanding of agribusiness and to encourage consideration of agribusiness careers as individuals enter the workplace.
DMV Motor Carrier Services
PABC supports funding relating to the improvement of services offered by the SC Department of Motor Vehicles.
Funding of COVID-19 and Other Health Related Challenges
PABC continues to support programs which provide an opportunity for SC agribusinesses and associated enterprises to survive in a financial environment impacted by unexpected operational challenges such as COVID-19. Programs such as the Payroll Protection Program and Coronavirus Food Assistance Program are examples of such programs supported by PABC when circumstances are apparent which impact the ultimate survival of businesses. PABC also supports programs assisting with employee and consumer safety. These efforts would include assuring adequate PPE is available.