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Farm bill gives legal, environmental protections to agriculture

A regulatory reform bill for the agricultural industry has sailed through the General Assembly and was signed into law last week by Gov. Pat McCrory.

SB638 provides protections to farmers and "agri-tourism" interests against what its backers call frivolous lawsuits. It is also intended to make it easier for businesses to find insurance for petting zoos, educational programs and other operations; protect farmers' water rights when there are water shortages; and give agriculture leeway in building and maintaining dams.

Another provision keeps from public scrutiny livestock and poultry operations' business records that might personally identify them, while allowing the state veterinarian to make public information affecting health.

The bill's co-sponsors were Sen. Brent Jackson, a Republican from Sampson County, who is also a farmer, and Sen. Andrew Brock, a Republican from Davie County.

State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler issued a statement thanking Jackson for his work on the bill.

Stein: "NC is not a banana republic'

Over objections of Democratic lawmakers, a Senate committee approved legislation Wednesday to end the state’s 6-year-old renewable energy program.

Opponents of the bill loudly voted “No!” to show their frustration at the Republican chairman’s decision not to count individual votes. In what was clearly a razor-thin margin, both sides said they would have won if votes had been counted.

“North Carolina is not a banana republic,” Democratic Sen. Josh Stein of Wake County, one of the no votes, said after the meeting. “That was no way to run a proceeding.”

Pro-gun rally outside statehouse draws crowd, speakers, lawmakers

A pro-gun rally outside the statehouse on Tuesday drew several hundred participants, who heard a string of speakers urging the General Assembly not to cave in to gun-control pressures.

"We're not going to compromise. We're not going to be reasonable," WPTF radio talk show host Bill LuMaye told the crowd.

Sen. Andrew Brock, a Republican who represents Rowan, Iredell and Davie counties, vowed to keep up the fight, especially protecting the legal right to carry concealed weapons.

"Each and every day people are targeted because they cannot carry," Brock told the assembled.

Several other legislators were also in attendance.

A bill filed Monday would make a declaration of support for the constitutional right to bear arms. It specifies that President Obama's attempts at gun-control would infringe on that right. It was filed by Rep. Michael Speciale, a Republican representing Beaufort, Craven and Pamlico counties.

A petition circulated at the rally to oppose the president's recent efforts to clamp down on gun violence.

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