By Prianka Sharma, Assistant Chief Counsel
On June 6, Assistant Chief Counsels Prianka Sharma and Jamie Belcore and Rural Advocate Joseph Knilans visited Yarborough Ranches in Seminole County, Fla., where they participated in a small agriculture roundtable with local area farmers. The farmers ranged from those who grew crops such as avocado and hay, to those who raise cattle, pigs and horses.
During the roundtable, participants spoke about various regulations affecting their small business. Several farmers spoke about the increase in farm estate tax. The Yarborough’s farm has been passed down through several generations since 1900; however each time it is inherited, a portion of the land has been sold to cover the cost of the tax.
In addition, several of the participants spoke about current EPA and Florida Department of Environment practices, including double-counting mitigation banks, and inconsistencies in what is considered a Water of the United States (WOTUS). Wetlands is a major issue for Florida residents, and participants spoke about how developers design and build their structures and then dump the water off on someone else further down the road, in most cases farmers and agricultural communities. This causes unnatural flooding and can destroy farms or impose additional burdens on small farmers when portions of their lands are reclassified as wetlands.
They also spoke about the difficulties of being a small versus large operation. Often small farmers have their home on the agricultural property; however residences have certain fence requirements to separate the agricultural from residential boundaries. For small farmers often times their animals graze right next to their residential homes so they are working residences. These farmers stated that the rules for residential agricultural structures need to be reworked so that they can be included as part of the working farm for tax purposes rather than as residential.
Finally, all of the farmers spoke about a shortage of skilled labor. They stated that many schools do not offer vocational training tracks for those students who do not wish to attend traditional, four-year schools. They further stated that often the cost to attend a formal vocational training program also deters students from applying because funding is not as readily available in comparison to traditional four year schools that offer student loans and grants. Finally, they stated that apprenticeships and agricultural work-study programs should count as hands-on training. They discussed this difficulty with the Department of Labor’s classifications of unpaid interns because these rules should only apply to more traditional jobs and not those that are labor and vocational skill intensive. Some other issues that came up included Department of Transportation’s electronic logging rule and the increased cost for shipping, EPA’s creosote pole rule, and USDA’s country of origin labeling and electronic ID rules.
Advocacy staff had a very eye-opening experience in speaking with these farmers and even met the matriarch of the Yarborough Farms family, whose farm had been passed down for several generations.
Advocacy was in Florida for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables June 5-7th.
Can’t get to a roundtable near you? Fill out this form and tell us about your federal regulatory burdens. We will pass this information on to the appropriate agency and use it in the planning of upcoming Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables.
Prianka Sharma is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes natural resources, agriculture, and energy. Sharma can be reached at Prianka.Sharma@sba.gov.