States have farm bills too, and North Carolina’s 2013 edition shows they can be significant. Senate Bill 638, known as the NC Farm Bill of 2013, takes a big bite out of any potential food safety liability fruit and vegetable growers might face while giving more legal protection to those involved in equine and animal agriculture activities. According to the bill, commodity producers in the state are “entitled to a rebuttable presumption that the commodity producer was not negligent when death or injury is proximately caused by consumption of the producer’s raw agricultural commodity…” To qualify for the entitlement, growers have to be certified by USDA, keep a written food safety policy, and stay free of any state administrative actions for three years. Also, producers who have paid out settlements or court judgments of $25,000 or more for causing illnesses or deaths won’t be eligible . The NC Farm Bill eases some environmental laws in the name of agriculture and also exempts farmers from installing automatic sprinkler systems in the house they provide to migrant workers. In addition, the 17-page bill also gives farms using buildings for weddings or other public or private events a pass from compliance with certain state building codes and frees them from liability if something does go wrong. Some protections for state-regulated wetlands that were removed in earlier drafts were put back into the bill before its final passage. The NC Farm Bill was popular with lawmakers in Raleigh. It passed the Senate on a 41-to-3 vote and cleared the House on a 109-to-3 vote. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte, hasn’t said whether he will sign or veto the measure.

  • Carl Custer

    What does “To qualify for the entitlement, growers have to be certified by USDA,” mean? What USDA program “certifies” growers and for what?

  • I must be misreading this. The state legislator can’t possibly think they can legislate away a farm’s food safety liability.

    That’s absurd. And it couldn’t possibly survive a challenge in court if someone does get sick..especially if the produce is sold across state lines.