Agricultural Innovation Bill Introduced in the House of Representatives

By Matthew Nicaud
January 26, 2022

Agricultural regulations can be among the most burdensome regulations in the entire economy. This is especially true for innovative agricultural technologies and business models. Thankfully, Mississippi legislators are leading the charge for a reduction in red tape. Representatives Jansen Owen and Kent McCarty introduced House Bill 1055 to create a pathway for innovators to be exempt from onerous regulations.  

It’s no secret that removing regulatory burdens is a catalyst for economic growth, and this bill seeks to accomplish just that in the agricultural sector. In an interview with Mississippi Center for Public Policy, Representative Owen noted: “Reducing regulatory burdens is key to growing our economy. This legislation will make it easier for farmers across Mississippi to earn their living, feed their families, and feed Mississippi’s families.”

According to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC), the agriculture sector directly or indirectly employs approximately 17 percent of the state workforce. Thousands of agricultural businesses have seen great success in the Magnolia State. Yet, many of the regulations in the state were written in the 1970s and 1980s and do not quite account for the innovative agricultural technologies and business models of the 2020s.

To address this problem, House Bill 1055 gives agricultural innovators the option to be exempt from certain regulations that do not have an effect on health or safety. Known as a “regulatory sandbox,” this regulatory relief model that exempts innovators from unapplicable regulations has seen success in several states and sectors, including financial technology, insurance, blockchain, property technology, and others.

While the complexity of agricultural regulations is immense, the bill establishes a straightforward and business-friendly program within the MDAC for innovators to test their products in the open market. If an individual encounters an agricultural regulation that is not tied to health or safety, they could apply to the innovation program and request an exemption. If the exemption request is not found to be a threat to public health or safety, the innovator’s request would be granted, and they would be permitted to operate under the exemption.

The agricultural innovations that could benefit from such a program are numerous, but these innovations can be easily summarized into two categories: innovative business models and innovative ag-tech. On the one hand, there are innovative business models that don’t quite fit into the current regulatory structure, such as urban agriculture and direct farm-to-consumer sales.

Agricultural technology also carries promise for the use of an agricultural regulatory exemption program. For instance, under current regulation in the state, a pilot’s license would be required in order for a drone operator to use a drone to distribute pesticides on fields. This is because of an outdated provision implemented in the days when planes were the only way to distribute substances via the air. Mississippi has a chance to show that it is open for business, and become a destination for agricultural innovators. Thanks to the forward-thinking of Representatives Owen and McCarty, the state could see the fruits of agricultural innovation grow and expand, without the impediment of excessive government regulations.

The Mississippi Center for Public Policy approves of this legislation and will continue to update you as the 2022 Mississippi Legislative Session continues, and you can keep up with measures by watching our Legislative Tracker.

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