The U.S. Senate returns to Washington on Monday preparing to pass a sweeping food safety bill that includes a key amendment supported by Sen. Kay Hagan.
The amendment would exempt small farms from much of the Food and Drug Administration regulation that's proposed in the bill. Hagan said the idea was to exempt farms that sell directly to consumers or restaurants and don't have the lengthy farm-to-table production chain of larger producers.
Such farms would still be subject to local and state regulations, Hagan said.
"The food safety bill imposes federal regulations on the smallest food producers, including family farms, that produce products, like homemade jams and jellies, to sell at the farmer's market or the local food co-op," Hagan said in a prepared statement.
The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, but Hagan has also been working on getting it passed.
The small farms amendment was opposed by big food producers, and its inclusion in the bill almost threatened to scuttle the legislation. But Tester worked out a compromise last week.
The head of the National Sustainable Agricultural Commission told Food Safety News, an industry publication, that the organization was happy with the compromise.
The compromise would reportedly allow the FDA to withdraw a small farm's exemption if food-borne illnesses are found on the farm.
Raise movie-star pay cap?
Wilmington is hoping that the incoming Republican-controlled legislature will be a little star-struck.
Last year, the legislature made it possible for film companies doing business in North Carolina to receive a 25 percent tax credit.
This year, the hope is to make the incentives sweeter still.
State Rep. Danny McComas, a New Hanover County Republican, told the Wilmington Star-News that the conversations have already begun. Back on the table is the possibility of raising the cap on the amount of an actor's salary that is eligible for state tax credits.
The current salary cap is $1 million. The legislature considered raising it last year but dropped the idea for lack of Republican support.
A higher cap would allow for bigger budget films. Right now, the state gets a lot of TV shows and lower budget movies.
How high should the cap go?
Bill Vassar, executive vice president of EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, suggested $10 million to the Wilmington paper.
Last year, North Carolina lost "The Lucky One," a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel and starring Zac Efron, because Efron's salary was reportedly more than the state cap.
Saluting small businesses
Showing support for the state's 734,000 small businesses, Gov. Bev Perdue has declared Saturday "Small Business Saturday" in North Carolina.
The declaration encourages Tar Heel residents to shop at their local businesses on Saturday, which is expected to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
The governor's declaration follows a string of "shop local" efforts, including a highly publicized effort by American Express called Small Business Saturday.
According to the state Department of Commerce, small businesses provide nearly 50 percent of the private sector employment in the state and contribute half of the state's non-farm GDP.
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