The Farmers’ Legislator Has a Primary Challenge

By Pete Kennedy

One of the bigger surprises for the local food movement so far in 2024 has been that for the first time since he was elected state senator in 2012 for Tennessee’s 8th district, Frank Niceley has an opponent in an election for that office. Niceley had no opponent in either the Republican primary or general election in 2016 or 2020; this year he has a challenger, Jesse Seal, in the Republican primary which takes place on August 1.

There is a reason that Niceley, an honorary board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), hasn’t had an opponent in a race for state senator in a dozen years; he is one of the more productive and liberty-minded legislators in the country and an effective advocate in Nashville (the state capital), not only for his own constituents but also for numerous other Tennessee residents, especially farmers. It’s common for farmers around the state to contact Niceley, a fifth-generation cattle farmer, for help instead of their own legislators if they are having an issue with a regulator or government agency, be it state or federal.

The successful legislation he has sponsored and the policies he has helped implement as both a state representative and state senator have made a huge impact on small farmers and local artisan food producers and many others in Tennessee. What’s unexpected is that after not having any opposition in his past two Senate races, he now has a primary opponent after arguably having his most productive term as a senator: Niceley sponsored successful bills legalizing the over-the-counter sale of ivermectin (SB 2188—Tennessee was the first state to do so), taking the sales tax off gold and silver coins (SB 1857), legalizing the unlicensed, unregulated sale of cottage foods not only direct from the producer to the consumer but also to third parties such as grocery stores (SB 693), and establishing a state meat inspection program (SB 123).

Niceley has done more to deregulate local food production and distribution than anyone in the past 15 years, enabling family farms and local artisans to have a better chance to make a living. His list of accomplishments since 2009 includes:

2009 (HB 720)
Sponsored bill legalizing the distribution of raw milk through herdshare agreements. In 2012, Niceley followed up on that bill by getting an Attorney General’s opinion that it was legal to distribute other raw dairy products through a herdshare agreement as well.

Got an Attorney General’s opinion that farmers didn’t need a permit to sell eggs from their own farm.

2014 (SB 1707)
Sponsored a bill adopting the federal poultry exemption enabling farmers to process up to 20,000 birds a year. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has since expanded the exemption by policy to include processing rabbit meat on the farm. Before the bill passed, Tennessee had one of the worst regulatory climates for on-farm poultry processing in the country; during that time, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) received a call from a poultry farmer in Bristol, Tennessee, getting ready to move across the state line to Bristol, Virginia, because he was so fed up with the restrictive laws and policies on on-farm poultry processing.

2017 (SB 343)
Sponsored a bill adopting the federal exemption on custom slaughter and the exemption on non-amenable species. The latter exemption allows the sale of meat from animals such as bison and domestically raised deer that are slaughtered and processed at a custom facility.

2017 (SB 651)
When WAPF chapter leader, Michele Reneau, (now running for state representative) was threatened with prosecution because the food buyers club she co-managed did not have a permit, Niceley passed a bill exempting food buyers clubs from licensing and regulation.

Received Attorney General’s opinion stating that there can be an unlimited number of owners for an animal slaughtered and processed at a custom facility and that entities such as a food buyers club can be an owner of such a custom animal.

2019 (SB 358)
Sponsored bill legalizing sales of raw butter by licensed dairies.

2020 (SB 2049)
Sponsored a bill requiring that any meat labeled as a product of Tennessee must be from an animal that was born and raised in the state.

2020 (SJR 841)
Sponsored a resolution commending the Weston A. Price Foundation for its 50-50 Campaign urging people to spend at least 50% of their food budget buying direct from the farm.

2022 (SB 693)
Sponsored the Tennessee Food Freedom Act legalizing the unlicensed unregulated sale from homemade food producers of food that does not require time and temperature control for safety, including fermented foods; these sales can be direct to consumers and also by some third parties such as food buyers clubs and grocery stores.

2023 (SB 123)
Sponsored the bill to establish a State Meat Inspection program in Tennessee; like many states, Tennessee has a shortage of federally inspected slaughterhouses, especially in the eastern half of the state.

2024 (SB 1914)
Sponsored a bill providing for vending machines with whole milk in the schools, giving children a more nutritious option while still preserving federal funding for Tennessee’s school lunch program. The federal rule that withdraws funding from Washington if whole milk is served in a school lunch has worsened children’s health and the economic condition of the dairy industry.

Niceley’s work impacts the local food movement around the rest of the U.S. as well. The first thing legislators typically ask when a constituent requests that they introduce a bill is: “Has this been done elsewhere?”

The senator has introduced and helped pass a number of bills that were law in few, if any, states outside Tennessee. In the 2024 session, he helped pass a bill defining and regulating as a drug any food that contained “a vaccine or vaccine material.”

Legislation he introduced this past session includes: a constitutional resolution to protect the individuals right to grow and acquire the food of their choice (SJR 902); a bill that would have barred any prohibition on the growing of produce and the raising of chicken or meat rabbits on a residential lot (SB 1761); a bill that would have exempted farms from any vaccine mandate for their livestock or poultry, if the farms’ practice was not to vaccinate their livestock or poultry (SB 2543); and legislation that would have prohibited cell-cultured meat from being defined as “meat” (SB 2603).

Niceley has been generous with his time in helping legislators, farmers, and eaters in other states working on food and agriculture bills.

For Tennessee, there is no one who has done as much for the small farmer and local food producer in that state as Frank Niceley. Those interested in finding out more about his reelection campaign can go to his website; those interested in supporting Senator Niceley can donate here.

Legislation sponsored as State Representative for District 17:

2005/2006 (104th General Assembly)

2007/2008 (105th General Assembly)

2009/2010 (106th General Assembly)

2011/2012 (107th General Assembly)

Legislation sponsored as State Senator for District 8:

2013/2014 (108th General Assembly)

2015/2016 (109th General Assembly)

2017/2018 (110th General Assembly)

2019/2020 (111th General Assembly)

2021/2022 (112th General Assembly)

2023/2024 (113th General Assembly)

Related Solari Reports:

2023 Heroes of the Year: Tennessee Senator Frank Niceley and Tennessee Representative Bud Hulsey

Hero of the Week: September 11, 2023: Senator Frank Niceley

Hero of the Week: May 2, 2022: Senator Frank Niceley, Tennessee

Special Solari Report: A Sovereign State Bank and Bullion Depository for Tennessee with Senator Frank Niceley

Special Solari Report: Free in Tennessee: Kicking Tyranny to the Curb

Food Series: Champion of the Small Farmer with Senator Frank Niceley

From The Moneychanger: Senator Frank Niceley – Restoring Freedom in Tennessee

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