Nearly 500 people gathered in Raleigh recently for North Carolina Ag Awareness Day, an event designed to celebrate agriculture and its $84 billion a year contribution to the state’s economy.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was among dozens of agencies, commodity groups and other organizations that set up exhibits inside the state legislative building on March 15 to draw attention to the state’s agriculture industry.
The event also included a rally inside the North Carolina Museum of History. Farmers, agriculture officials and state legislators attended.
North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler led the rally, restating his goal to grow the industry to $100 billion by 2025. Noting that “our future is agricultural research,” he said that while we used to be a state and nation of subsistence farmers, today each farmer feeds an average of 155 consumers.
“Agricultural research continues to move us forward, as does good government policy,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges we face today is educating the non-farming public about agriculture’s importance, and if you look at the makeup of the legislature there are a lot more city folks than there are rural folks, but we’ve been fortunate to have good leadership in rural North Carolina that has helped us with agriculture.”
Among those leaders, he said, is Gov. Roy Cooper, who spoke briefly about his experiences growing up and working on his family’s tobacco farm in Nash County.
About Troxler’s $100 billion goal for agriculture and agribusiness, Cooper said, “We have $16 billion to go, and there’s a lot we can do together. … This is an area where we can find common ground, because our economy depends on agriculture. We have to make sure that state government is a partner and knows when to help and when to stay out of the way.”
N.C. Sen. Phil Berger, who serves as the president pro tempore of the state senate, agreed.
“We will work together, because there’s a great deal of consensus in the state (and) in the legislature about what’s good for agriculture being good for North Carolina,” he said.
Meanwhile, the N.C. House of Representatives’ majority leader, Rep. John R. Bell IV, said that the General Assembly is committed “to get to that $100 billion mark and also to do everything in our power to recover from Hurricane Matthew and any other disaster in the future.”
To conclude the rally, Troxler mentioned the importance of North Carolina’s 623,000 agricultural jobs and of projects like the North Carolina Food Manufacturing and Processing Initiative that will help create more jobs.
“We are going to work hard to make sure that rural North Carolina remains strong and vibrant and keep agriculture the number one industry in North Carolina,” Troxler said.