This past November, when the boards of the N.C. Agricultural, Dairy and Tobacco foundations convened for their fall joint luncheon, there was an excitement and optimism for the future, as news was shared about activities to usher in a new day in North Carolina agriculture.
The board members heard about what the $2 billion Connect NC Bond Package – announced Oct. 21 by Gov. Pat McCrory – could mean to the state, its citizens and its economy. It’s a package upon which citizens of the state will have the opportunity to decide March 15 – and one that could be a key factor in infrastructure and agricultural investment in North Carolina. Its passage, among other things, would enable the plans for the college’s Plant Sciences Initiative and needed agricultural research facilities to come into being, without incurring additional tax burdens.
The Plant Sciences Initiative aims no less than to establish North Carolina as the global hub for plant-related innovation through an interdisciplinary research and collaborative-systems approach that builds on the strengths of academe, industry and government. Via such activities, it could help improve crop yields with fewer natural resources, grow local economies, protect natural resources and produce safe, affordable foods.
The formula of progress through partnership is a hallmark of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as it responds to the needs of North Carolina and its citizens. In this issue of Perspectives we show how we answer the call of our stakeholders and clientele, moving from need to fulfillment through collaboration and innovation.
We’re tackling natural resource and environmental management problems at our Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy. We’re helping to fulfill the need for tomorrow’s agricultural leaders and industry workforce, efforts enhanced by our Warren Leadership and Public Policy Fellows program and our Developing Future NC Farmers program. And, taking part in the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program, we’re participating in the work of faculty clusters in 20 multidisciplinary areas across the university, focusing on some of society’s most challenging issues. Those and other such efforts are detailed here.
We also spotlight the important issue of water for a growing world, the subject of our 2015 Stewards of the Future conference in November.
Another exciting and important initiative that’s afoot is the Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative, which promises to create jobs and grow the economy. This past year I was part of a 35-member governor’s task force that assessed food industry needs and business opportunities and explored the possibilities of establishing our area as a centralized hub in the Southeast, focused on food manufacturing.
All this work represents a chance to turn global challenges into local opportunities.
But perhaps most important, the upcoming decision on the bond offers the opportunity for us all to come together and bring forth an essential investment in the future – and create a template for what we can all do together to grow North Carolina.