Yesterday we began our four-week series on the candidates for North Carolina Ag Commissioner with democratic candidate Walter Smith. Today, two-term incumbent republican Steve Troxler discusses the changes in the Department of Agriculture since he took office in 2004:
“One of the biggest changes is we now have much more responsibility with the Department of Agriculture with the addition of forestry, soil & water, grade A milk and bedding inspection. Just recently the wine and grape council has been moved back to the Department of Agriculture. We are a much bigger agency than we were when I was elected in 2004. There are many more employees in the Department now, almost 3000. If you look around the council state table, employment wise, we are not the largest council of state agency and government.”
Today we hear Commissioner Troxler’s thoughts on dealing with the state’s General Assembly whose members are becoming more and more removed from the farm:
“The thing that has happened to North Carolina that we are really going to have to adjust to in rural NC in agriculture, is we re-districted North Carolina. What that means is, the constitution says that representation will be by population. Agriculture is in rural NC for the most part, so we have lost representation in the legislature with re-districting. I have heard the figure that east of Interstate 95, we lost 5 house members. That means we will need to do a really good job of communicating our message. We in agriculture and agri-business are going to have to speak with a united voice and we are going to have to keep hammering home the fact that we are the number one industry in NC. We are $74 billion dollars and directly or indirectly employ almost 1/5 of the population.
But further than that, we have to hammer home the opportunities that are out there. $74 billion is not where we need to stay, we need to be at $100 billion in the near future. If we can make the legislature understand that if they take the reins off of us, we can do great things for this state and continue to be the number one industry. I tell people that we can grow our way out of this recession with agriculture and agribusiness in North Carolina.”
For more comments from Commissioner Troxler, and Walter Smith in our candidates forum, click here.
Next week we’ll hear from the candidates for ag commissioner on labor and immigration reform. Be sure to check this page each week for more from each candidate.