For the past month or so, Southern Farm Network has been profiling the democratic and republican candidates for North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture. Today, we have our last installment with democratic challenger Walter Smith. Smith explains the process he would take to bring young people into the fold of agriculture with the median age of farmers in the state on the rise:
“We have to build a strong and diverse agriculture in North Carolina. This is the way we will save family farms and make them profitable. Through specialty crops and value added crops, also ag tourism and wind/solar farming. These are things that are very diverse and they have the attention of the younger people. These are exciting areas that will encourage them to get into farming. And once they see what is happening in the agricultural industry and they see that agriculture is once again profitable, especially the small farms that they are able to start on, I think we will be able to attract younger people in the farming industry.
Our average age of a farmer now is about 56-57 years old. We will partner with the agricultural department, our universities, our commodity associations and our farm organizations to target potential young farmers. There are resources out there; grants, loans, public and private nonprofit organizations, all of these have some money that can help youth farmers get into the business. The problem is, its so widespread that no one really has a handle on what is out there. I would like to see the Department of Agriculture assimilate all of this information and have it readily available for the new farmers.
We will also have to be sure we pass a new inheritance tax law. The federal law will expire the end of this year and right now it allows a $5 million exemption in inheritance tax for agribusiness and farmers. The new law, when it takes effect, will go down to $1 million. Anyone who has dealt with agriculture knows that $1 million does not go very far. I am proposing that we exempt all agribusinesses and farmers up to $5 million for the inheritance tax so that the farm can be passed down to the family without having to take the farm to pay for these taxes.”
Smith’s closing remarks:
“I look forward to working with all of North Carolina as Agricultural Commissioner. I have four main platforms in my campaign. They are building a strong agriculture, animal welfare, environmental issues and food and consumer safety. I want to make North Carolina number one in the nation in food safety. We can do this with your help. I urge you to get out and vote.”
Early voting wraps up in the state on Saturday, November 3rd, with the general election taking place on Tuesday, November 5th.
Tomorrow we’ll conclude our series on the candidates for North Carolina Ag Commissioner with incumbent republican Steve Troxler. For more comments from the candidates,click here. Also, take a look at our poll question on the election at the bottom of the home page.