As we reported yesterday, North Carolina Agribusiness Council hosted a Candidates Forum earlier this week showcasing candidates for House of Representatives, as well as governor, lieutenant governor, commissioners of labor, insurance and agriculture. Democratic candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture Walter Smith addressed the forum’s question regarding economic development in the ag sector of North Carolina:
“We need to expand our agriculture and our agribusiness. We can do this in a rural community by private/public partnerships, utilizing our research stations and our great universities. We need to develop more specialty crops and value added crops. We need to add in agritourism and community supported agriculture. All of these generate income to the rural community and help to support the rural community.”
A point of controversy of late has been transportation, especially making I-95 a toll road. Smith had these thoughts on North Carolina’s transportation issues:
“I am opposed to tolls on these roads. I think we go in the wrong direction when we do that. Especially agriculture because we depend on transportation to move our crops. North Carolina has the second largest state maintained road system in the US. We have 20 railroads in North Carolina and 4000 miles of track and two seaports. Most of our agriculture exports do not go through our seaports. The reason is a lack of container storage, we have no where to store the grain that comes in to the ports and no cold storage to store the produce before its shipped out. That is something that needs to be rectified.”
Candidates were given two minutes for closing remarks, and Smith had these thoughts:
“We have the potential to greatly expand the agribusiness in North Carolina. I will fight for all of you by working with you to create an environment to help you succeed. We need to streamline some of the rules and regulations so they work for you and not against you. We need to change some tax laws so they will encourage you to start new businesses and expand your current ones. We need to work with our community colleges and our four year institutions to train our young people who want to get into the agriculture industry. We must partner with local and federal governments and the private industry to create an atmosphere that will be more conducive to starting a small agribusiness.”
We’ll have NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler’s responses to the Forum’s questions tomorrow on Inside Agriculture.