In his state of agriculture address on Thursday at the 7th Annual Ag Development Forum, NC Ag Commissioner not only looked back at the year that was in 2011…which he’s termed as the ‘year that got away’ but to the future. There’s several issues that either directly involve agriculture, or impact agriculture that the commissioner would like to see addressed. One that’s gotten a lot of press the last year or so is a guest worker program:
"One of the things that we have addressed so far is the possible move of a guest worker program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture I think that's a good idea."
And leave immigration reform to the federal government. Another topic that the commissioner addressed was trade:
"And we're going to continue to focus on these international markets and try to make sure that we have not only free trade but fair trade around the world. We just had the South Korean Free Trade Agreement passed this is going to be a tremendous boost to our poultry and pork industries in North Carolina and many of our other agricultural industries. Any time we open up these countries to agricultural trade, North Carolina is going to benefit."
Shipping goes hand in hand with trade, and Troxler has his eye on improving North Carolina ports:
"The last thing that I want to tell you that I see happening in the future, that I'm hopeful will happen, is improvements of the ports of the state of North Carolina. We're not there. And quite frankly, I think it is one of our most under utilized resources as far as the creation of trade and the creation of jobs. So a lot of us in agriculture began to work on this issue. The governor's logistics task force has looked at the issue, there's maritime study out there. We are not using Morehead City to the extent that we need to. We have four miles from Radio Island, we have 52 feet of water, we're not utilizing that and especially not for agriculture."
Troxler says that the loss of business out of NC ports"
"There's such a large percentage of agricultural products going out of other ports, especially Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, that we raise in North Carolina, that I'm ashamed of it."
And in closing, the commissioner reiterated that in order for agriculture to survive and thrive, having discussions with the non-farming public is a must:
"I'm telling people no longer can you talk about agriculture, you've got to scream about agriculture, if we're going to get it done."
NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler’s State of Agriculture address at the 7th Annual Ag Development Forum. The Southern Farm Show wraps up today at 4:00 pm at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.