Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.”
Commissioner Troxler recently gave his annual State of Agriculture speech where he provided an update on the industry and he also talks about his goals for the department for 2020.
A summary of comments:
I think it is important to have goals. They provide a roadmap of sorts in terms of direction, and they allow you to break them down in terms of steps to work on your goals.
I’d sum up my 2020 goals for the department of agriculture with:
Reducing the effects of flooding from storms and heavy rains
Farm sustainability through new crops, improved production techniques, capturing more of the added value through food manufacturing
Securing adequate resources to support the industry.
We’ve talked many times about trade and its importance in agriculture’s future. With new trade agreements signed between the U.S., China, Mexico and Canada, and with opportunities for new trade agreements with the United Kingdom and Japan, we must focus on international trade opportunities.
95 percent of the world population lives outside the United States. Capturing even a small part of the larger global population would be significant.
Pork, poultry, tobacco, beef, soybeans and value-added products all stand to benefit through international trade.
China, which is the largest hog producer in the world, is estimated to have lost around 60 percent of its hog population to African Swine Fever.
I am certain North Carolina farmers can help them boost their supply.
Farmland Preservation has been a top priority since I first took office. I don’t know that it will ever come off the list of priorities even though we can see some clear improvements.
When I first took office, we were No. 1 in the country in the loss of farmland. We have seen steady progress in protecting farmland through conservation easements, and in fact, information collected during the 2017 Census of Agriculture shows a slight increase (around 30,500 acres) in the total land in farms from the previous Census in 2012.
Turning the tide on farmland loss and increasing land in farms in the state is a hard-fought win. I am proud of the progress, but we cannot stop working to ensure future generations of North Carolina farmers have access to fertile farmland.
If the flooding from Hurricane Florence and Tropical Storm Michael taught us anything, it’s that 100-year and 500-year floods come around a lot more regular than 100 or 500 years.
Our Soil and Water Conservation Division will be looking for ways to reduce the impacts of flooding from storms, including how we can work with our partners in the Soil and Water Conservation districts across the state and NRCS to try to speed up the process of storm-debris removal.
Farm profitability is a significant concern. Low commodity prices have plagued farmers for the past 5 years or so. I believe we are due to see an increase in prices, but developing new crops for farmers to produce can help balance supply and demand.
We are actively looking for new and emerging crops, including hemp, stevia, hops and purple carrots, and crops and plants with bio-energy potential. The legislature has invested $1 million annually to explore these and other opportunities.
They have also invested in the N.C. Food Innovation Lab, with the hope of developing more food manufacturing and food processing opportunities in the state.
This would allow North Carolina’s ag industry to keep more added-value here in the state.
To do our job and do it well, we have to have adequate resources to be responsive to industry. The 2019-2020 budget included positions for hemp inspectors and hemp regulators, our nematode lab, staff for Soil and Water to work on storm clean up, Emergency Programs positions, Forest Service positions and money to move into the new Ag Sciences Center under construction now.
We will continue to advocate for these positions so we can help the industry grow.