What is in this article?:
- Farm business good in North Carolina, but challenges remain
- Research is the answer
- Weather ramps up risk
• Over the past decade North Carolina has lost more agricultural acres to industrial, military and residential buildup than any other state, most recently surpassing California.
• Despite the loss of farmland, the state’s farmers and agribusiness industry, along with staunch support from a small cadre of politicians, have built a $71 billion industry that surpasses the next closest — military and tourism — combined.
Research is the answer
Research is the best answer — we simply have to improve technology enough to allow farmers to grow more crops per acre. That’s nothing new, but Troxler says few people in North Carolina or anywhere else in the U.S. seem to understand that for every dollar invested in agricultural research, the return on investment is $19.
“I’m a farmer and a businessman. If you come to me with an offer that will allow me a 19 to 1 return on investment, I’m going to take that deal every day. Yet, I’m amazed at how hard that deal is to sell to the general public, and more so, to politicians with no agricultural background,” Troxler says.
In North Carolina and Virginia, both grain deficient states, because of huge livestock industries there, the 10-year average yield of corn is actually going down.
Despite significant technological breakthroughs during that time period, research has not been able to keep pace with weather-related yield losses.
Research can help, but not completely overcome the reality that more and more crops are being planted on marginal land with marginal yield capabilities.
Troxler says don’t blame downward trends in grain production on the weather. “It’s always too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry to grow crops,” he quips.
Farmers figured out a long time ago, though not always to their best economic advantage, that weather is a constant — it constantly changes. Helping farmers change with these constantly changing weather conditions is going to be critical to continued growth of the agriculture industry in North Carolina, he adds.
In April of 2011, tornadoes of historic number and ferocity criss-crossed the southern third of North Carolina, ripping up farmland and depositing unbelievable amounts of debris, some of which farmers are still coping with in the 2012 planting season.
Though most growers have recovered from the physical losses from the storms, many are still trying to cope with their financial losses.
“We found out that FEMA was not, and is not equipped to deal with agriculture. That’s not due to a lack of concern, but the agency just doesn’t have the resources or direction it needs to help farmers recover their losses from catastrophic weather,” Troxler says.
Farmers have the highest prices anyone can remember for their crops, he adds. But, they also have the highest prices ever for the inputs it takes to grow these high value crops. As a farmer and a businessman, I can tell you that combination means one thing — higher risks.
“Last year, we had a minimal hurricane, when Irene brushed the North Carolina coast. The losses farmers took from this storm were much greater just because the value of their crops was much greater and the value of the inputs they used to grow their crops was much greater.