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.
Weather ramps up risk
“Whether it be hurricanes, tornadoes or the extreme drought we’ve seen in recent years in North Carolina, weather significantly ramps up the risks and the pressure on farmers.
“Finding ways to decrease economic risks to farmers and improving the productivity of producing crops and livestock go hand-in-hand with helping farmers feed the world in the future,” Troxler says.
One of the keys to revitalizing the rural economies of Southeastern states is the export market.
Troxler has worked tirelessly in helping North Carolina farmers build a booming agricultural export business. No question that increasing grain, cotton, peanut, sweet potato and tobacco exports will bring more dollars to rural areas of the state, but some contend exporting grain from a livestock rich and grain poor state like North Carolina isn’t a good thing.
Troxler says a truly ‘free’ market will benefit both livestock and grain producers. It will allow both to compete globally to sell their products.
To help offset the loss of exported grain, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and some large grain buyers in the area are promoting production of grain sorghum and other alternative crops to corn, soybeans and wheat that can be used in livestock rations.
Growing grain sorghum may be one of those upcoming success stories for agriculture. Murphy-Brown, a large grain buyer in the Tar Heel state, has made a concerted effort to increase grain sorghum production in the Carolinas. “Before we go too far in promoting grain sorghum, we have to be sure we have a market for the crop, and we are making great strides in doing just that,” Troxler says.
Troxler says he has no doubts that export of North Carolina-grown agricultural products will be a good thing for farmers and agribusiness leaders in the state. He does, however, have some doubts about the infrastructure needed to take full advantage of export opportunities.
“Right now the old adage ‘we’ve missed the boat’ applies to North Carolina. Too much of the farm crops grown in North Carolina are being shipped out of ports in other states, because of a lack port facilities.
In addition to upgrading our ports, we simply must improve our transportation, processing and storage facilities in rural areas of the state,” the Commissioner says.
“The farm business is good in North Carolina, but working together, we have a real opportunity to make it even better in the future,” Troxler adds.