A uniformly upbeat crowd of farmers, exhibitors and speakers attended the 2013 Southern Farm Show in Raleigh.

“I’m not sure I can remember a year in the last 20 where we had the optimism among farmers that we have this year,“ said North Carolina Extension Economist Blake Brown.

And there was no mystery why. Nick Piggott, North Carolina Extension agricultural economist, was one of many who said that North Carolina’s agricultural outlook is promising.

“I’m very excited about North Carolina’s prospects,” he said.

“But things could be better if the state could get over the logistical problem of developing our ports and railways to facilitate foreign trade,” said Piggott, who was keynote speaker at the North Carolina Ag Development Forum held at the show. “We (need to be able) to better transport the necessary imports to sustain our livestock industry.”

And there could soon be new foreign trade opportunities. U.S. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina told the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. meeting, which took place during the Southern Farm Show, that more foreign trade agreements may be looming in the near future.

“We ought to have trade agreements with everyone around the world that we can,” said Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem, N.C. “The biggest beneficiary... is going to be a state like North Carolina, because agriculture is the 800-pound gorilla that the U.S. has to (put into) play in international markets.”

Burr was also optimistic about the possibility of realistic immigration reform in 2013. “I have great hope that we are going to be able to do something this year (and that it will be) something that 99 percent of you would agree embraces everything you believe.”

The tobacco growers got unexpected support from Pat McCrory, the new governor of North Carolina, who had just taken office the previous month. He told the growers association that agriculture will be the segment of the economy that helps get North Carolina out of the current recession.

He is going to help as much as possible, particularly with tobacco. “When I go on international trips, one of the first things I’m going to mention is tobacco exports,” he said. “We are going to talk about the exports of tobacco, which will help this state and our nation.”