From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
I often say that North Carolina agriculture has a very bright future, because of global population growth projections and the natural resources and knowledge base we have in the state. In fact, I believe this will likely be a $100 billion industry by 2020.
The latest agriculture and agribusiness numbers released by Mike Walden, an extension economist at N.C. State University, show growth in this sector of North Carolina’s economy in the past year, something that does not surprise me.
Agriculture and agribusiness remains our No. 1 industry, with an $84 billion economic impact. That is up from $76 billion last year. This industry employs 686,200, or 17 percent of the workforce.
I consider this to be great news. We are focused on this industry being even bigger going forward as we work to put the infrastructure and resources in place to foster even more growth.
I mentioned in a previous column about serving on the Governor’s Food Manufacturing Task Force. The basic focus of this effort is to see how we can attract food manufacturers to come to the state or help North Carolina farms or agribusinesses develop or expand value-added facilities and operations.
With the diversity of crops grown here, the access to commodities is incredible, meaning tremendous opportunities for value-added processing.
The task force was divided into four subcommittees, each focusing on a specific area: infrastructure needs and assets for the food manufacturing supply chain; food manufacturing needs assessment; business recruitment; and communications and advocacy.
We have recently wrapped up our work and have put together a list of recommendations from our efforts. Chief among them is a call for a year-round food manufacturing recruiter, someone to focus solely on the goal of attracting food businesses to the state. Additionally, the task force is requesting $1 million in the state budget to support ongoing marketing efforts through our department.
The Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has pledged funding for the first year for the recruitment position, which allows us to get to work quickly on this area.
We will be asking the N.C. General Assembly to provide ongoing funding to continue the work that has been started by this task force. I think this represents a real opportunity for our agricultural community, and will help us move agriculture and agribusiness towards the $100 billion industry I know it can be.
I am excited about the possibilities, and look forward to working with the General Assembly and other partners on this initiative.