From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Before the end of 2016, the N.C. General Assembly approved $200 million for disaster recovery, which is likely just a starting point. The money was intended to take care of some immediate needs and shortfalls, with some discussion about revisiting bigger recovery issues when legislators return this month to start a full session.
I am grateful legislators earmarked almost $38 million for the department to help with damage to facilities and property, efforts involving soil and water issues, and operating losses because of recovery efforts.
I met with legislators during the special session to talk about the extent of agricultural damage from the floods and the damage from wildfires. These issues touch many of our communities, so they understood the importance of recovery. I am hopeful we can help farmers and agribusinesses reboot our agricultural engine.
As we look to new beginnings in 2017, like many in agriculture, I am hopeful for a good growing season, rain at the right times and healthy markets. January and February are typically the months when growers meet with their commodity groups, get industry updates and decide on planting intentions for the upcoming year.
I will again be hosting the Agricultural Development Forum during the Southern Farm Show, Feb. 1-3. The forum will be held in the Holshouser Building on Feb. 2 9:30 a.m.
As part of that, I will be providing a State of Agriculture address, outlining some of the issues we will be focused on in 2017. And, I know we will have other agricultural experts on the agenda. It is typically an informative session.
Despite the setbacks of 2016, I am still optimistic about the future of agriculture and agribusiness in the state. At its core, farming means food, fiber and fuel. It doesn’t get more essential than that.
The demand for food is only going to increase as our population grows, and we need to be prepared to grow with that. Part of preparing ourselves is arming ourselves with the best information possible and making use of new technology and production techniques to increase productivity and efficiency.
I was recently looking at some national economic forecasts for 2017 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and projections seem to point to a mixed bag when it comes to the numbers. Export numbers were expected to be up $4.3 billion to a total of $134 billion. Exports of grain, feed and cotton are also projected up.
Nationally, our leading buyers look to be China at $21.8 billion, Canada at $21.3 billion and Mexico at $18.3 billion.
Strong trade policies will be especially important to fostering growth in the export market, where agricultural products are a bright spot of trade. To me, these projections, only reinforce the need as a state to remain focused on international markets.
Nationally, economic indicators of net cash farm income and net farm income point down for the coming year, as do total production numbers. I know our industry will be facing challenges moving ahead, especially as it relates to disaster recovery, but I also believe we will emerge stronger.
I encourage you to mark your calendar for Feb. 2, and come join us at the Agricultural Development Forum. Here’s hoping 2017 is a strong year!