From the Tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
October and November have been busy months as our department has finished the N.C. State Fair and held Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies for longtime Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham. And, on a personal note, the general election wrapped up in November.
I am honored to again have the pleasure of serving as Agriculture Commissioner for this great state, and promise to continue working hard on behalf of agricultural interests across this state.
I think it will be a challenging year ahead with the unsteadiness of the economy. We are all concerned about the current state of the economy, and our department is tightening its belt like everyone else. We know we will have our budget reduced this year, and I can only anticipate that trend could continue into the next fiscal year’s budget as well.
Agriculture and agribusiness remain our state’s leading industry, generating more than $70 billion for the economy. So I believe it is critical to continue to provide the services that support our leading industry. I will be making that point with legislators as they work on crafting a budget.
Likewise, we all have an interest in food safety, and I am committed to ensuring we do everything we can to protect our food supply. We are fortunate in this state to have staff who routinely collect and test samples of food products from grocery stores. In the event of food recalls, those same inspectors are out checking stores to make sure recalled products are actually removed from shelves.
Protecting consumers also helps protect our access to foreign markets. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration stopped foods and treats containing dairy products from China from entering the United States until they had been tested because of ongoing food safety concerns. Foreign markets are important to our growers, and we must maintain our global reputation as safe producers of food so we will continue to be able to sell our products overseas.
The department will continue to look for alternative funding sources for programs and initiatives that benefit agriculture and consumers. We were very fortunate this year to have received a total of $1.1 million in funding from the Tobacco Trust Fund for several projects.
We will use these grants to market our products domestically and overseas, to improve agronomic testing in our Agronomic lab, to focus on food safety efforts, to increase traffic to agritourism farms across North Carolina and to expand research on the production of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
The trust fund receives money from cigarette manufacturers as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. I am appreciative of its support.
And finally, I would like to thank everyone who attended the 2008 N.C. State Fair. We had a good, and most importantly, safe year. People seemed to have a good time and our exhibits and livestock shows were well attended. We will be working to make 2009 even better.
I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season, and best wishes for the New Year.