From the Tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
The winter months are typically a busy time of year around a farm; busy in a different way than during production season. Farmers often use the time to repair equipment, look at new equipment to purchase, plan for the coming year’s crops and attend meetings.
With so much going on, attending meetings may not always be a priority, but I have always felt I was better informed by attending commodity meetings and farm shows. They give me an opportunity to see what is going on in the industry, and also offer a chance to talk with researchers, economists and other farmers who may have some insight into the coming season.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services hosted several informational meetings this winter focusing on the economy’s effect on agriculture and farm credit, and ways to reduce risk when marketing farm commodities.
Also, the Agricultural Development Forum is being held Feb. 5 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Holshouser Building, in conjunction with the Southern Farm Show at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
N.C. State University economist Mike Walden is the featured speaker and will talk about the economy’s affect on agriculture in the United States and North Carolina. After Dr. Walden’s comments, a panel will discuss the credit outlook for 2009.
It is an appropriate subject given the current economic situation we face. Obviously, no one has a crystal ball when it comes to the future, but people such as Dr. Walden and the other panelists spend a lot of time studying market trends and trying to make sense of where things are going. I look forward to hearing what Dr. Walden and the other panelists have to say about the coming year.
I will also give my first State of Agriculture address at this meeting. I am not going to give away all the details of my remarks, but I’ll share a few broad points from my point-of-view. Despite all that is going on in the world today, I believe agriculture will remain strong. People have to eat, and today just a small percentage of the global population raises food for the larger majority.
Fertilizer and fuel costs have come down, but commodity prices have also dropped some in the past year. So, while it seems farmers are catching a break on input costs, the amount they earn for their efforts balances out any savings.
I believe we will see an even greater focus in the coming years on food safety. Recalls of food products from other countries have many people suddenly paying attention to the source of their food and whether it is safe. I believe this creates opportunities for North Carolina farmers that we need to take advantage of.
I hope many of you were able to attend one of the risk management workshops held in January and early February, and I hope I will see a number of you at the Agricultural Development Forum.
Both of these events have been publicized in this newspaper in the past month or two. You will notice we revamped our front page and added a new “On the Horizon” column. Look for other activities and upcoming events like the forum in this column in the future.