Ag Development Forum draws strong interest
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services hosted its annual Ag Development Forum in early February at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. The program focused on the outlook of the agricultural economy and the availability of farm credit, which drew strong interest from farmers, commodity groups and other agriculture-related industry representatives.
N.C. State University economist Dr. Mike Walden was the keynote speaker. In addition, a panel of credit experts, including Michael Morton, chief executive officer of Carolina Farm Credit; Richard Eason, president and chief executive officer of Cape Fear Farm Credit; and Bill Melton, senior vice president and chief lending officer of AgFirst Farm Credit, talked about obtaining farm credit in the current economy.
Walden said agriculture has fared decently in the past couple of years. Commodity prices for some crops have been up, but part of those gains has been offset by higher input costs.
He said that in studying North Carolina’s economy historically, one of the things he found most amazing is that agriculture can almost always be counted on as being a “stable, consistent part of the economy.”
“Agriculture is not always flashy, but it is consistent,” Walden said.
He also said that in the face of the many dramatic forces that have hit agriculture over the years, “North Carolina ag didn’t roll over and just take it, that North Carolina farmers reshaped themselves.”
Walden said the current thinking among economists is that the recession will start to end in late 2009 or early 2010, but even then the economy will not turn around immediately. We should expect to see a gradual climb back, he said.
Walden said he saw agriculture being well positioned for future growth. He noted three primary reasons for that optimism – the world will recover from this recession, the world economy has dramatically changed with barriers of trade having come down and the U.S. excels in agricultural production.
“I’ve never been as optimistic about ag as I am now,” Walden said. “We have an industry that is competitive worldwide, we’ll see a return to growing world income and I think there will be very strong, economically viable, opportunities in the alternative fuels market.”