From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Part of my responsibilities as Agriculture Commissioner is to represent the agricultural interests of the state, and that takes many forms.
I speak to a variety of groups statewide, I talk to legislators and congressional representatives on behalf of ag interests and I meet regularly with leaders of other state departments of agriculture to discuss broader ag issues, just to name a few.
As of press time, I am attending the mid-year meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. We have a lot on the agenda, particularly in light of a new administration in Washington and the recent passage of the federal stimulus package.
As a group, we want to be sure U.S. Department of Agriculture programs meet the needs of the growers they intend to serve.
Because of my interest and commitment to food safety, I chair the Food Regulation and Nutrition Committee, and one of the primary issues I intend to discuss is the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight and regulation into peanut processing facilities.
Food safety not only affects families directly involved with this outbreak, but erodes consumer confidence in food products.
This ongoing recall of products made with peanut butter paste from a Georgia company is also affecting peanut growers in our state and country through lost contracts.
This is a perfect example of why I believe food safety is so critical. Whenever food products are involved in a recall, it has a trickle-down effect to growers of those commodities. Today, it is peanut butter paste, tomorrow it could be another product and growers and the local economies these farms support end up suffering.
From the farm to the fork, everyone involved in producing or inspecting food has to remain wholeheartedly committed to food safety. That is the only way we can maintain consumer trust in our products.
Some of the other topics we will be discussing at NASDA include biotechnology, food and agriculture security, tobacco, specialty crops, marketing and international trade, rural development and financial security, animal and plant industries, natural resources and pesticide management.
What I have found through these meetings is that agricultural policy is broad, and there are many different competing interests when it comes to programs and resources. I want to make sure that North Carolina’s voice and concerns are heard in any discussions about ag policy.
In February we hosted an Ag Development Forum that focused on the outlook for the agricultural economy and farm credit. With the ongoing economic woes, these were timely topics and, as a result, we had a strong turnout.
I was glad to see strong turnout for the forum, and appreciate Cape Fear Farm Credit and Carolina Farm Credit for being our sponsors.