From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
As many of you may remember from previous columns, this year I have served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. I am wrapping up my term this month at the annual meeting of the states and territories, which we are hosting in Asheville.
Each state's agricultural community faces different challenges, but we also share many common ones, too, and that is what this organization focuses on – working on issues that affect all of our industry. The farm bill and immigration are two examples of efforts we have been monitoring closely this year.
Labor needs are a big concern for many farmers today, and having some kind of foreign worker program is a significant agricultural worry. Crops don't just harvest themselves, and the outcome of the farm bill has far-reaching implications in terms of farm stability.
With the anticipation that farmers will need to produce 75 to 100 percent more food by 2050 just to meet the increasing demands of a growing global population, we will need a strong national agricultural industry. That is why it is so important for us as agricultural leaders to weigh in on these issues while we have an opportunity to bring about change.
As of press time, there has been no resolution on the farm bill, which leaves a lot of farmers in limbo. Both the House and Senate approved versions of the bill. Two of the main NASDA priorities – support for the Specialty Crop Block Grant and Market Access programs – have remained in the bills.
The Market Access Program helps U.S. producers compete in foreign markets, which can be lucrative for businesses. The latest figures for North Carolina's ag exports are $3.7 billion, not including lumber exports. Foreign markets are important to growers now and they will continue to be critical in the future.
Food safety is another area of concern for anyone involved in agriculture, so it is something that NASDA is also very involved in. We are working to draft NASDA's comments to the Food and Drug Administration on the Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule. The comment period for these rules has been extended until mid-November, so I would encourage producers to review these rules and add their comments as well. We want to make sure the rules will be effective.
As I reflect back on my year as president of NASDA, I am most especially proud to be serving at a time when so many important issues are being debated. One of my college professors told me long ago that agricultural policies will have the biggest effect on a farming operation, and through the years his insight has proven to be true.
The ag policies we help influence today will have a significant impact on the future of agriculture and the next generation of farmers. I want to do everything I can to ensure they have a bright future and the tools and resources to meet consumer demands.