TheFirstFurrow

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 The Importance of Infrastructure

The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Fall 2017 issue of NC Field and Family.

Initiatives for rural transportation, energy and broadband internet will benefit the state economy

North Carolina’s rural transportation, energy and broadband internet infrastructures are as important to economic development as seed, sun and water are to crops. Economic development is vital for the future of our farmers, rural communities and the population of the entire state.

There is no single “cure-all” for the ailing economies of many rural counties, but these areas have the potential to contribute an additional 38,000 jobs and $10.3 billion to the state’s annual income over a decade, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the NC General Assembly.

Because of this potential, the North Carolina Food Manufacturing Task Force was established April 9, 2015. The Task Force seeks to boost the rural economy with a world-class food processing industry.

The quality of roads and bridges tops the list of infrastructure needs that have a direct impact on the economic viability and quality of life in our rural communities. TRIP, a national transportation research group, recently reported, “North Carolina’s rural roads have high rates of fatalities, bridges show deficiencies; the state’s rural transportation system is in need of modernization to better support economic growth and connectivity.”

The Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report stated that 10 percent of all Americans lack access to high-speed broadband service, while 39 percent of rural Americans lack access. By contrast, only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access.

Affordable electricity and access to natural gas are also crucial for economic development. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will provide natural gas to the rural utilities that need it to serve their communities, and is estimated to lower energy costs for consumers and businesses while contributing an estimated $28 million in annual property taxes to local governments.

Agriculture is a crucial component of future economic development in rural North Carolina through the creation of value-added processing jobs and economically symbiotic small business.

Diverse agriculture, combined with an improved infrastructure, can result in the state emerging as a global food leader. State and federal funding, along with private investment, is required to make infrastructure investments that ensure our rural communities have roads that are well-maintained, energy that is affordable and broadband internet that is accessible.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 Leader Chosen, Plant Sciences Initiative Poised to Problem-Solve

Written by published on NC State’s CALS News.

The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative isn’t all roots and stems.

It’s genetics. It’s robotics. It’s big data.

And with this week’s announcement of a newly hired launch director, it’s about to get rolling — in a big way.

We can make a mark on agriculture for generations to come.

 

Entomologist, agricultural biotechnology business professional and commodity leader Stephen Briggs is now signed on to make this one-of-a-kind plant sciences research enterprise, housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University, a reality.

“I believe in our stakeholders’ vision that this can be the Silicon Valley of agriculture for the world,” Briggs said. “We can make a mark on agriculture for generations to come.”

Briggs steps in at a critical time for the interdisciplinary, multi-partner initiative. In less than three years, the NC PSI has transitioned from a “big idea” to a highly anticipated center for plant sciences innovation. With the broad support of North Carolina’s agricultural community, the initiative will break ground on its state-of-the-art facility in 2019, with doors opening in fall 2021.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 NORTH CAROLINA’S RURAL ROADS HAVE HIGH RATES OF FATALITIES, BRIDGES SHOW DEFICIENCIES

America’s rural transportation system is in need of repairs and modernization to support economic growth in the nation’s Heartland, which is a critical source of energy, food and fiber. Rural America is home to an aging and increasingly diverse population that is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system. This is according to a new report released today by TRIP. The report, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland, evaluates the safety and condition of the nation’s rural roads and bridges and finds that the nation’s rural transportation system is in need of improvements to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates, and inadequate connectivity and capacity. TRIP is a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. The chart below shows the states with the highest rate of rural pavements in poor condition, states with the highest share of structurally deficient rural bridges and those with the highest fatality rates on non-Interstate, rural roads.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 You Decide: Can Urban and Rural Areas Get Along?

Written by Dr. Mike Walden and originally published at NCSU CALS News.

My wife and I have one foot in rural regions and the other in big cities. We were both born and raised in small towns – I in an unincorporated town (meaning it wasn’t big enough to qualify as an official municipality) in Ohio and she in a recognized town (but still tiny) in upstate New York. I have a vague memory of my mother pulling me in a little wagon to the country store for groceries. On the way home, the groceries were in the wagon and I would walk!

But we’ve spent almost the last forty years of our lives living in Raleigh since I joined the faculty at N.C. State in 1978. Although it may not have been when we moved here, Raleigh today is certainly a big city. Indeed, it is recognized as one of the most dynamic big cities in the country.

My wife and I love both cities and the country. That’s one reason North Carolina is so great – it has both busy urban areas as well as tranquil rural regions.

But often the urban and rural areas don’t seem to get along. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, urban areas tended to vote for Secretary Clinton while rural regions favored President Trump. We saw the same urban/rural split in the North Carolina gubernatorial and General Assembly elections.

The urban-rural divide in North Carolina also extends to public policy. Here are two examples. Local public schools are partially supported by local property tax revenues. Since property values per resident are often higher in urban counties than in rural counties, there’s been a long-running debate whether this wealth disparity gives urban counties an unfair advantage in funding public schools.

The second example is sales taxes. Part of the sales tax revenues collected by the state are returned to the counties, but there’s an issue over how to do this. Should the distribution to counties be based on where the sales occurred or where the buyers live? North Carolina has a formula using both factors, but there’s frequently a debate about the relative importance of each in the formula. Indeed, legislation was introduced this year in the General Assembly to change the formula.

Has the urban-rural feud gotten worse? Some say three powerful forces – globalization, the elevation of education’s importance and population trends – have moved urban and rural areas farther apart in recent decades.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 Industry Spotlight: NC Strawberries!

There’s nothing quite like the taste and smell of fresh strawberries to usher in warm weather and blue skies in North Carolina. And we’re right smack in the middle of the strawberry harvest, which typically runs from mid-April through late May, so there’s no better time to head to a local farmers market, roadside stand, or pick-you-own site to scoop up a few buckets. In fact, the NC Strawberry Association has partnered with the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, NCDA&CS Farmers Markets, and the NC Dairy Promotions Committee to host Strawberry Days at the farmers market. Here are the details:

  • State Farmers Market (Raleigh): Thursday, May 4th from 11am – 1pm
  • Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market (Colfax): Friday, May 5th from 11am – 1pm
  • Charlotte Regional Farmers Market (Charlotte): Friday, May 12th from 11am – 1pm

North Carolina is one of the nation’s largest strawberry producers, and unlike other top states, most strawberries grown here are sold here — fresh, flavorful, and juicy. So in honor of one of the most delicious times of year, today we’re going to pay tribute to the North Carolina strawberry industry.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 NC’s First-Ever Rural Day to be Celebrated on May 9th

The following content provided courtesy of the NC Rural Center

If you are one of North Carolina’s many newcomers who moved here over the past decade, it is understandable you might have a somewhat skewed view of our state. It is likely you moved here and settled in one of our state’s thriving metros or surrounding suburbs. And that is not a bad thing. The explosion of our metropolitan areas over the past 25 years has brought an unprecedented level of economic growth to our state.

But starting with the Great Recession and culminating in the 2016 Presidential election, it became apparent that our state’s economic advances had been uneven and with diminishing returns as the economic boom radiated out from our core metro communities.

If you have read the news since November, you are probably aware of the renewed focus on rural communities. We have seen increased public interest in both our rural communities and the views of the people who call those places home. Unfortunately, too much of that coverage has been framed as an “us vs. them” cultural and economic split and too easily reduced to the “rural/urban divide” tag that pits our towns against our cities in a zero-sum game of competitive economic development.

At the Rural Center, we see daily that there is far more that unites us than divides us. We know we can lift up rural communities without pulling down urban areas. Commuter flows from the rural counties surrounding our state’s metros tell the real story: Our economies are regional, an interconnected web of life and work that can happen counties apart.

It’s simple – the best economic development solutions for North Carolina are rural solutions.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 Ag Exports are Still Booming

If you’ve watched the news recently, then you’ve probably heard President Trump discuss trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While we aren’t going to get into the details of either trade deal, we do want to emphasize the importance of agricultural exports to our economic success as a nation and here at home in North Carolina.

Agricultural Exports in the U.S.

To keep it short and sweet, the graphic below demonstrates the importance of agricultural exports to the U.S. economy and lays out several good reasons why there is a great need for a trade deal that works for agriculture. Two key points to pay careful attention to:

  1. The $129.7 billion in total value of U.S. agricultural exports actually surpassed USDA’s forecast
  2. The $1 Trillion in total value of U.S. agricultural exports since 2009 is the strongest period for U.S. ag exports in history

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 Industry Spotlight: NC Christmas Trees!

The holidays are finally here, and that mean many of you either already have or soon will be decorating your Christmas Tree. What you may not realize is just how lucky we are here in North Carolina to have a large, thriving community of Christmas tree growers. In fact, North Carolina Christmas Trees are so famous they have been selected as the White House Christmas Tree a dozen times since 1970. So this week, in the spirit of the season, we’re lighting up the NC Christmas Tree Industry!