TheFirstFurrow

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 Stepping Up for Agriculture

The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Spring 2018 issue of NC Field and Family.

Farm Bureau takes a stand on important issues

For more than 80 years, our Farm Bureau brand has served as a trusted voice on issues impacting the agriculture community. We must remain vigilant concerning the issues and challenges ahead of us in 2018.

Legislatively, we have a strong working relationship with the North Carolina General Assembly and the Governor’s office. We might not always agree on every issue, but I can tell you, they always want to hear from us. The same is true for our U.S. congressional members. We have great relationships with all 13 congressional offices and our 2 senatorial offices. This is a testimony to the strength of this organization and our grassroots leadership.

As the largest and most influential voice for rural North Carolina, we must not be afraid to take big, bold, and active stands on the controversial issues impacting our members. We must be prepared to stand alone if necessary. Our membership and the agriculture community expect Farm Bureau to do what is in the best interests of our farmers, regardless of the consequences.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 Principles For Progress

The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of NC Field and Family.

Mergers showcase the need for competitive choice

Progress has been a guiding principle of farming since before North Carolina’s first Commissioner of Agriculture Leonidas L. Polk established Progressive Farmer magazine in 1887, after serving in office.

With each new season of the year, it seems there is also a huge new merger or acquisition being announced in the name of progress. With the dizzying pace of consolidation in agribusiness, it seems appropriate to consider both sides of this double-edged sword. Is consolidation beneficial to farmers and consumers? Or do these legal strategies lessen competition to the point where too many options vanish?

According to industry analysts, these deals may result in increased efficiencies, crop yields and time savings, so we’re typically told this merger or that acquisition is ultimately for the benefit of farmers and consumers. Yet, is consolidation the only way, and the best way, to achieve progress?

What makes our economy prosperous? Is the answer independent, strong small businesses? Or, is it the consolidation of large corporations? Like most things in life, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Ideally, we’d like everyone to be prosperous. But one thing is certain: Farmers and consumers need choice!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 Farmers Are Multi-Skilled For a Single Purpose

The following article was written by Jessica Walker Boehm and appears in the Fall 2017 issue of North Carolina Field and Family.

Ask a farmer what he or she does on a daily basis, and you’re bound to get a wide variety of answers – there’s planting crops, evaluating soil, predicting weather patterns, caring for livestock, repairing and maintaining equipment, keeping detailed financial records, and much more.

As a result, it’s easy to conclude that farmers routinely multitask their abilities and develop new skills to get the daily job done efficiently and safely. Often, they switch from one role to the next without skipping a beat, constantly working to master new methods and skills that might better serve their farms and livestock.

multi-skilled farmers

“Before I worked in agriculture, I thought you just put a seed in the ground and watched it grow, then had something to harvest at the end of the season,” says Russell Hedrick, a first-generation farmer who owns JRH Grain Farms in Hickory. “I had no idea about the technology you can employ to ensure you grow a better crop, and I didn’t realize how much I would learn once I was immersed in this occupation.”

MORE THAN A FARMER

Just of few of the skills farmers master to accomplish their jobs:

  • accountant
  • advocate
  • conservationist
  • educator
  • entrepreneur
  • feed consultant
  • marketer
  • mechanic
  • meteorologist
  • public speaker
  • researcher
  • soil scientist
  • technology expert
  • veterinarian
  • welder

Established in 2012, JRH Grain Farms is a 1,000-acre, no-till operation that includes corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, oats and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), as well as pasture-raised beef cattle, Katahdin sheep and Berkshire pigs.

JRH Grain Farms also has a seed- cleaning facility that serves various local farms, and Hedrick says his farm is the only one in the state that produces bourbon. Additionally, Hedrick makes legal moonshine and stone-ground grits and cornmeal.

His operation has evolved over the years as he has continued to learn about soil science and technology. For example, he now uses sensors buried 48 inches in the ground to monitor soil moisture and temperature, as well as rooting depth and electrical conductivity, helping him to conserve water.

Hedrick has also worked with scientists and researchers across the U.S. to reduce his farm’s soil fertility needs by approximately 70 percent, which further contributes to his conservation efforts and results in significant cost savings. In addition, he has created a cover crop by blending five different plants that helps limit soil erosion, suppress winter weeds, scavenge excess nutrients from the preceding crop and improve the soil’s biological health.

multi-skilled farmers

Russell Hedrick of JRH Grain Farms

He sharpens his educator skills regularly, sharing his knowledge with other farmers who might also bene t from it. Hedrick hosts a Field Day each year that features guest speakers like Ray Archuleta, a famed North Carolina conservation agronomist, where farmers have the opportunity to learn how they can enhance their operations and improve their soil without damaging the environment.

In addition, Hedrick is a businessman, marketing his products directly to consumers using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, and he promotes agriculture by working with organizations like Catawba County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers team and the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

“I try to advocate for agriculture any way I can,” Hedrick says. “Here in Catawba County, we have Farm to Fork Week every June, and the last two years my farm has hosted a daylong event. Members of the community have come out and looked at our equipment and our operation, and this year we hosted kids of all ages.”

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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 From Dial-Up to Snapchat: Building Ag Communities Online

I can remember like it was yesterday. Once farm chores and homework were completed, there was the opportunity to fire up the computer. And wait for it connect to the internet via dial up. There was no mute button for the wheerrrrrr wweeee DINNNGGG DDDIINNNNGGG DINNNNGGG of the dial up connecting. For a high schooler in the 90s in rural America, the internet was a fascinating place of email, chat rooms, and AOL Instant Messenger. Only one remains popular, and the others have been replaced with text messaging, Snapchat and Facebook.

We lived in mostly isolated parts of northwest North Carolina; my parents are divorced and both lived on a dirt road. My dad’s was a dead end road, with no neighbors on the road. The closest neighbor at my mom’s was a mile away. Needless to say, there were very few play dates and group activities with other rural youth, with the exception of school and church. And even then, it wasn’t uncommon to still feel somewhat isolated as the other kids at school and church had very little interest in the cattle we hauled across the country or the pigs we were taking to the State Fair.

Enter the internet, and with it the ability to connect with kids who WERE interested in the same things as me! I met tons of people my age from across the state and nation through FFA and National Junior Angus Association, and the internet gave us the platform to grow our small community. With the reliability of dial up, we were usually only able to chat for 5-10 minutes before a call beeped in or someone else needed the internet for legitimate reasons, like homework, but it was still exciting to talk to other kids who shared my interests.

While the availability and reliability of internet in rural areas has changed, the isolation in many of our rural areas has not. Many farm youth and adults are still utilizing the internet for the same reasons I did 20 years ago.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 Celebrating Ag Day, each and every day

Written by Dr. Randy Woodson, Chancellor of North Carolina State University.

This Saturday, November 19 at Carter-Finley Stadium, the Wolfpack not only play host to the Miami Hurricanes, but we will also be celebrating our 4th annual Ag Day, a time to recognize the many contributions that agriculture and our farmers make to our state. Agriculture built North Carolina, and people around the world depend on what’s raised and grown right here at home.

NC State University and the faculty and staff of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences work hard with partners across North Carolina to ensure our state’s agriculture remains strong. Because of these combined efforts, remarkable things are happening.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 Agriculture Technology Spotlight: Self-Driving Tractors

Self-driving cars have been a hot topic for the past couple of years or so, with companies like Google, Uber, and Tesla doing some serious work to advance the autonomous vehicle concept. But despite the attention and the progress that’s been made, the world of driverless cars is still at least a few years away.

Meanwhile, out in the fields of rural America, farm equipment has been driving itself for the better part of two decades. Companies like John Deere, Case IH, Autonomous Tractor Company, and New Holland have been developing auto-steer and GPS-guided equipment that has helped define the future of precision agriculture. Want to see it in action?