Wednesday, February 17, 2016 Connect NC Invests in the Future of Agriculture — Our #1 Economic Driver

Last week, we explained why the timing is right for the Connect NC bond. This week we want to talk about a couple of the projects included in the bond that are important for North Carolina agriculture.

Those projects are the Plant Science Initiative at NC State University and a new, co-located laboratory facility for the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA).

But first let’s take a moment to consider why the General Assembly included these agriculture-based projects in the bond package. Agriculture is our state’s number one industry, generating about $78 billion a year. Nearly one out of every five jobs is related to agriculture. Our state leaders know that a thriving agriculture economy means a thriving North Carolina economy.

And so they included these two major agriculture investments in the Connect NC bond.


The first is the Plant Sciences Initiative (PSI) at NC State. The PSI is more than a building on NC State’s Centennial Campus. It’s an opportunity for NC State’s world-class researchers and outstanding students to work side-by-side with agriculture biotech companies to solve global issues in agriculture. It will make North Carolina a world leader in plant sciences and enhance our reputation as the global hub for ag-related startups. A November 2015 article by Southeastern BIO summed up that reputation perfectly:

The local presence of these ag biotech giants, as well as smaller but still significant industry players, has made the Triangle a fertile ground for startups. So has the ability to collaborate with research universities Duke, NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.

“This is indisputably the world center for agricultural biotechnology,” said Eric Ward, co-CEO of AgBiome. “Our business development activities in a lot of cases can involve getting in the car and driving 5 miles instead of flying to another country.”

[. . .]

The startups strengthen the Triangle’s magnetic pull for biotech talent, said Jim Blome, CEO of Bayer CropScience.

“Our overall opinion is, we absolutely love it,” Blome said. “The bigger the magnet, the stronger the pull.”

Additionally, the PSI will help grow North Carolina agriculture into a $100 billion market, create more than 2,300 new jobs by 2024, and provide a return of $19.90 for every $1 invested. This impact extends beyond NC State’s campus, as what’s developed at the new Plant Sciences Building will need to be tested in the field at 18 off-campus research stations and 10 field laboratories scattered across the state. This applied research will help North Carolina farmers increase crop yields, extend growing seasons, manage drought conditions, and use water and pesticides more efficiently. This is important work, especially considering the fact that farmers must double food production by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing world population. The PSI will build on North Carolina’s strong agricultural economy, attract businesses, and help farmers become more successful. In short, investing in the PSI is a no-brainer.

The second investment in agriculture is a new, co-located laboratory facility for NCDA. The new lab will replace five separate labs that are on average more than 40 years old. That’s right, 40 years old. The buildings are rife with problems: inadequate ventilation, poor climate control, limited capacity to expand, and the inability to utilize advanced testing equipment. If you are not certain about their importance, here’s what they are responsible for in a nutshell: identifying foreign animal disease or bioterrorism agents, testing international shipments of poultry and livestock, and testing the safety of food and animal feeds.

Here’s what Commissioner Troxler said about the matter: “This new co-located laboratory will replace aging labs and provide the nation’s eighth-largest animal agriculture industry with rapid and accurate testing for food and animal disease threats. This important piece of infrastructure will enable the state to continue to meet the needs of North Carolina citizens and farmers while ensuring a safe and wholesome food supply.”

The Plant Sciences Initiative and the co-located NCDA laboratories are just two of many deserving projects in the Connect NC bond package. If you’d still like to learn more about the bond or the other projects included in it, we recommend visiting and

Remember, the bond referendum will be on your ballot on March 15th—don’t forget to vote!