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.

North Carolina agriculture is growing, and it is diverse. We produce many labor intensive crops which demand a stable and plentiful supply of workers. Additionally, our farmers need market opportunities to sell the commodities we produce. At the federal level, we desperately need immigration reform, and we need solid foreign trade agreements to meet the unique demands of our growing industry.

Farm Bureau and agriculture have to be involved in the total discussion of alternative energy. Successful rural economic development for our communities requires 21st-century infrastructure. We need good roads and bridges, widespread broadband connectivity, a modern electric grid, and access to natural gas. Farms that rely on propane for curing tobacco, drying sweet potatoes, and heating poultry or swine facilities are at an economic disadvantage to those who have access to natural gas.

The extreme escalation in the cost of health insurance premiums has caused tremendous economic hardship for the majority of our members and the residents of North Carolina. There are aspects of the Affordable Care Act that benefit people who did not previously have health insurance, but for many of our independent and small businesses the costs have been devastating. The system needs to be repaired so it works for all people.

When Farm Bureau fails to step forward, family farmers and their rural communities suffer. We cannot be afraid to do what is best for our members, and we cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to our advocacy efforts and other member services.