Troxler trades tractor for truck

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2005

WINDSOR – On his first official day at work in the state capital, Steve Troxler drove to Raleigh on a tractor. What other mode of transportation does a real farmer need?

Troxler, North Carolina’s newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture, entered Windsor on Wednesday driving a pick-up truck where he was the featured speaker during the 14th annual Farmers Appreciation Banquet hosted by the Windsor/Bertie County Chamber of Commerce.

The &uot;rookie&uot; politician took center stage following the meal at the Heritage House Restaurant. He sparked a few laughs when recalling a heated battle for the Commissioner’s seat against incumbent Britt Cobb, a race that became entangled in a legal cobweb before Cobb finally conceded.

When the Guilford County native was finally sworn into office, he came face to face with what he called a, &uot;menagerie of divisions within the state Department of Agriculture.&uot;

&uot;Nothing matched,&uot; Troxler said. &uot;My first order of business was to group the departments that shared something in common and then set out to improve the overall communication between all the different divisions.&uot;

To accomplish this feat, Troxler said he used, &uot;country boy logic.&uot;

&uot;I saw we had some great employees at the Department of Agriculture, people with very innovative ideas,&uot; he noted. &uot;The key to the whole thing was to get them talking among themselves and brainstorming these ideas.&uot;

Troxler stressed his top priority is to lend a helping hand to family farms and agribusiness.

&uot;We’ve noted the average age of a North Carolina farmer is 57,&uot; Troxler said. &uot;We’ve got to get more young people involved in farming. That’s our future and the future of family farms. We’ve got to find ways to keep them profitable and on the farm.&uot;

By pulling together innovative thinking and using every available resource, Troxler said developing alternative crops and establishing fair trade practices in the international market for the state’s agricultural products were the keys to keeping family farms alive and well.

One of those alternative ideas needs two traditional crops – corn and soybeans – as

Troxler mentioned bio-diesel and ethanol as agri-based answers to America’s dependence on foreign oil.

&uot;I know how tough it is to stay on the farm,&uot; Troxler said. &uot;I built my farm from the ground up, with plenty of loans. It’s tough, but it’s a satisfying feeling when it comes to harvesting a quality crop because you know you’re doing your part to help feed the world.&uot;

Troxler, who in the last eight days has traveled 2,000 miles criss-crossing North Carolina in an effort to gain insight to statewide agriculture issues, promised his listeners that he wanted to be, &uot;their voice in Raleigh.&uot;

&uot;Agriculture is a $59 billion industry in the state, but it’s not good when there is such a small group running this big engine,&uot; Troxler concluded. &uot;Farmers feel they have no influence in state government because the government is now headed-up by people who have perhaps never stepped foot on a farm. They don’t understand agriculture, but I do and I want you to feel with me in Raleigh that you do have some influence.&uot;

Chamber of Commerce officials Larry Norris, Patrick Demofonte, Steve Wishall and Andy Lee along with Windsor Mayor Bob Spivey also took part in the program.