Is N.C. poised for prominence, again?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nearly 70 percent of North Carolina farms are less than 100 acres, but the state average is 168 acres.

The most glaring statistic of all is that over 90 percent of farms in our state are owned by families or sole proprietorships.

Agriculture has always been the staple industry of this state.

The tobacco market in particular, has traditionally made North Carolina a national power in international trade, as the state has ranked first nationally in the production of flue-cured tobacco and sweet potatoes.

The variety of climates in the state has allowed farmers to take advantage of a diverse crop base, as we are nationally ranked in the production of cotton, soybeans, corn, peanuts, cucumbers and Irish potatoes.

Something I didn’t know until earlier this week is that our state ranks number two in the nation in the production of Christmas trees and lima beans.

When I attended the opening of the new farmer’s market in Murfreesboro on Wednesday, I was taken aback at first at the number of high-ranking community leaders who attended the event.

After listening to Murfreesboro Mayor Lynn Johnson and N.C. Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler speak about the significance of the farming community to the state’s economy, many other facets of our state’s future began to come into focus.

If you were to travel south on US 13 to Windsor, as soon as you come into the city limits the most glaring sight is the expansion of Highway 17 and how it has altered the landscape of what has been a serene, rural town since its inception.

When North Carolina Governor Mike Easley recently signed into law an increase in the state’s minimum wage, one of the reasons that he gave was that he wanted North Carolina to shed its image as a sleepy southern state.

As much as I can appreciate progress, watching the tons of earth being moved around Windsor on huge backhoes and dump trucks kind of makes me long for more sleepy southern days.

The tobacco industry has been forced to absorb some serious blows at the hands of lawsuits filed by users of their products.

Efforts have been made via grants and subsidies to assists farmers in their transition to new agricultural crops, but lawsuits do not threaten N.C. agriculture as much as the concept that Americans have of progress.

The Research Triangle’s elevation as one of the premiere technology epicenters in the world has helped the state absorb the blow of anti tobacco sentiments nationwide.

With North Carolina poised to gain a sizeable foothold in the Ethanol market, the loss of farmland to urban expansion and the inability of farming families to sustain growth and keep pace with a global market, are issues that all North Carolinians need to be concerned with.

While there are several plant-based ethanol formulas being developed, the current form of the alternative fuel uses corn as the primary ingredient.

Corn plantings in North Carolina are expected to be down 20,000 acres from last year’s yield.

I heard Commissioner Troxler say at Wednesday’s dedication that he had seen many a farm turned into a housing complex or mall, but he had never seen mall or housing complex torn down to make way for a farm.

Once again, Americans sometimes have a weird sense of progress.

I have traveled outside of the United States many times, and I have to tell you that it a rare occasion that I find a U.S. product that is in demand in other countries.

The bottom line is that we do not export very much at all, we are still a nation of consumers first.

Take for example our trade balance with China.

Last year the United States exported over $35 billion worth of goods to the Asian nation.

While such a large number might sound impressive, keep in mind that we imported over $196 billion from that nation alone.

War, something our government has been determined to keep us mired in, is one of the few occasions that offer the U.S. an opportunity to dominate the world trade market, as our country is head and shoulders above the rest of the globe in the production and manufacture of weapons and weapon systems.

How important is the development of alternative fuels?

Well, for all of you racing fans out there, in 2007 the Indy Car circuit will exclusively use 100% ethanol.

Right now Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska are far and away states that have committed their economy toward the development of ethanol production plants.

North Carolina is not even in the top ten.

Sounds to me like we need to tear down a few malls.