"I'm from the government and I'm here to help you," joked N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, as he opened his annual State of Agriculture Address, Jan. 31, at his Ag Development Forum on the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. It was the eighth forum that Troxler has held to lay out his case annually to the public about how agriculture is faring in the state. It was also the most optimistic so far he's been about the industry.
"The strange thing about 2012 was that, as a farmer, when there were good commodity prices, normally they were good because I didn't have any commodities to sell," he said, "but this year in North Carolina we actually had great production and prices were good so we really had a good year and good yields on most of our crops."
North Carolina growers indeed set record yields for soybeans, cotton and peanuts, had a bumper crop in corn and tobacco. At the same time, as Troxler noted, prices were tops for most crops, too.
He did note one exception to all the optimistic news. Apple farmers suffered a freeze in the early spring of 2012 that killed a large portion of their crop this year. And Troxler noted that even though he had known since it occurred that it was disastrous for growers dependent on apples, he was only realizing as the final tallies for the crop came in just how bad it really was.
"We went from producing 140 million pounds of apples the year before, to 35 million pounds last year," he said. "That was what the devastation actually was, so it was awful. But that is what we have to deal with as farmers."
He also noted there were a number of associated opportunities in the western part of the state that hinged on the success of that apple crop, and those opportunities were lost because the misfortune.
On the other hand, at the same time, other farmers had some fine fortune this year.
"I'm a farmer," he said. "I stand here today, probably the most optimistic that I have ever been as a farmer looking at the opportunities that are out there before us, at about every commodity and everything that we do in North Carolina. We have a successful local foods movement in North Carolina. …We're exporting a tremendous amount of product. So everything looks really good."
Troxler also noted that his Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has had some fine success making inroads at updating port capabilities in the state.
Earlier in the morning, he noted, the Ports Authority, had approved cold storage facilities at the Wilmington port. That could be instrumental in increasing the competitiveness of the state's tremendous livestock industries and it is a goal NCDA&CS under Troxler has worked hard to attain. The initiative now goes to the Council of State for approval.