Agriculture and farming are the foundation of North Carolina’s economy. The tens of thousands of farm families across North Carolina have long understood the importance and impact that the environment has on their successes. It is my belief that state government should work with farm families, entrepreneurs, research universities, and our public schools to adapt to economic and environmental challenges and increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability, all while leading in new and emerging markets and commodities. As your Representative, I will be a fierce advocate for our local farmers and established agribusinesses, will support new commodities and a strengthened agricultural economy, and will promote a healthy environment and hold corporations that endanger our land and water responsible for their reckless disregard for our environment, farms, and families.
Agriculture in the Community:
As a rural district it is important that our leadership and representation in Raleigh understands and advocates for our communities. Bridging the rural-urban divide is vitally important to economic growth and security. By connecting our communities from farm families, small town businesses, industrial and service workers, and urban citizens, we can create a strong connection between all North Carolinians.
Through support and expansion of our 250+ farmers markets, we can offer both economic opportunity for our small farmers as well as address issues of food insecurity and nutrition for families. By introducing and organizing community gardens in small towns, we can educate and offer the opportunity to better understand the benefits of healthy, fresh food choices. As well as provide opportunity for community beautification and clean up.
By creating a system in which our schools source fresh produce and meats from local farms, we can improve school nutrition and shift from Federal directives and shifting policies. With more locally-sourced food items, we can both offer economic incentive to farms and families, but also improve the overall health of our children.
Farming, Farmlands, and the Environment:
Ultimately a healthy environment reflects in a healthy productive farm operation. Not only is clean water vital to the health of our people, it is vital to the health of livestock and produce. By protecting and preserving the vitality and health of our rivers and streams, soil and forest, we protect tradition and the health of North Carolina as a whole. In addition to protections for the environment, protecting our farmlands from development and the encroachment of urbanization is important for both our economy and our way of life.
Farmers are all too aware of the severe impact that natural disasters like floods and hurricanes can have on crops and livestock. The politicization of environmental policy has resulted in government addressing farm losses to natural disasters by just throwing money at the problem. By teaming up with our world-renowned research universities here in North Carolina, we can work to create and implement sustainable, best practices to prepare, protect, and respond when mother nature impacts farms and people.
With strong public schools and our world-renowned agricultural research universities like North Carolina State and North Carolina A&T, we are well established to promote and develop agricultural curriculum to both introduce and grow interest in agriculture and agribusiness. In addition to refocusing vocational and trade education, children should be introduced and taught the importance of agriculture in our health, everyday life, and the economy. By promoting jobs on the farm and sales and development involving agriculture and the environment, we can ensure that an important way of life is respected, protected, and grown across generations. By supporting organizations like 4H and FFA in our public schools, we can offer knowledge and many new opportunities to our students.
Agribusiness Development and Economic Opportunity:
To remain competitive, North Carolina must continue to invest in new opportunities and support the entrepreneurial spirit so many of our citizens have. In the past decade, we have seen an expansion of businesses tied to agriculture and farming across our area and state. Ensuring that these businesses have the resources, legislative/regulatory support, and financial backing to thrive is important for our economy.
Agritourism is a beautiful development that we are seeing across our state. These farms offer more than just produce and meat for sale, they offer exposure and learning opportunities about farming and recreational activities for children and families. Farms are also able to supplement their success by hosting weddings and other events in their often picturesque settings. Agribusiness not only offers terrific opportunities but it also draws visitors to the areas who will infuse money into the local economy on lodging, food, and other activities.
Like most farms, finding good, dependable help can be difficult, so many farming operations depend on immigrant labor willing to work in the heat for 100 plus hours per week during peak season. At the government level, we must remove financial burdens and regulatory obstacles to ensure that these farms and businesses thrive. We will reward these families for the important role they play in our communities and our economy.
Vineyards and Wineries, Craft Breweries and Distilleries, Industrial Hemp and Cannabis:
Many of our ancestors saw the importance of products and substances that may carry mixed emotions in our modern world. In addition to food crops, many settlers and our ancestors had hemp crops to use in making rope and other important products prior to man made materials. They also had small distilleries or brewed beer to have for both personal use and as trade and bartering capital. Over the past two decades we have seen our area become home to sprawling vineyards, wineries of various scales, craft breweries and distilleries, and a renewed interest in hemp as an economic commodity.
There are many governmental hurdles that stand in the way of reaching economic success of these industries. With our rich farmlands once filled with tobacco, there is a huge opportunity for farmers to grow industrial hemp to be used in the production of many items. From building materials to clothing, industrial hemp is a cash-crop that our local farmers who once produced dozens or hundreds of acres of tobacco can easily transition into. Those sprawling tobacco fields are also ideal and fertile land to grow grapes, barley, or even hops. With the growing craft brewing industry, many of the important crops necessary to make the brews are in short supply around the world. Here in North Carolina, we can be leaders and set the standard for farm and agricultural revitalization through the introduction and support of these new cash-crops and the revenue streams they represent.
North Carolina is also on the frontlines of the Opioid Epidemic. It is hard to find a family that has not been directly affected by the tragic disease of addiction. There is a growing body of research and evidence that points to the benefits of cannabis or marijuana in the treatment of opioid addiction. It is important that we fully consider and implement legislation that best helps our citizens and families dealing with the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic.