Agriculture is the leading industry in North Carolina generating about $91 billion in value added income and accounting for about 663,000 jobs. Between 2007 and 2012 North Carolina lost 660,000 farmed acres and between 2009 and 2015 we lost 3600 farms, almost all of them family farms. Today we are still among the leading states in loss of family farms.The percentage of loss is greatest among African-American farmers. The average age of farmers in North Carolina is around 59 years old. We must find the next generation of farmers. We will work with the 4-H, Future Farmers of America(FFA), our Land Grant Universities and the Farm Bureau’s Institute for Future Agriculture Leaders to identify potential new farmers. We need to invest in entrepreneurship and small business in rural areas, help farmers get more income from their crops, and increase bio-tech opportunities. I would like to start a program to find people interested in agriculture and pair them with existing farmers who are willing to mentor them and incorporate them into the family farm business.
Industrial hemp is one of those specialty crops that could save family farms, add much needed jobs to rural communities, generate hundreds of millions of dollars to the North Carolina economy, and help to revitalize rural towns. I am a hemp grower, growing hemp for both CBD oil and fiber. This industry is just getting started in North Carolina since the federal government removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. North Carolina has the soils, climate, equipment, research facilities, and farmers to be one of the top hemp producing states in the nation. We are already one of the top CBD producing states and we haven’t even scratched the surface of the hemp fiber industry.
What we are currently doing is not enough to strengthen our agricultural industry and ensure the survival of family farms in North Carolina. We continue to do the same things we have done for the past several years and it is not working. We need new leadership with new ideas and innovative solutions so that we can move North Carolina agriculture into the 21st century.