Now that the North Carolina Forest Service and the Division of Soil and Water have been moved to the NCDA&CS, the commissioner has the authority and the responsibility to protect our environment and our drinking water. I have worked closely with both of these divisions in my job with the US Dept. of Agriculture. We worked together to encourage landowners to plant trees, create and maintain wetlands, plant vegetation to prevent soil runoff, promote wildlife habitats, and establish buffers to keep pollutants from entering our streams and rivers. Water quality may be the worst its ever been in North Carolina. According to the Public News Service, North Carolina has more sites on a national map of toxic chemicals found in drinking water than any other southeastern state. It’s obvious that the state of North Carolina does not value the importance of environmental protection efforts.
The NCDA&CS has a program to help reduce non point source pollution, which is a major cause of pollution in North Carolina. It works by helping landowners develop conservation plans and provide cost share assistance to help carry out the plan. i will fight to expand the funding for this program. It is an important tool that can be used to help clean up our water supply.
We need to partner with the private sector to find funding for conservation easements in order to preserve our farmland, wetlands, and forests for future generations. We also need to do more than just talk about “Going Green”. We must actively participate with farmers and agribusinesses to encourage them to “Go Green”. What does Green Agriculture mean? It simply means that agriculture uses adaptable local farming techniques and practices that will increase farming yields, that will reduce waste and inefficiency problems in our food chain, offer improved and sustainable services for the ecosystem, and also provide a higher return on labor. We will work closely with our Land Grant Universities and with the North Carolina Extension Service to educate our farmers and to find innovative ways to protect our environment. We all need to work together to protect our environment and keep our water supply safe.