by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
In Wilson County, Larry Wooten of the N.C. Farm Bureau made clear his view on two key needs for the state’s No. 1 industry: agriculture/agribusiness.
“When people start talking about exports and trade, we’ve got to have it,” Wooten said. “We have a lot of farm meetings, but I can tell you one farm meeting that I don’t want to preside over is that farm meeting where we’ve got to decide here which third of you farmers we don’t need anymore because we can’t sell outside of this country. That’s why this whole discussion on NAFTA is so important.”
“We are particularly dependent in North Carolina on our trade with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico,” Wooten said. “They are two of our top trading partners. Almost a fourth, or 21 percent, of all of the agricultural exports that we ship out of this state go to Canada and Mexico.”
Another big issue: the need for lower-cost energy.
What will help farmers is access to alternative energy, rural economic development, improvements to roads and bridges, good high-speed internet connectivity like rural broadband, a modern electric grid and access to natural gas.
“Farmers that rely on propane for curing tobacco, drying sweet potatoes, warming turkeys, pigs and chickens are at an economic disadvantage to those who have access to natural gas. The facts are there,” Wooten said. “We believe, and certainly there is room for disagreement, but we believe that this Atlantic Coast Pipeline is necessary and will benefit many farms and businesses in North Carolina.”
We agree about the need for lower-cost energy — for every North Carolinian. Our Jon Sanders has written frequently about this. Last week he responded to a column in the News & Observer in which the writer opined that renewable energy is now competitive with traditional sources. Not so, Jon explained.