Today’s Topic: NCDA&CS 2019 highlights.

by | Dec 31, 2019

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

Today’s Topic

As we come to the end of the year, it’s a good time to look back at some of the department’s accomplishments and highlights. It has been a busy year, but I am proud of the work we have done this year.  

  • Since it is the end of the year, I wanted to look back at some of the highlights of 2019 for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. I’m not going to touch on every division in the department right now, but I may share more at the start of the year.

  • Still, you will see it has been a busy and productive year.

  • Some of the highlights with our Agronomic Services Division include running:
    • 287,759 soil samples
    • 52,353 nematode assay samples (up 2 percent over the previous year)
    • 18,254 plant samples
    • 15,652 waste samples

  • Interestingly enough, only 15 percent of the total soil samples were charged a peak season fee. I think people are familiar with the peak-season fees and more and more of them are getting them in early to avoid the fees.

  • Soil sampling is what the division is most well known for, but this year they have gotten a lot more attention from sweet potato producers as they have sent in samples for testing for the guava root knot nematode, a newer pest for sweet potatoes.
  • We anticipate more requests for testing with this highly destructive pest.
  • Our Small Farms program made 807 personal farmer contacts and handled over 300 inquiries about hemp from small and minority farmers.

  • Hemp continues to be one of the topics we get the most questions about.

  • The Small Farms program also secured $250,000 in federal conservation program payment for farmers statewide.

  • Staff also help successfully host over 300 attendees for the Minority Farmers and Landowners Conference.

  • Speaking of hemp … that was an extremely active topic for the Plant Industry Division this year.

  • Interest in this crop continues to be explosive, with 1,378 licensed growers, 17,286 licensed outdoor acres and 6.67 million licensed square feet of greenhouse space.

  • The division has also worked actively with sweet potato producers on the Guava root knot nematode issue to be sure they adhere to the regulations on movement of products in the United States and overseas.

  • This is an emerging issue and one Plant Industry staff will continue to engaged with in 2020.

  • Plant Industry also implemented a cotton seed pilot program for 2020 because of some planting issues with low grade cotton seed in early 2019. In 2020, Plant Industry will be sampling seed arrivals to build a database of test results so N.C. cotton producers are aware of seed quality used in their operations.
  • Our Standards Division visited over 22,000 commercial and retail locations to conduct inspections on scales, fuel dispensers, LP-gas tanks, installation and trucks. They also inspected fuel samples for quality, price scanning systems and packages for correct net content.
  • Inspectors were successful in finding some gas pump skimmers in 2019, and alerted law enforcement to those pumps since we do not have jurisdiction on that.
  • Finally, I want to mention the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.
  • A total of 26 perpetual conservation easements totaling over $5.5 million for 4,073 acres were awarded.
  • Eight agricultural development projects and agricultural plans were awarded $311,000.
  • The trust fund awarded a total of nearly $5.9 million, which leveraged an additional $13 million in matching funds from federal, local, nonprofit and private sources.
  • I hope our agricultural community continues to rebuild in 2020, and that this will be our best year in yet.