Improving N.C. Agriculture one day at a time

by | Mar 30, 2022

We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Joe Hudyncia, Environmental Programs Specialist with our Environmental Programs Division, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!

Ever since he was a little boy, Joe Hudyncia has had a strong love for agriculture. Growing up on a small family dairy farm, Joe and his siblings were raised under the arms of a father that impacted their life both then and now. “I was my dad’s shadow as a kid. I would follow him around everywhere he went, whether that was to work on the tractor or take care of the cows,” Joe said. “I immediately fell in love with the cows and was milking them from the time that I could stand on my toes to reach the vacuum line.” This immersion in agriculture from a young age fueled Joe’s work in plant science research at N.C. State University and career with the NCDA&CS as well as his sibling’s career in continuing to carry on the family farm, which is currently on the third generation.

Fourteen years ago, Joe started his NCDA&CS career in the Soil and Water Division working with nutrient management. “In this position, I helped conservation planners in county offices as well as worked directly with many farmers across our state to help them develop and implement their nutrient management plans,” Joe said. Working with numerous farmers across our state opened many doors and provided many connections for Joe that he utilizes and leans on in his current position.

Today, Joe is an Environmental Programs Specialist and head of our Environmental Programs Division. Day to day, Joe’s job is highly dependent on what big issues are affecting agriculture at the time. Since starting the position, he has worked on a variety of projects, including foreign animal disease preparedness and response, response to natural disasters, monitoring and interpreting environmental regulations and assisting other departmental divisions with initiatives and special projects. “One of my very first tasks when I started with this division was preparing for an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza that was affecting much of the nation,” he said. “At that time, our divisions were given a charge by Commissioner Troxler to come up with a plan for how to manage disposal response and protect the environment throughout this event.” Along with employees across various divisions of the department, including emergency programs and veterinary, Joe and the team put together a program that not only provided aid for that event, but has become the cornerstone for handling numerous other events across the state, including hurricanes. “There are so many outstanding people in our department and across the country that have helped us build capacity for response here in N.C. and I am so grateful to each and every one of them,” Joe said.

When Hurricane Matthew hit the state in 2016, our department needed a response plan to help farmers and other industry workers across the state prepare for the storm, stay safe during the storm and respond to impacts from the storm. “We were able to use a large part of what we learned when creating the plan in 2015 to respond effectively to the hurricane in 2016 even though they were completely separate events,” Joe said. “No one had ever conducted storm response in this way, by composting for disposal response to flooding, but we were motivated and creative to take the knowledge that we had learned in one area and apply it to another area.” The hard work and effectiveness of this plan also awarded the division a first of its kind FEMA grant that helped further and expand upon the services being offered to affected farms. “This plan was the first of its kind work in emergency response and we are super proud of our accomplishments on behalf of the farming community to date as well as all that it will help us to accomplish in the future.” Joe and his colleagues in multiple divisions continue to improve and expand upon this plan with each event that passes.

Another hot topic in agriculture today is climate change. Joe and his team have recently started preparing resources and recommendations for agriculture to be a part of climate change solutions. In fact, Joe is the chair of the Natural and Working Lands ag subcommittee, which was created to provide recommendations to the State’s Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan. “Governor Cooper recently passed Executive Order 80, which called for recommendations on how to appropriately utilize natural and working lands to build resilience, sequester carbon, provide ecosystem benefits and enhance our economy,” Joe said. “Ag stakeholders created those recommendations for the action plan and we continue to look at ways that agriculture in our state can contribute to carbon sequestration and lowered greenhouse gas emissions.”

Other projects that Joe is involved with include training of Ag emergency responders, development of Just In Time contracts for large-scale emergency response, navigating state and federal rules & regulations for agricultural permits, environmental compliance, and education through various speaking events in N.C. and across the country, including USDA and state animal health official meetings.

“The best part of my job is being able to travel out to farmers and network with them,” Joe said. He loves to learn about the work that they do, the challenges that they face and how both he and his team can work to ease those challenges one plan at a time. “We have such diversity in our state’s agriculture industry, from dairy and livestock operations to produce farms and more,” he said, “which is why our work at the department is also very diverse. Our work is reflective of the needs of our industry, and I am honored to work with and learn from farmers as well as from experienced and dedicated folks in our Department.”

When he is not on the clock, Joe can be found enjoying time with his family or a peaceful moment running. “My family and I love to go hiking, camping, kayaking and fishing,” he said, “and we spend time together with our field guides learning about plants, insects and animals in our backyard and on camping trips. I have a wife and two daughters who challenge me every day to learn and experience new things.” He has also been a runner his entire life, participating in multiple 5K, 10K, Half and Full marathons. Join us in thanking Joe for all of his hard work making our state’s agriculture industry a better place!