We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. David Williams, Deputy Director of our Soil and Water Conservation 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!
Growing up on a dairy farm in Angier, North Carolina, David Williams, Deputy Director of our Soil and Water Conservation Division, gained a true appreciation or agriculture at a young age. All throughout school, he was involved in 4-H programs and the North Carolina FFA Association. In fact, one of his projects with 4-H was focused on conservation, which he didn’t realize at the time would be his future career. After high-school, David pursued and obtained an Agriculture Engineering degree at North Carolina State University and started his career in our state’s number one industry. “I’ve been involved in agriculture all my life,” he said. “It’s always been something I’ve had a passion for, which made it an easy thing to devote my life too.”
Prior to his time at the NCDA&CS, David worked with a regulatory agency for 20 years helping to enforce agricultural rules and safety across the state. “I told them upfront that the Soil and Water Conservation Division of the NCDA&CS is the only division I would leave this position for,” he said. “I loved my job there, but I wanted to use my degree in a way that would help farmers and producers through the challenges they face.”
In 1998, David started his job as a Section Chief with the Soil and Water Conservation Division before it was moved under the jurisdiction of the NCDA&CS. In 2011, the division moved and became a part of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Throughout his 24-year career with the Soil and Water Conservation Division, David has progressed from Section Chief to now Deputy Director. “Coming to work for this division was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” he said. “I enjoy what I do and who I do it with. There is no place I would rather be.”
The Soil and Water Conservation Division is responsible for many programs, including the Agriculture Cost Share Program (its flagship program), the Swine Buyout Program, the AgWrap Program, the CCAP Program, the Water Resources Assistance Program and their new Stream Flow Rehabilitation Assistance Program. Although most of these programs are geared toward helping farmers and agriculture industry producers across our state, they are not limited to agriculture alone. Programs like the Stream Flow Rehabilitation Assistance Program also work with residents and other businesses in North Carolina to assist in the aftermath of flooding and storm damage. “This program grew out of a natural disaster when flooding was a real issue for farms and communities due to stream debris and erosion,” David said. “We partner with local soil and water conservation districts to ensure projects are completed to the best of their ability and producers/managers are happy with our work and able to continue with their business operations.”
On a typical day, David can be found helping manage any one of these programs and ensure work is being done properly and efficiently. “Sometimes I am running to and from job sites to check on the work of our teams and meet with the owners, and other days I am working with our partners to ensure our collaboration efforts are strong and everyone is consistently on the same page,” he said. “I am also called on a lot to help start new programs or projects.” David loves a good challenge, so his hard-working and devoted attitude is often what helps him succeed in these situations. “I want to do everything that I can to help the people across this industry and state as a whole,” he said. David also helps with the COVID Swine and Dairy Assistance Program to ensure that ponds and lagoons on farms are well-managed.
Although he enjoys almost every project that he works on, David has taken a lot of joy and pride from working on the Swine Buyout Program. This program is a working partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service that seeks to help swine producers in the aftermath of a flood by purchasing permanent conservation easements on their land. “When Hurricane Floyd hit in 2000, we had a lot of hog farms across the state experience massive flooding issues that devastated their businesses,” David said. “We wanted to help them, not shut them down. So, the General Assembly helped us get funding to buy conservation easements on these properties inside the floodplain and therefore help the farmers from experiencing this type of devastation again.” To date, the program has bought out 43 farms across North Carolina and is currently in the process of obtaining five more. “I take a lot of pride in this program not only because I helped get it started, but also because of the amount of people that I have seen helped by it,” David said. “When we see these farmers and producers thankful for the program and how it saved them in a time of need, that gives me a huge sense of joy and accomplishment.”
“People in this division, department and industry as a whole do things out of the goodness of their heart, not because it’s their job,” David said. “That’s one of my favorite things about working here because we genuinely have a passion for what we do and that drives us to help people day in and day out. I know that if I ever got in trouble, I would have people around me that I could call and trust to be there and I hope that people feel that same way about me.”
When he is not working, David can be found either at his home church teaching Sunday school or playing guitar and singing on the worship team or doing theater at the Horn in the West Outdoor Drama and Hickory Ridge History Museum. “My wife and I got involved in theater about two years ago and continue to enjoy it as a way to sing and spend time together,” he said. “We also have a new grandson named Ezra that is adding a lot of joy to our life.” Join us in thanking David for all of his hard work with our Soil and Water Conservation Division!