Our top stories from 2023

by | Jan 4, 2024

As we wrap up 2023, it gives us an opportunity to look back at what we accomplished and think about where we need to go in the year ahead. Here are some of the biggest NCDA&CS stories of 2023 and a remembrance of some we lost in 2023.

  • I think the beginning of a New Year always offers an opportunity for reflection as we also begin to look ahead. It was busy year for the department and a big year for the industry.
  • So, I thought we could talk about some of the top stories from 2023.
  •  First, I’d say the biggest story of the year was the economic impact of agriculture and agribusiness topping the $100 billion mark — $103.2 billion to be exact.
  •  We’ve talked about this milestone for a while and I kept thinking we were not far from reaching it.  To actually see the number $100 billion be reported for the first time was incredible and humbling.
  • When I first took office, the economic impact of ag stood at $59 billion. We’ve certainly worked through a lot of challenges – hurricanes, flooding, late Spring frosts, and an unprecedented pandemic – but the agriculture community has held tight, we’ve worked together and we’ve stayed focused on moving forward from these challenges.
  • I am so proud of where agriculture stands today, but can assure you, we have not reached the top. I believe there is still room to grow and we will continue to work to support farmers and agribusiness owners.
  • Another big story this year was the continued monitoring, trapping and eradication of the spotted lanternfly. As listeners might remember, we found an active spotted lanternfly population around the Kernersville area where we continue to monitor and eradicate this pest.
  • Our Plant Industry Division continues to follow up on any reports of spotted lanternfly sightings.
  • We don’t want this pest to become established in North Carolina, so we are busy keeping watch for it.
  • Next, was our Standards Division staff found more instances of price scanner errors than normal across the state in 2023.
  • Their inspection efforts help protect consumers from being overcharged.
  • As the year has gone, the number of stores where price scanner errors were being found has gone down. Our inspectors will continue their efforts.
  • Another highlight was the N.C. State Fair, Mountain State Fair and the Got to Be NC Festival all had successful runs. We are busy planning for 2024.
  • And, finally we have seen changes in leadership within the department.
  • I appointed two new assistant commissioners and four new division directors mainly due to retirements.
    • Dr. Joe French became assistant commissioner over Agricultural Services, replacing Dr. Sandy Stewart who was elected president of the Sandhills Community College.
    • Greg Hicks, was recently named assistant commissioner over the N.C. Forest Service, following the retirement of Scott Bissette.
    • Marcus Helfrich (pronounced Hel fritch) was promoted to division director of the Standards Division after the retirement of longtime director Stephen Benjamin.
    • Pam Hess was promoted to director of the Human Resources Division, after former director Sylvia Crumpler took a new position in state government.
    • Patrick Jones was promoted to director of the Structural Pest and Pesticides Division following the retirement of Jim Burnette after 45 years of service.
    • And Kelly Nilsson was promoted to director of the Emergency Programs Division following the retirement of John Howard.
  • I am proud that we have been able to promote talent from within our organization.
  • And, I feel like I would be remiss not to mention many longtime ag leaders who passed away in 2023. I know I will miss some, but I wanted to mention a few longtime friends to me and agriculture.
    • Former Board of Ag member Dan Finch
    • Champion of DuPont State Recreational Forest Aleen Steinburg.
    • Former Secretary of Commerce Jim Fain.
    • Farming and tobacco supporter Tommy Bunn.
    • Influential voice for agriculture Jerome Vick.
    • Farming advocate and longtime leader who serves on numerous boards Richard Whitaker.
    • Influential policy driver and ag lobbyist Edwin Woodhouse.
    • Sweet potato innovator and industry leader Kendall Hill.
  • We owe a large debt of gratitude to these and many others who have been advocates and powerful voices for agriculture.