Making the CONNECTion

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What does a hamburger, baseball cap, cotton shirt, and a box of cereal have in common? If you replied agriculture, then you are exactly right! Whether it’s cotton, corn, beef, cereal grain, or paper, it is an agricultural commodity. When asking most of our young elementary-age students where our food comes from, they quickly and confidently reply, the grocery store. Maybe they are partly right, since we do purchase most of our food from a grocery store, but that’s not where our food actually comes from.

Unfortunately, the number of family farms is dwindling as well as the amount of acreage designated for agriculture. Along with this cultural change comes the fact that most people are more removed from agricultural practices today compared to a couple of generations ago. During the era I grew up in, you either lived or worked on a farm or had family that did. Farmers now constitute less than two percent of the nations population.

Agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina, adding $78 billion to our state economy. Farmers are continuously expected to produce more but on less land. The average farmer today feeds 144 people compared to 25 people in 1960. I can’t help but recall the bumper sticker, “If you ate today, then thank a farmer.” I have said all this to emphasize that Tuesday, March 15, is National Agriculture Day – one single day a year designated to recognize the daily contributions made by all the people involved in agriculture. I hope you stop to realize how agricultural products touch almost every facet of your existence.

With producers expected to supply an ever-growing population, technology, research, and development investments are now paramount. Ironically, March 15 is also the day North Carolinian’s head to the polls to vote in the primary election. On the ballot this year, will be an opportunity to vote for or against CONNECT NC. CONNECT NC is a $2 billion bond referendum with more than two-thirds of the monies being awarded to higher education systems in the state. The North Carolina Community College System will receive $350 million for new construction, repairs, and renovations at all 58 community colleges across the state.

CONNECT NC will provide $85 million for the Plant Sciences Initiative Complex at N.C. State University to help establish North Carolina as the world leader in plant sciences research and innovation, spurring growth in our state’s largest industry. This bond, if approved, will also invest $94 million for an Agriculture and Consumer Sciences Lab Building for veterinary, food, drug, and motor fuel testing, advancing our state’s food safety and security. According to Phil Kirk, President and CEO of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, “while interest rates are low, now is a great time to borrow, and taxes will not have to be increased to pay back the debt.”  He added, “we can afford to borrow $2 billion while maintaining our AAA bond rating.”

For more information, please contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by E-mail at Mack_Johnson@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.