Agricultural Stability Threatened by ‘Piling On’
The state’s agricultural industry has been called a bright spot in the dark forecast that defines today’s economy. Yet, it seems that rather than protecting and cultivating this industry, many are intent on just “piling on.”
The truth is that while agriculture has been generally stable as a whole, it is not without its challenges and disasters. And many niches within the state’s largest industry have suffered tremendously along with many other businesses.
As unemployment continues to rise toward its highest levels, farmland is being lost at equally unprecedented rates. Many farmers are being forced to cease operations because credit has dried up and input costs are at bankruptcy levels. From 2002 to 2007, North Carolina lost 1,000 farms and more than 600,000 acres of farmland, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture.
While many of the forces seeking to pile additional regulations and restrictions on top of agriculture are motivated by good intentions, their agendas fail to take into account the economic realities and uncertainties farmers face every day.
During each legislative session, North Carolina agriculture witnesses further attempts to increase the red tape and restrictions on the industry. At the same time entities are criticizing the farmer, they are also wringing their hands over the loss of farmland and open space within our rapidly growing state.
How will the modern economy adjust to a world with more people and less farmers and land on which to grow their food and fiber? They are only able to do so through the improvements brought about by research and scientific advances, not more regulations and restrictions, and certainly not through basically flat funding for agricultural research.
It is widely accepted that farming by its nature is dependent on the environment, and farmers are tied to the land for this reason. It is in their best interest to do things the right way. And, the majority of growers do so out of a sense of responsibility, first, and the need to make a living, second.
How did people survive before there were thousands of regulations and hundreds of groups out there to protect them? They survived because the men and women who grew food cared about the land and did their best to protect it. But, they cannot continue to do so with their hands tied by regulatory handcuffs as various groups continue to pile on the restrictions.
Agriculture is not immune to the economic trends and economies of scale that impact other industries. For too long, the economic model has been pushing the farmer to get bigger or get out. Our current regulatory environment threatens the survival of our farms. When those farms fail to survive, some of these entities and groups may even seek to stop the farmers from developing their own property—the last option for most growers to get out of debt.
When our farmers go out of business, where will your family’s next meal come from—Africa, China, India, Mexico, South America, Vietnam? We’ve seen how exporting our energy production has worked out for Americans. Imagine relying on other countries for our food.
It’s time to stop piling the punitive regulations on top of agriculture and take a common-sense approach that protects farmland, green space and farm families. Environmental protection can be achieved through profitable agriculture, a logical regulatory structure and adequate funding of agricultural research.