May 15th marked the 150th anniversary of the United States Department of Agriculture which was ushered into being by one of our Nation's greatest leaders, President Abraham Lincoln, and plays a vital role in ensuring that rural America remains vibrant and strong. As the American conservationist John Muir said nearly one hundred years ago, when "one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world," which is especially true of agriculture.
Tug at our farms here in southeastern North Carolina, and you tug literally at the world.
North Carolina has contributed greatly to our nation's agricultural success story. In fact, North Carolina's Seventh Congressional District is the most productive agricultural district in the state with over $2.5 billion worth of agricultural products sold each year. Moreover, our farmers have long formed the foundation of an intelligent, dedicated, and enterprising labor force. It is because of our farmers and our wealth of resources that our state ranks:
* #1 in total tobacco;
* #1 in sweet potatoes;
* #2 in net farm income per acre;
* #2 in hogs;
* #4 in peanuts;
* #4 in strawberries;
* #6 in value of production per acre;
* #7 in watermelons;
* #7 in total net farm income and
* #8 in cotton.
Because our farms, farmers, and agri-businesses are so critical to our state's economy, it is vital that USDA be a partner with us.
The Department helps farmers manage risks in the fields and provides a safety net for producers who experience disasters from weather, pests, or price collapse. USDA gives rural communities the tools that they need to partner with lenders to make infrastructure improvements, and steps in to meet their financing needs when commercial creditors are unable to. USDA gives farmers conservation tools and incentives to ensure that our natural resources are not depleted and that water quality is not harmed. The Department invests in cutting edge agricultural research at our country's premier research institutions and land grant universities to allow for breakthroughs in crop science and animal agriculture.
USDA works in and with rural Americans to ensure that rural communities remain places where families choose to live and businesses are able to grow.
Having been born and raised in Robeson County in Southeastern North Carolina, I understand how important our farm communities are to our state, our nation, and the world. After first being elected to Congress, I sought a seat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, and I now serve as the third-ranking Democrat of the Committee. As North Carolina's most senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am honored to be able to address our state and nation's farming and rural development needs.
This year rural America faces a major crossroads with the negotiation of the coming Farm Bill. I am committed to ensuring that rural Americans in North Carolina and throughout the country are provided farm and rural policies that meet their needs and that the dollars spent by USDA are directed at worthwhile and cost effective programs.
To ensure of North Carolina's stronghold in agriculture, I have developed a Vision for Farm and Rural Policy to guide my efforts in the coming Farm Bill. Among the goal outlines in my plan are to provide a strong and fair safety net for farmers, ensure a reliable and affordable crop insurance program, keep tobacco strong by ensuring its inclusion in the policies considered in the Farm Bill, let livestock thrive by preventing the implementation of burdensome regulations on the farm, pursue policies that keep corn prices down to the benefit of the pork and poultry producers in the state and strengthen rural development so that key investments can be made to our rural infrastructure.
As I continue to work with my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee to write the Farm Bill, I will push for policies that will help our communities reach the goals outlined in my Vision for Farm and Rural Policy. As North Carolinians we know that a strong rural economy is imperative for the economic health of our state.
Happy 150th Birthday to USDA! The State of North Carolina and our farmers enjoy the strong positive relationship we share together. Let's keep working for our farmers and rural communities!