Friday, April 1, 2011

North Carolina Agriculture Needs Your Help

North Carolina Agriculture Needs Your Help!

N.C. Cooperative Extension Service (NCCES), N.C. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (NCDA & CS) budgets maybe cut drastically, this week! The State Budget, including the Higher Education Budget will be considered early next week. The Higher Education Budget is where the College’s Agricultural Programs, which include NCCES and ARS budgets reside. Potential state cuts may result in a 25-30% budget reduction to these programs. For NCCES these reductions would result in the loss of over $13 million and 300-400 positions. Similar cuts face research.

Agriculture is the #1 industry in N.C., providing $74.3 billion and 688,000 jobs to our state. The NCCES, NCDA&CS and the ARS programs support agriculture in N.C. everyday through current research and cutting-edge technology, services that maximize on-farm efficiency and education. On average, it costs N.C. consumers only 2 cents per day to conduct these programs that contribute to the success of not only local farmers, but local communities. Needless to say, a 25-30% budget reduction would be devastate the ability of these programs to meet the current and future needs of the citizens of N.C.

The NCCES partners with communities to deliver research-based education and technology that enrich the lives, land and economy of North Carolinians. NCCES delivers programming in 4-H Youth Development, Family and Consumer Sciences, Natural Resources and Agriculture. The accomplishments and impacts of NCCES include:
Assisting in the creation of the school lunch program in rural communities and library system (Family and Consumer Sciences)
In 2011, the construction of the WNC Regional Livestock Center was completed. In its first sale over 1,200 head of livestock were sold accounting of $1 million, all staying in the local economy. (Agriculture).

The following are “talking points” you can use to discuss with your N.C. Representative and Senator.

1. N.C. ranks 3rd nationally in agriculture representing 8 major commodities.

2. N.C. has one of the best extension service and research programs in the country. A recent study showed that the productivity of N.C. agriculture has gained more that 2% per year since 1960. This increase is directly related to the state’s investment in research and extension.

3. In 2010 NCCES reported over 5.8 million contacts.

4. The primary research, extension, marketing and development organizations supporting agriculture are not only effective, but frugal. NCCES and the Research budget account for only 0.23% and 0.30% of the General Fund, respectively. Combining this with the NCDA & CS (0.31%) and NCA&T SU budgets, the total budget for these programs this equals to only 1% of the General Fund!

5. Agricultural research helps families save money. Agricultural productivity is largely responsible for the fact that the percentage of U.S. household income spent on food has decreased 22.3 to 9.5% at the same time that total food consumption increased.

6. For every $1 invested in public agricultural research $32 is returned back to society!

7. 4-H is one of the Nation’s premier youth development programs. Compared to their peers, youth engaged in 4-H stay in school longer, have higher graduation rates and college attendance and graduation, smoke less, have significantly lower rates of criminal conduct and arrests, and are more involved in their communities..

Everyone has your own personal story about how these programs have impacted your life. NOW is the time to share your story with your N.C. Representative and N.C. Senator. Handwritten notes and phone calls are the most effective means of reaching these individuals.

If you have written you elected officials or plan to do so please let us know so we can keep a record of our supporters. Thank you letters directed to agents and carbon copied to our administrators and elected officials go a long way in keeping up the morale of all of our staff during times of uncertainty like we are currently facing.

We realize that all of you are also facing economic hardships and having the pain of laying off good employees. Hopefully, by keeping relevant programs we can help each other through this crisis.

For more information contact your local Cooperative Extension Center and ask for the Commercial Horticulture Agent.