Golden LEAF works with partners across the state to support agriculture and agribusiness. North Carolina State University recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the NC Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL), a state-of-the-art facility that will create opportunities to grow the state’s food manufacturing industry and support North Carolina farmers and agriculture. The NCFIL will assist food companies, farmers and entrepreneurs in creating new plant-based foods and take advantage of consumer interest in those items. The facility is intended to keep more of North Carolina’s agricultural products in the state throughout processing – transforming North Carolina’s agricultural and food manufacturing industries. North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler recently addressed agriculture’s effect on the state’s economy and how the NC Food Innovation Lab will help grow the agribusiness industry.
How does agriculture impact our state’s economy?
Agriculture and agribusiness represent North Carolina’s No. 1 industry at $81.9 billion. It employs around a fifth of our workforce in the state, so its reach and impact is significant.
How have you seen the agriculture industry grow and change over the years?
Agriculture has provided the foundation of our state’s economy since its earliest beginnings and remains the top economic driver for our state’s economy today. Over the years, farmers have adapted and increased their productivity, so much so that our farmers are now able to help feed the world. Agricultural exports are significant to our state’s agricultural community. Over 95 percent of the world population lives outside the United States, so being able to develop markets overseas is important to agriculture’s continued success. Additionally, agricultural diversification over the years has helped farmers remain successful and less dependent on a single crop. North Carolina is now one of the most agriculturally diverse state’s in the country.
From a partner’s perspective, how has Golden LEAF helped grow the agriculture industry in North Carolina?
Golden LEAF has helped usher in greater diversification in North Carolina agriculture by providing the financial resources to help farmers and communities make the transition from tobacco to other crops. Golden LEAF funding has also supported research and facilities and infrastructure to ensure agriculture’s future success.
Why does North Carolina need a food innovation lab?
Our farmers are incredibly good at producing raw commodities, but our state’s agricultural sector stands to see more return on the crop by developing more food manufacturing opportunities. The Food Innovation Lab allows food manufacturing to build on the research and new technologies developed by our state’s agricultural colleges and create food manufacturing opportunities in the state.
How important is research and development to agriculture?
The United Nations predicts farmers will need to produce 75 to 100 percent more food by 2050 to meet the growing global demand. We have 30 growing seasons to accomplish this increase, and research will certainly play a significant role in helping answer questions on how we can accomplish this ambitious goal with fewer resources.
What economic impact do you expect the NC Food Innovation Lab will have on our state?
I believe it can and will provide a dynamic boost to our agricultural economy. A 2014 economic feasibility study to evaluate the potential of food manufacturing in North Carolina estimated that in less than 10 years, it could lead to 38,000 jobs and a $10.3 billion boost to the economy. I believe the agricultural industry in North Carolina can top $100 billion in the not-too-distant future and increasing food manufacturing opportunities can help us get there.
About NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler was raised in the Guilford County community of Browns Summit and has spent his entire career in agriculture as founder, owner and operator of Troxler Farms. Over the years, the family-owned farm has produced tobacco, wheat, vegetables and soybeans.
Since taking office in 2005, Troxler has focused on developing new markets for N.C. farm products, preserving working farms and protecting the state’s food supply.
Troxler is a past president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. He also is a former chairman of NASDA’s Food Regulation and Nutrition Committee and was honored with a 2015 NASDA award for his commitment to food safety. He served as president of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture in 2010-2011.
He also serves on the boards of the N.C. Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation, the Rural Economic Development Center and the N.C. Biotechnology Center. He is a member of numerous organizations, including the N.C. Tobacco Research Commission and the Southern United States Trade Association.
Troxler is a 1974 graduate of N.C. State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation and a concentration in environmental studies.