Herald-Sun editorial: Rural America looks to make a comeback

Dec. 10, 2012 @ 10:04 PM

Depending upon where you live, as well as your background in agriculture (or lack of same), you might not realize the impact that agriculture and rural communities have on everyone, whether you live in an urban area or a rural one.

When one thinks of North Carolina, maybe Charlotte, Raleigh, the cities of the Triangle and the Triad first come to mind. But in the regions beyond the cities, agriculture is big business.

North Carolina exported a record $3.75 billion in agricultural products in 2011, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Even an urban county like Durham has plenty of agricultural clout. In 2011, Durham County saw cash receipts for livestock, dairy, poultry, and crops of more than $9.2 million. The more agrarian Orange County recorded nearly $27.5 million in such receipts. And both counties rank near the bottom when compared with most other counties in the state.

It is worth taking the time to think about how we need to support the rural parts of our state, and how we support and sustain our agricultural economy. All of the state’s residents need to be mindful of where our food comes from; urban residents need to appreciate and find common ground with rural residents, and vice versa.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reflected those thoughts on a national scale when he spoke last week at a forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Farm Journal. Vilsack, a Democrat who was formerly the governor of Iowa, said that rural America needs to become more relevant to the nation’s politics, to be proactive rather than reactive in encouraging young people to build lives in rural communities that are losing population, and do a better job of communicating on agricultural issues.

"We've got something to market here," Vilsack said. "We've got something to be proactive about. Let's spend our time and our resources and our energy doing that and I think if we do we're going to have a lot of young people who want to be part of that future."

That is a strong message, and absolutely worth considering by North Carolina residents from all walks of life.