Get to know your non-farm neighbors

Agriculture needs to return the human face to farming and restore the link between farm and city folks, says the assistant to the president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

Peter Daniel, assistant to the president of the NCFB, told a group at the 16th Annual Southeastern Fruit and Vegetable Expo in Greensboro that “we need to educate people who are two to three generations removed from the farm.”

U.S. Congressman Bob Etheridge and North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Meg Scott Phipps also echoed the theme that includes food safety and security.

“North Carolina has moved from a rural to an urban and suburban state,” Daniel said, “and, as neighbors, we need to introduce ourselves to the subdivision down the road.

“I'm encouraging you to take the time to become ambassadors of your way of life,” Daniel said. “Never before have so many people been so far removed from their food supply. But farmers depend on non-farm folks as customers. We need to explain what we do and why we use the inputs we do.”

Daniel laid some of the blame on the “modern environmental movement that has managed to industrialize the face of agriculture.” He said Farm Bureau is committed to returning the human face to farming through tours and educational programs.

While the majority of people are removed from the production of the food supply, the events of Sept. 11 have brought home the importance of food safety and security, Etheridge says.

He made a case for passage of the farm bill before the end of the year 2001. “This farm bill is so important because of the role that it plays in the security of our food supply,” the congressman told the fruit and vegetable growers. “It's as important as our national security. Food safety is going to be a big issue in the future.”

The congressman also stressed the need to “encourage more young people to come into agriculture,” and make it financially possible for them to do so. “Otherwise, this country may not be able to feed itself.”

On the issue of food safety, Meg Scott Phipps, the North Carolina agriculture commissioner, said the department is conducting a series of seminars with food retailers. “It's critical to ask ourselves if we are prepared. Sept. 11 will drive us to look at more safety devices. You will be a big player in providing the answers to these questions” regarding food safety and security.

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