Women in Agriculture Conference examines economic forces affecting agribusiness in North Carolina
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Women in Agriculture
Conference examines economic
forces affecting agribusiness
in North Carolina

Women with interest in North Carolina’s food, fiber and horticulture industries came together in June at the state’s first Women in Agriculture Conference, conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics in N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

About 125 women registered to hear speakers discuss a variety of topics related to agriculture. The two-day event, organized by Dr. Arnold Oltmans, was sponsored by Farm Credit of North Carolina.

Opening day speakers included two women on North Carolina’s Council of State: Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps.

Marshall, who grew up on farm in Maryland, urged the group to help educate North Carolina’s increasingly urban population about the importance of agriculture in their lives.

On the second day of the conference, Dr. Thomas McGinn, of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, led a session on biosecurity, animal diseases and the safey of agricultural resources; Dr. Jan Spears, a Cooperative Extension seed specialist, discussed opportunities and challenges in biotechnology; and Dr. Sarah Ash, assistant professor of animal science, outlined a history of American eating patterns.

Oltmans discussed forces changing U.S. agriculture. With more than 70 percent of the U.S. population today having no relatives who live on a farm or ranch, he said, the relationship between agriculture and the rest of society is changing at an accelerated rate.

Meanwhile, rural revitalization, global market forces, social and political activism, shifting business and financial structures and the scientific revolution in biotechnology and information management present opportunities as well as uncertainty and risk for farmers.

“Overall,” he said, “the long-term economic outlook for U.S. agriculture is extremely positive. The agricultural industry is as strong economically as any industry in the U.S. ... The industry is cost-efficient, and new technologies will enable U.S. agriculture to keep its competitive edge.

“However, the outlook is not positive for every farm producer, every region or every agribusiness in the industry. Except for those with large amounts of equity capital to dissipate, only those who successfully adapt to and manage the changes that are occurring will succeed and reap the rewards from the opportunities that lie ahead.”

—Dee Shore and Natalie Hampton


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