The face of farming is changing once again in Richmond County.
Once cotton and tobacco were major crops, now the shift is toward livestock and poultry.
The Richmond County Agricultural Advisory Board Monday night agreed to suggest to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners that it might want to consider joining Moore and Lee counties in a proposed initiative for development called “Stronger Economies Together.”
Together, the counties will be eligible to seek to become one of two multi-county regions to be selected in the state to receive technical assistance for rural regional development in the state.
The initiative is being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the N.C. Cooperative Extension.
Paige Burns, interim County Extension director, presented the proposal to the AAB Monday night for an application which must be submitted by the three counties by Friday. She was to present the proposal to Rick Sago, county manager, for his consideration to present to commissioners.
County Commissioner Don Bryant was present at the AAB meeting. The AAB was created by commissioners as an advisory board.
Produce crops in the county are now many times being supported by farmers with livestock and poultry production. Past proposals for marketing horticulture crops have run up against major markets with strict demands on packaging for food safety and reliable transportation and delivery.
Burns said that if the three-county region idea is accepted, the counties would receive training on how to develop a regional economic development plan, identify the critical drivers of the local economy and uncover local assets and resources to set strategies and actions.
Although a customer like Fort Bragg is said to be willing to purchase local produce, farmers present at the meeting said requirements to do so could be “tough and demanding” needing a third party to process the goods.
All three counties for the proposed new region are members of the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance, a partnership of governments of counties surrounding the base.
Descriptions of the procedures required by other large customers were described as “strong-armed and brutal” to farmers creating insecurity as to a return on investment.
The need for the proposed initiative was suggested by Burns as a means of finding solutions to such problems involving marketing. Many customers need produce year-round and local farmers therefore are forced to compete in a national and global economy.
Large investments for systems to meet such demands are said to be risky when marketing brokers can just walk away without consequences to themselves if their demands are not met. Many Richmond County farmers have decided such risks are too great.
It is in this business climate that Burns said working together with Moore and Lee counties for progress is more likely to be realized working effectively together to assess, design and implement plans to build on the assets and economic strengths of the new region.
The overall goal is to create new approaches to strengthen and enhance regional economic development activities for jobs and wealth creation, Burns said.