WASHINGTON, D.C. On Tuesday N.C.’s Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler joined President Donald Trump, his newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and the president’s special assistant on agriculture, Autryville native Ray Starling, at the White House. The group announced Trump’s latest executive order which represents what may be a new outlook on U.S. agriculture policy. This is the first time a group of farmers has met with a U.S. president in such a high-profile setting since the early Reagan years.”Everybody was amazed at how engaged the president was, and the vice president was with him,” said Troxler in an interview with the North State Journal just after leaving the White House. “We really came away with a feeling that this is something we have never seen from a president in many, many years.”We wanted to make our key points immigration reform, trade, regulatory reform and transportation infrastructure. We got all those point across and he really listened and got them. I think it went extremely well,” he added.”Farmers led the way across the Great Plains,” said Trump after signing the executive order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America. “Now, they not only feed the country but the entire world.”The order directs a six-month review of regulations across several federal agencies that impact agriculture, regulations critics say are stifling economic prosperity in rural America. Trump signed the order after holding a roundtable in the Roosevelt Room with 15 farmers from across the country, including Troxler, and James Lamb, a hog farmer for Prestage Farms from Sampson County. The executive order also sunsets the Rural Council, formed in 2012, and replaces it with a new task force of White House and government officials from across different agencies to examine key issues facing farmers and rural communities. It will focus on biotechnology, environmental regulation, labor needs and boosting international trade. Farmers said their primary hurdles come from agencies where few people understand agriculture.”We obviously grow more food than we can eat in the United States,” said Starling. “So our real potential for economic growth is either talking you all into eating more, or to finding new markets for our products overseas.”He said striking a balance between promoting rural economies and protecting national security through access to safe and adequate food supplies may mean tough policy choices ahead.”In these rural communities, the best thing we can do to make them grow quickly and economically is to focus on agriculture because it is the No. 1 driver in most of these rural communities, but we certainly understand that’s not the only silver bullet,” said Starling. “One of the things the task force is charged with doing is looking at those rural communities and also making recommendations with regard to what we can do to promote their economic stability as well.”The new focus on America’s growers also comes as Perdue, the former Republican governor of Georgia, was confirmed Monday night by the U.S. Senate, 87 to 11, as the new U.S. secretary of Agriculture. Both of N.C.’s senators voted in favor of confirming Perdue. The confirmation leaves just one member of Trump’s cabinet still to be confirmed; labor secretary nominee Alex Acosta.”The president gave some directives in the meeting to the new secretary, and I think with his help and with the help of Ray Starling, we are going to really make some progress,” said Troxler. Perdue’s confirmation also comes as N.C.’s Washington delegation works in Congress to formulate a new farm bill to help American food producers, particularly as global food demand is expected to spike by 2050.
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