Agriculture in North Carolina and Currituck County
Have you ever heard of the Ripple Effect? This is a phenomenon described as the continuing or spreading effects of an event or action.
Agriculture is a perfect example of this phenomenon, its effects can be seen in everyday situations. Not just at the grocery store, but also the pharmacy and the gas station. Being the number one industry in North Carolina, Agriculture in most definitely king! According to the NC Farm Bureau, Agriculture makes a $78 billion economic impact and contributes 16% of state jobs. North Carolina also exported roughly $3.7 billion in agricultural product. A little more locally, NC Farm Bureau estimates that Currituck agriculture makes a $50 million impact and provides about 8% of county jobs.
There are about 50,000 farm operations in the North Carolina, and 98% of those operations are family owned. North Carolina is currently ranked #1 in the nation for flue cured tobacco and sweet potatoes, as well as #2 in the nation for hogs, poultry/eggs receipts, turkeys, christmas trees, and trout. Needless to say, the impact that agriculture has is enormous! Because the current average age of a farmer in NC is 59 years old, it is imperative that we invest in youth organizations such as 4-H and FFA to insure the longevity of the industry.
Eastern North Carolina is where most of the soybean acreage is located in the state. In 2017, Currituck County had over 18,000 acres of soybean planted (USDA NASS). In that same year, Currituck produced 683,000 bushels of soybeans with an average yield of 38 bushels per harvested acre.
Soybeans grown in Currituck are primarily used for animal feed. When feeding livestock, soybean meal is the cheapest and best protein source used. A 60 lb bushel of soybeans will produced roughly 11 lbs of crude oil and 47 lbs of meal. The composition of soybeans are 18% oil and 38% protein. Adequate protein in livestock feed is essential for proper growth and production. There are also many soy based products made for human consumption – soy flour, soy protein, soybean oil used in cakes, breads, and cookies, and even biofuel production.
Besides soybeans, corn and wheat are also major crops grown in Currituck County. In 2017, Currituck planted 10,400 acres and 4,500 acres of corn and wheat respectively (USDA FASS). Both crops saw a significant decrease in acreage planted, this can be attributed to the loss of productive land and low crop prices. Corn yield in 2017 was approximately 1,664,000 bushels, down by 109,000 bushels from 2016. Wheat yield was approximately 220,000 bushels, which was up 51,000 bushels from 2016.
Corn, like soybean, is primarily grown for livestock grain, but some is used in such things as biofuel production. The wheat grown in this area are hard winter varieties, which is used to make things like cakes and cookies. Soft winter wheat, which is not grown in this part of the country is what is used in bread making.
In summary, agriculture is a very important industry to Northeast North Carolina and Currituck County. So, on the next visit you take to the grocery store take a moment and reflect on where your food is grown. Thank a farmer today, because they need your support!
Questions about local agriculture can be directed to your local NC Cooperative Extension Center. Jody Carpenter, Currituck County Agriculture Extension Agent, will be glad to assist with any questions or concerns.