You are on page 1of 11

Bringing the Changes NC Needs (Introduction):

Jenna Wadsworth is the Democratic nominee for North Carolina Commissioner of

Agriculture. Her campaign has been centered on creating a more equitable and sustainable
future, putting the interests of everyday folks before those of large corporations, and supporting
policies that ensure the vitality of our state’s agricultural industry. Having grown up on her
grandparent’s farm, Jenna knows a thing or two about the diligence and love that goes into the
profession of farming. She has made advocacy for small family farms a large part of her
platform, in addition to bringing awareness to other social justice issues that face marginalized
communities. As the youngest woman to be elected to public office in the state of North Carolina
back in 2010, she’s made history once and will continue challenging the status quo.
Agriculture remains North Carolina’s leading industry, bringing in billions of dollars of
revenue each year. With roughly 50,000 farms, the vast majority of which are individual and
family owned, the state produces a wide range of commodities for local consumers and those
beyond state lines. While the industry as a whole has seen significant growth in recent years,
there are some major flaws still affecting individuals within the agricultural community that have
yet to be addressed. Tackling these problems will be no small feat, but will require radical
changes from the ground up.
Jenna cares about the issues farmers care about. Since day one, it has been her
mission to prioritize the local and viable future for agriculture. However, words and good
intentions are not enough to produce the change North Carolina needs. The Farm Plan was
designed to showcase actionable steps Jenna will take if elected as the next Commissioner of
Agriculture. After surveying various farmers across the state and consulting with leaders within
the field, this document was made outlining some of the prevalent issues within the industry.
Then, utilizing the research and data of experts in agriculture, comprehensive solutions to
address those problems were created.
Jenna believes in building a better and prosperous future through the NC Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services: one that encourages innovation, increases economic
growth, and provides for equal opportunity while remaining environmentally conscious. She has
paid close attention to the needs and desires of the individuals in the agricultural community,
worked beside them as both a public servant and farmer herself, and made a commitment to
bringing about positive change. Jenna’s plans include addressing climate change and ensuring
environmental justice, ​generating agri-business development for cannabis and hemp as a
means of crop expansion, ​bridging the urban-rural divide, improving the current disparities found
within the state’s healthcare system as it relates to farmers, supporting policies that prioritize
small family farms, and seeking justice for marginalized communities often taken advantage of
or overlooked by the agricultural industry. Please explore the backgrounds and details of these
issues below:

A Current Look at North Carolina’s Agricultural Industry

Environment & Sustainability

➢ Responding and Adapting to Climate Change

○ Hurricanes have hit North Carolina farmers especially hard in recent years. The
hurricanes Florence and Matthew together caused well over 1.1 billion dollars in
losses impacting the NC agricultural sector.​1​ The science is clear: the intensity of
storms such as these is only going to increase in coming years.​2​ Facing these
storms are the farmers that are the backbone of our state. With agriculture being
a vital part of our state’s economy, we cannot afford to let our farms continue to
suffer such damages in years to come.
○ An example of a creative farming technique that works to mitigate climate change
by sequestering carbon in soil is silvopasture. Silvopasture refers to the
integration of trees and forages into a farm, and can have many benefits to one's
Newburger, Emma. “'We Lost Everything': Dorian Closes in on North Carolina Farmers Still Recovering
from Florence.” ​CNBC,​ CNBC, 6 Sept. 2019,
“Hurricanes and Climate Change.” ​Union of Concerned Scientists,​ 2008,
farming practice, including, but not limited to: reducing heat stress, diversifying
income streams, reducing the risk of wildfires, and increasing property values.​3​ It
will take a wide variety of tools to properly equip our farmers against the impacts
of climate change, but the tools are out there.
○ If we expect our farming industry, and the people behind it, to survive and thrive
in the face of these new threats, we must go beyond acknowledging climate
change and actually enact mitigation and adaptation strategies. Jenna believes
that sending out relief checks after these devastating events have occurred
cannot be our only strategy. Jenna states: “​Storms will grow more frequent and
intense in coming years. Climate change causes unpredictable yields, as well as
premature blossoming of crops; alters planting and harvesting dates; and
increases the frequency of damage caused by weather events. I believe writing a
relief check cannot be our only solution to dealing with natural disasters. It is not
only economically unsustainable, but it’s environmentally unsustainable to push
conventional practices and support factory farming. We must support
transitioning to best management practices—prioritizing conservation while
fostering long term economic success. We should pursue regenerative, organic,
vertical, and urban farming.”

➢ Support for renewable energy

○ North Carolina is faced with a unique opportunity regarding solar energy
production. We are currently number two in the nation for solar energy​4​, and with
our 8.4 million acres of farmland across the state​5​, we have ample room for solar
installments and food production alike. In fact, researchers at the University of
Arizona have found that certain types of peppers and tomatoes grow ​better​ when
partially shaded by solar panels.​6​ This convergence of photovoltaics and
agriculture is called Agrivoltaics, and it is an exciting possibility for farmers

“Top 10 Solar States.” ​SEIA​, 2020,
​North Carolina Agriculture​. 8 Sept. 2020,
Charles, Dan. “How To Have Your Solar Farm And Keep Your Regular Farm, Too.” ​NPR​, NPR, 9 Oct.
interested in solar leasing without giving up their essential job of feeding North
○ Also known as solar-sharing, agrivoltaics has a high potential for benefiting the
planet. According to a 2020 article by Maria Gallucci, “​the potential for
agrivoltaics is immense, given how much of the planet’s land is devoted to
agriculture. If these “solar-sharing” systems covered even less than 1 percent of
the world’s cropland, they could produce enough solar power to meet the world’s
annual energy needs, Higgins and other researchers said in ​an analysis last
year​.” 7​​ Given the possibility of sustainably meeting the world’s energy demands
while still producing food, solar-sharing is an exciting new option for NC farmers.

Growing Stronger and More Inclusive Economies

➢ Responding to COVID-19
○ Agribusiness is essential to North Carolina’s economy. While the novel
coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing significant challenges and disruptions, North
Carolina needs someone to support our farmers, agribusinesses and restaurants.
On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, restaurants and bars throughout NC were ordered
to close dining area service to the public in an effort to slow the spread of the
coronavirus. The effects were devastating and immediate.
○ As COVID-19 has kept people at home, many agritourism and restaurants have
suffered. From March 1 to Aug. 1, agritourism endured a 60% loss compared to
the same time period last year, according to estimates from the Economic
Development Partnership of North Carolina.​8​ Even as businesses begin to
reopen, workers in the tourism industry still need help. Many are still unemployed
and the additional $600 weekly unemployment insurance benefit through the
CARES Act expired in July. The same goes for NC restaurants. The NCRLA
established the NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund in late March to provide
one-time grants of up to $500 to hospitality workers who have lost their jobs.

Gallucci, Maria. “Cash-Strapped Farms Are Growing a New Crop: Solar Panels.” ​Grist,​ 11 Mar. 2020,
​“Economic Development Partners North Carolina.” ​Agribusiness COVID Relief Assistance ​. N.p., n.d.
More than 17,000 people applied for assistance, according to Margo Metzger,
director of communications at NCRLA.​9​ There are still thousands of people on the
waitlist for the relief fund, and it is no longer accepting applications.
○ Jenna hopes to develop innovative adaptive solutions and reimagine our food
system to avoid disruptions like these during future pandemics. By supporting
more resilient local food systems and food hubs, we can strengthen local
economies and reduce carbon emissions involved in the transport of products.
She also is interested in pursuing opportunities to market “ugly produce” as a
way to further support local farmers in order to make sure more food produced
actually makes it to market instead of being discarded as a result of appearance.

➢ Promotion of Hemp & Legalization of Cannabis

○ Delivering Social and Criminal Justice: ​The criminalization of cannabis has
had destructive and costly consequences in our state for decades. North Carolina
spends an average of $6 million dollars between courts, prisons, and policing that
enforce cannabis laws, between 2001 to 2010, according to the Federal Bureau
of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. A study from The Economic
Journal reported that legalizing medical cannabis in states bordering Mexico led
to significant reductions in homicides and aggravated assaults. This study shows
how the criminalization of cannabis and its enforcement brings more violence and
destruction to communities than the cannabis itself. This cost to tax-payers pales
in comparison to the cost bared by individuals criminally charged for cannabis
possession. Simple possession charges can make it difficult to find employment,
access housing, vote in elections, and cause many other personal and
professional barriers. North Carolinians deserve a comprehensive plan to remedy
the inequities created by the criminalization of cannabis. Such policies should
expunge cannabis-related criminal records, as well as alleviate the
consequences of those charges.
○ Providing Medical Care and Combating the Opioid Crisis:​ Cannabis for
medical use is currently legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C., yet North
Carolina lawmakers have prevented the medical benefits of cannabis from
entering our state. Despite being a viable alternative to treat chronic pain or
illness in some cases, our state’s healthcare continues to treat its patients opioids

​NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund​. NCRLA Foundation, 2020. Web.
despite its disastrous effects to our health and communities. As U.S.
Representative Tulsi Gabbard explained in 2019, “...the [criminal justice system]
puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations​—​who
are responsible for thousands of opioid-related deaths​—​to walk away scot-free
with their coffers full.” Gabbard’s quote signals the unfairness of both our criminal
justice system and healthcare system. Through the regulation of medical
cannabis, we can reform both of these systems to work for the public.
○ Expansion of New Revenue Streams and Agribusiness Development:
Cannabis is already legal in 33 states plus DC. According to a 7 News/Emerson
College poll conducted Sept. 22, 2020, 72.5% of those polled said they approve
of the use of medical cannabis in North Carolina.​10​ It’s not a question of if
legalization will take place, but when it will. And when it happens, we need to
make sure there is a just and equitable industry that works for small farmers that
call NC home, instead of large, corporate, out-of-state interests buying up large
swaths of land. By ensuring that licenses to grow are affordable, or considering
acreage allotment to encourage small-holder agri-business, we can make
cannabis legalization work for the people of North Carolina. Moreover, cannabis
legalization provides the opportunity to reduce monoculture practices which
destroy our soil and make our economy vulnerable. Additionally, cannabis
economic potential can provide investments in infrastructure and communities
around the state. Cannabis legalization acts a way to fund our current budget
shortfalls, particularly after the onset of COVID-19. Aside from the economic
benefits of cannabis, hemp also has a huge potential to diversify and grow
revenues for our farmers, while already legal across the country . In addition to
CBD products, hemp fibers and grains provide plenty of opportunities for
value-added products to grow the hemp industry as a whole. Under the Industrial
Hemp Pilot Program in NC, our farmers can grow hemp legally. However, this
program is being incredibly mismanaged by the current leadership at our state’s
department of agriculture, and the consequences of this mismanagement is
falling on farmers. Specifically, the process to deliver a license to grow hemp is
insufficient and discriminatory. For example, licenses are not given to those with
past convictions for a controlled substance, despite if the person has served their
time or sought treatment. This rule disproportionally affects people of color in our

​ North Carolina, Nexstar Media, Emerson College Poll
communities. Programs and extensions for both hemp and cannabis industries
must refrain from these discriminatory practices, and work to grow economic
opportunities where our state needs it the most.

➢ Repairing Racial Inequities

○ Black farmers have faced a long history of discrimination, through policy and
business, that has diminished land ownership in their community. In 1920, 1 in 7
farmers in the US were Black. Today, that number is under 2 percent. Jenna
Wadsworth believes Black Lives Matter and our policies should reflect so.
Current NC policies support the industrialization and concentration of food
production which has only hurt small farmers and exacerbated racial inequities
throughout the state. The 2018 Farm Bill offered some critical support for diverse
farmers but fell short of transforming the larger, systemic issues that black
farmers face. Here in North Carolina, only 2,000 out of over 46,000 farms are
Black-owned or Black-run due to predatory lending practices run by the USDA
and FSA. Jenna is committed to making sure that we have a diverse group of
people, in government and on farms, who are leading this industry into the future.

➢ Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide

○ Jenna believes in bridging the gap between rural and urban divisions in our state.
From growing up in rural Johnston County to representing urban Wake County,
she knows first-hand how important investing in rural communities is. We must
prioritize our rural neighbors, by investing in rural healthcare by expanding
Medicaid for All. Additionally, in an ever-growing digital world, our farmers need
technology to compete in the global market. This means that folks in our rural
communities need better access to broadband connectivity. Our farmers need
support in order to provide food in all corners of North Carolina, including the
most marginalized communities currently living in food deserts. 1 in 5 North
Carolina children are food insecure. In a state that produces so much of the
country’s food supply, this is a crime.​11

➢ Serving Family Farms & Local Markets

N/A. “Food Insecurity.” ​America’s Health Rankings​. United Health Foundation, 2019. Web.
○ Small farms are the backbone of NC Agriculture. Many small local farms
throughout the state have been excluded from federal bailout programs, favoring
travel and tourist industries. But unlike large agribusiness, small farmers,
especially those that grow non-commodity crops like vegetables and fruits, rarely
qualify for significant federal subsidies and crop insurance.The majority of those
federal support programs go to farmers growing wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton
and rice, all which are publicly traded. Jenna Wadsworth understands the need to
support and encourage farmers to diversify their crops, transition to best
management practices that better soil health, market their brand online, explore
agribusiness opportunities they can participate in with their farms and ensure
they are addressing both their physical and mental health needs.Through this we
can truly support our small farmers in this state. For example, the horse
economy is very significant to the state. After speaking with local equestrian
farmers they discussed how the Trump Administration’s failed trade deals have
corn and beans selling for less than they were receiving in 1975. To consolidate
this loss, many have to resort to selling big commodities like hay to stay in
○ Farmer’s Markets are vital for both local economies, farmers, and communities.
North Carolina is home to over 200 farmer’s markets but lack of access to high
speed broadband internet leaves many rural counties without the resources to
reap the benefits of having community farmer’s markets. 92 of North Carolina’s
100 counties contain at least one farmers market (see graphic).​12​ There is a
prominent rural-urban divide in the number of farmer’s markets a county has that
has to do with lack of resources, more specifically, broadband. Service providers
see few incentives to build the infrastructure needed to connect rural counties to
the internet. As the world becomes increasingly digital, broadband access is
essential to provide services in communities. Low-resource rural areas are left
facing barriers to opening farmer’s markets because they are not in environments
that easily support electronic systems to accept SNAP/EBT that all require
wireless internet.​13​ We need to provide funds and resources farmer’s to provide

“USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics.” USDA, 2018. Web.
​O’Donnell, Lisa. ​Lack of Internet Slows Daily Life in Rural North Carolina.​ Winston-Salem: GovTech,
2020. Web.
the training and technical assistance necessary to increase farmer’s markets
across the state to bridge the rural-urban divide.

➢ Expanding SNAP and WIC Benefits

○ Addressing food insecurity is of great importance to Jenna. Please see her past
video discussions regarding her comprehensive plan to address SNAP benefits,
build school gardens, create a Legislative partnership between farmers and our
public school system, and develop solutions for strengthening the distribution
pipeline of highly nutritious food as we combat food deserts.
➢ Increasing development in the beer, wine, and spirit industry
○ Work with this crucial agribusiness industry to enhance exposure and placement
in local restaurants while developing a local foods mindset for consumers.

Increasing Education in Agriculture

➢ Environmental Education:
○ Environmental Education is essential for preparing our citizens to deal with the
issues they will face within the coming years, such as rising temperatures,
increased occurrence of hurricanes, rising sea levels, and many other events
caused by irresponsible human interaction with the biosphere.​14​ North

​The Effects of Climate Change​. 21 Aug. 2020,
Carolinians deserve to be prepared for these challenges, and to be allowed the
agency to decide to act to prevent the worst of them. Schools in North Carolina
especially would greatly benefit from environmental education being incorporated
into the curriculum, as it is our youngest residents who will overwhelmingly be the
ones who will need to be most prepared to deal with the brunt of the impacts of
climate change.

➢ Community & School Gardens

○ Under Jenna Wadsworth’s plan, every school would have a garden installed on
the premises. This strategy would enhance Environmental Education efforts by
allowing students to feel personally invested in the production of food, (which
could inspire the next generation of farmers) while at the same time educating
them about different approaches to agriculture and how best to feed America
while also preserverving the very land that feeds us. School gardens are also
helpful assets when teaching children how to eat in a healthy way. A school
garden’s impact on a child’s diet originates from many sources, with some of
those sources being the emotional connection students build with the foods they
are growing, as well as the “do it yourself” learning approach of such a hands-on
learning activity such as gardening.