• Thank you for coming this morning. I want to thank George Teague, Sheriff Barnes
and Commissioner Branson for being here, too.
• I’m here today wearing several hats:
o As the statewide elected official responsible for our agriculture industry;
o As chairman of the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation
o As a farmer;
o And as a lifelong resident of Guilford County and neighbor of this area.
• Although I wear many hats, I have a single message: I believe it is a bad idea for
the county to give away this farm and to buy up surrounding farms for private
development as part of Project Haystack.
• Agribusiness is our state’s largest industry, with an economic impact of $78 billion. It
is on its way to becoming a $100 billion industry. But we won’t achieve that mark if
we keep taking farms out of production.
• Farms are the bedrock of this industry. They provide economic and environmental
• Farmland loss is a problem in North Carolina. From 1970 to 2010, the state lost 6.6
million acres of farmland.
• If we had that land today, it’s conceivable to think that farm income in our state
would be about $6 billion higher. And the larger economic impact from this lost
acreage could be anywhere from $20 billion to $30 billion.
• At the same time we are losing farms, the worldwide demand for food is growing.
The United Nations predicts the world will need at least 60 percent – and as much as
100 percent – more food by the year 2050.
• If we continue to turn farms into buildings and pavement, who is going to grow the
• If every county were to do what Guilford County is proposing, I can tell you it won’t
be us growing the food.
• Working farms should not be sacrificed, or else you’re going to have a lot of hungry
people in the world. And hungry people are mean people.
1 of 4
• Since 2005, the state has tried to slow the loss of farmland. Our farmland preservation
trust fund has helped protect 8,700 acres in the state. We’ve got about $2 million
available in the fund, but we need to do more.
• While we’re conserving land, more people keep moving into North Carolina. In fact,
we added about 100,000 new people last year alone.
• That brings a lot of pressure to develop open space.
• And, according to a report by USDA and the American Farmland Trust, North
Carolina isn’t making the same level of investment as other states with populations of
• For example, Ohio’s farmland preservation program has more than $6 million
available to it. And Pennsylvania’s program has a whopping $57 million available.
• While both states rank ahead of North Carolina in population, neither is growing at
the rate our state is.
• As a farmer, I know how important fertile land is to our nation’s ability to produce
• It is valuable for producing many different kinds of crops. I’ll give you just a few
• In 2012, strawberries accounted for more than $24,000 per acre harvested in North
• Fresh-market tomatoes: More than $11,000 per acre harvested.
• Tobacco: $4,500 per acre harvested.
• Soybeans: $447 per acre harvested.
• Wheat: $377 per acre harvested.
• Farms also have environmental benefits. They help to recharge groundwater, promote
transpiration and provide wildlife habitat.
• The loss of farmland means the loss of many benefits to our state.
• Finally, I have concerns about this project as a lifelong resident of Guilford County
and neighboring Browns Summit.
• My family reportedly has been in this county since 1755. We go back a long time
2 of 4
• Others in this area have deep roots, too.
• Project Haystack would change this rural landscape. The project conflicts with the
county’s Northeast Plan, which identifies the area as rural.
• It flies in the face of the county’s Farmland Protection Plan, which our Agricultural
Development and Farmland Protection Trust Fund helped fund with a $31,000 grant a
few years ago.
• The county supposedly wanted to protect farmland, but now it wants to give it away.
• I know we need jobs. But at what cost?
• This area will need considerable improvements to infrastructure to make it workable
for a data center. And data centers typically don’t bring a lot of jobs.
• We know agriculture is successful. It accounts for 640,000 jobs across the state.
Speculation about new jobs associated with other industries is just that – speculation.
• If this area is so attractive, why would the county need to give away land? The
acquisition cost would be extremely small to the investors.
• In recent years, Guilford County has spent millions in bond money to buy land for use
as open space. Now it wants to give away open space, or even worse, buy privately
owned open space and give it away for development.
• Something else worth pointing out is that, while government cannot use eminent
domain to acquire property for economic development purposes, government can use
it for road upgrades. (Point to map and road upgrades, new roads.)
• That’s a lot of impact on private property for a project that’s based on speculation.
• I applaud the work of BJ Barnes and his staff for understanding the importance of
the Guilford Prison Farm. It is a valuable place for teaching inmates usable skills, for
generating revenue for the county, and for maintaining this rural area known for its
private working farms.
• It truly is an example that other counties have become interested in following.
• The farm deserves to continue its work.
• I support PLACE in their efforts to prevent this working farm and other farmland
from being turned over for private development.
• As our economy continues to recover, there will be plenty of private demand for open
land for development. We don’t need government making that threat worse.
3 of 4
• Thank you again for coming out today.