This article and the accompanying image were originally published by The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and are republished here as part of the One Vote North Carolina student media collaboration. Copyright by The Daily Tar Heel.
The November election is coming up, so The Daily Tar Heel is breaking down every state and local office on the ballot, from governor to county commissioner. Here, we broke down who the candidates are for N.C. commissioner of agriculture.
Incumbent Steve Troxler and his opponent Jenna Wadsworth are both running for commissioner of agriculture this November.
The responsibilities of commissioner of agriculture include protecting, maintaining and enhancing the production of North Carolina agriculture, as well as promoting public health programs.
Troxler, a Republican, has held the office of commissioner since 2005. He also serves on the boards of the N.C. Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation, the Rural Economic Development Center and the N.C. Biotechnology Center.
Wadsworth is serving a four-year term on the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. In 2010, she became the youngest woman to be elected to public office in North Carolina, at age 21.
In one of The Daily Tar Heel's surveys, students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said they cared about health care, student debt, civil rights, wages/labor, the environment and LGBTQ rights and policies. Here's where the candidates stand on some of those issues.
Troxler did not respond to an interview request, so The Daily Tar Heel pulled information from his website and a UNC-TV interview.
Troxler said as commissioner of agriculture, he's helped lead the state through natural disasters.
“Every time that there has been any type of disaster in North Carolina, the Department of Agriculture and I have been there before, during and after the disasters to help people get through it and get back on their feet,” Troxler said in a Sept. 8 interview with UNC-TV.
Wadsworth said the commissioner of agriculture, someone running one of North Carolina’s biggest industries, should care about social, environmental and economic justice.
One environmental issue she said wants to address is doing more than just writing relief checks for those who have suffered through natural disasters. Additionally, Wadsworth said she wants to emphasize the reality of climate change.
"And that means someone who cares about social, environmental and economic justice, someone who wants to create a more just sustainable and equitable future that works for every single person who calls North Carolina at home instead of just a select few," Wadsworth said.
Wadsworth said she believes the legalization of cannabis could be an opportunity for farmers in North Carolina. Since it's already legal in several states and Washington, D.C., she said it is only a question of when will it be legal.
“I've talked to farmers, whether they're Republican, Democrat, independent, they’re all very excited," Wadsworth said. "And it's also an economic opportunity for our cities and counties.”
She said she believes after the COVID-19 outbreak—and the state experiencing major budget shortfalls—the additional money brought in by the hemp market could possibly fund other public goods, such as public education, mental health or public transit.
Troxler told UNC-TV he believes the next emerging crop for North Carolina is stevia or purple carrots.
“The problem is, a lot of people jumped into the hemp industry—the market was not there before we produced the product, so we overproduced,” Troxler said in the UNC-TV interview. “Is there a future for hemp in the future? Yes, probably, but not at the level people went at it this time.”
With the absence of the state fair, as well as the interruptive transfer of agricultural goods in schools and universities to grocery stores, Troxler said coronavirus has negatively affected the way farmers think about the market.
Troxler said he thinks COVID-19 needs to be taken seriously, especially if you live in a large city.
"We need to get through this and maintain all the health where we can maintain," he said.
Wadsworth said COVID-19 has shown how broken the health care system is. She believes this is an opportune moment for bridging the rural-urban divide through investments in rural broadband and rural health care.
“I also think it's really important to talk about our farm workers, who are the backbone of the agricultural industry and who right now are contracting COVID-19 at even higher rates in the rest of the population,” Wadsworth said. “I think it's past time to put humanity back into governing.”
For more election coverage from across North Carolina, visit One Vote North Carolina, a collaborative of The Chronicle and six other student newspapers that aims to help college students across the state navigate the November election.
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