11/25/11 — Crop agent candidates interviewed

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Crop agent candidates interviewed

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 25, 2011 1:46 PM

Interviews have begun with the three candidates for the field crop agent job with the Wayne County Extension Service -- a position that has been vacant since former field crop agent Kevin Johnson was promoted to director of the agency.

A committee that included Extension Service officials met with the three candidates. Wayne County Commissioners have said that given the importance of field crops to the county economy the job is a crucial one.

When the state wavered on whether to fill the position, commissioners considered hiring someone themselves, but were afraid that if they took on paying for the job that the state might make it a permanent county paid position. They sent a letter to North Carolina State University and to local legislators, underlining the importance of the job to the local economy, and the state eventually agreed to put someone in the job but as late as last month, the decision had not been announced.

Local officials hope the job can be filled by the first of the year. Johnson has been splitting time between the two jobs since May.

The field crop agent would be involved in an industry that contributes more than $120 million annually to Wayne County's economy.

Wayne is the third-largest tobacco-producing county in the United States and is a leading county in the state in the production of wheat, soybeans, sweet potatoes, corn, peanuts and cotton.

Altogether agriculture and the related industries account for $763 million annually in the county.

"I think Wayne County understands and knows the importance of agriculture and that the person in this position will have an important role in maintaining the viability of agriculture in the county," Johnson said.

The field crop agent has primary responsibility for planning, executing, and evaluating county Extension programs within assigned areas of program responsibility. Extension agents are members of the faculty of North Carolina State University.

A bachelor's degree in agronomy or related area of science is required and a related master's degree is preferred for the job. Applicants must have a valid driver's license and reliable personal transportation must be maintained.

If none of the candidates stand out, Johnson, who is part of the interviewing team, said it might be necessary to go back and start seeking applications all over again.

However, if one candidate does stand out the job offer could be made in early December with the new agent beginning work sometime after the first of the year.

Johnson said he expects to continue in some kind of role involving field crops as well.