02/15/13 — Extension is seeking field crop agent

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Extension is seeking field crop agent

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 15, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County could have a new Extension Service field crop agent by May 1, if not sooner, just as local farmers are delving into the new growing season.

The job, that has been open since Jan. 17 when John Sanderson stepped down, is posted on the N.C. State University website.

County Extension Director Kevin Johnson, who has been handling the field crop agents duties, said he has not yet looked at any applications, and probably would not do so until the posting is closed.

The agent helps solve problems for farmers, addresses soil issues, including ensuring that diseases and insects are diagnosed, and is responsible for pesticide education.

Postings are usually open for a month, Johnson said.

"I hope we get a good pool of candidates," he said. "I can tell you from past experience in other field crop positions there usually is not a large pool of applicants available. A lot of that is, I think, that people just don't seem to be excited about the agriculture field. Yet there is a huge demand for jobs in agriculture."

Johnson said if not enough people apply for the position, he might keep the application period open longer.

"I would love to have somebody in place -- April 1 would be a stretch, but it would be possible," he said. "But realistically May 1."

By that time the county will be getting into the thick of the planting season, he said.

"They will be planting corn in March," he said. "Of course they are seeding tobacco greenhouse this week. I was really handling most of the tobacco stuff anyway, but for corn, wheat, beans, sorghum, that stuff will really be picking up April, May. That is when the activity really increases on those crops.

"Right now we are in our meeting season with growers. It is the only time you can really meet with them, production meetings, classes. We still have small grains in the field, and I am going out right now to look at some small grains in the Seven Springs area. There are still issues going on that we are going to take care of. We might be working hours but we are going to do whatever it takes to meet the ag community's needs."

The job requires a bachelor's or master's degree in agronomy or related area. The minimum salary range is $33,500 for a bachelor's degree and $38,500 for a master's degree.

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

The county is home to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a farm facility dedicated to research on sustainable agriculture. Wayne County is also home of the Lois Britt Agribusiness Center at Mount Olive College and there is a progressive agriculture department at Wayne Community College.