01/27/14 — County seeking Troxler's help on ag center

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County seeking Troxler's help on ag center

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 27, 2014 1:46 PM

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This aerial overview shows the plot near Cherry Hospital where the county would like to build a regional agricultural center. The county commissioners have asked for help from state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in securing the state-owned land.

A letter has been sent to North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler seeking his help in having the state convey land near Cherry Hospital for Wayne County's use as the site for a proposed $12 million regional agricultural center.

Wayne County Commissioner Bill Pate said last week that a letter, and photos of the proposed site near Cherry Hospital, were sent earlier this month to Troxler.

Pate is the chairman of the Wayne County Agricultural Committee. Julian Aycock, a farmer and member of the Wayne County Planning Board, is vice chairman.

In his letter, Pate asks for Troxler's partnership and the "possible conveyance of this property at the time construction funds become available."

The committee has looked at two sites -- the McFarland building across West Ash Street from the State Employees Credit Union and the old state-owned dairy property near Cherry Hospital.

The dairy site is preferred location since, unlike the McFarland property, it has room for expansion, Pate explained in the letter.

Solutions for Local Governments has updated the plan it prepared in 2006 for an agricultural center, and in October, commissioners appropriated $2 million for the project.

No timetable has been announced.

As envisioned, the center would be a two-story, 56,565-square-foot building that would house the Cooperative Extension Service, Cherry Farm administration, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Services and Wayne County Soil and Water.

Most of those offices are now in the Wayne Center in downtown Goldsboro.

The center also would include classrooms and an auditorium that could accommodate up to 378 people in banquet-style seating or 528 people in auditorium-style seating.

"Both our legislators and congressional members realize the importance of agriculture in Wayne County and want to partner with Wayne County," Pate said in the letter. "Requests for funding have already been sent to both our state and federal partners, but again, a site must first be determined before funding decisions can be made in both the Legislature and Congress.

"Wayne County needs a regional agriculture center to address the business of agriculture, promote the importance of agriculture in the region, and provide a single place for the delivery of services. The center will also provide a centrally located educational venue for the consumers, the agricultural community and agri-businesses."

Wayne County will partner with farmers, the Cooperative Extension Service, Cherry Research Farm, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, USDA Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation, Pate wrote.

Commissioners initially formed the committee to study the feasibility of building a center, but has since expanded its scope to include the county's agriculture and agri-business community as a whole.

There are two subcommittees -- funding, chaired by Greg Shackleford of Southern Bank and Trust Co., and facility, chaired by Wayne County Fair Manager Eddie Pitzer.