01/29/14 — Ag chief backs location for new center

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Ag chief backs location for new center

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 29, 2014 1:46 PM

North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler has endorsed Wayne County's plans for a $12 million Wayne Regional Agriculture Center.

"I support locating the regional agriculture center at the old dairy farm on the Cherry Research Farm," Troxler wrote in a letter to Wayne County Commissioner Bill Pate. "There are numerous details to be discussed and approvals to be sought, but I am confident that with a common goal we will be successful at completing an agreement for use of the proposed site."

Pate, chairman of the commissioners' Agriculture Committee, had earlier sent a letter seeking Troxler's support and asking that the state convey the property to the county.

"Also, I updated the offices of Congressman (G.K.) Butterfield and Sen. (Kay) Hagan and received a response from both," Pate said. "They will have their grants and economic development staff contact me to discuss federal funding. Let's keep our focus on this, as it will be a great asset to all of Wayne County."

It has not yet been determined whether the state would convey the land at no cost, lease or sell the property to the county.

"Any transaction regarding the state-owned land will require consultation with the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations and approval of the Council of State," Troxler told the News-Argus. "With the plan to locate the Cherry Farm office in the ag center, there are details to be discussed concerning how the agreement will be structured.

"As you read in my letter, I have asked Kent Yelverton, director of our Property Construction Division, to represent me in those discussions. Once an agreement is reached, we will take the proposal to the required bodies along with our recommendation."

Yelverton is a native and resident of Wayne County.

"The proposed ag center will play an important role in fostering cooperation among the agencies that support agriculture, providing a place for the agriculture community to gather to work together and to learn, and a place where the general public can be exposed to the agriculture industry and its daily impact on their lives,"  Troxler said.

Troxler said he was struck by the county's decision last fall to appropriate $2 million for the project, noting that it shows local commitment to see the project through.

"I am impressed by the group that has joined together to work on this project.  I am proud that the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been asked to be a partner in this important project."

Troxler said he looks forward to updates on the center as the planning process continues.

Two sites were initially considered by the Agriculture Advisory Committee -- 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 the preferred location because it has room for expansion.

Solutions for Local Governments has updated a plan it prepared in 2006 for an agriculture center.

No timetable has been announced for the project.

As planned, the 56,565-square-foot two-story center 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.

The new facility 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.