McInnis on agriculture: ‘I see it as an opportunity’

 Freshman lawmaker hopes to bring food processing plants to District 25

By Kevin Spradlin

Sen. Tom McInnis thinks there’s plenty of room to grow what is already the state’s No. 1 industry.

McInnis said that there is tremendous possibility within the 25th District, which includes Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland and Stanly counties. His focus on Friday during a sit-down with The Pee Dee Post was on Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties — three of the poorest in the state. Each county, McInnis said, offer a combination of access to water, rail and interstate.

Plus, “we’ve got a labor force that can work in manufacturing,” McInnis said.

Sen. Tom McInnis

Sen. Tom McInnis

With agriculture already going strong here, he said, there’s no reason it can’t build on that success. This past week, he’s heard from state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and Christopher Chung, chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

McInnis called the recently hired Chung “a rock star in economic development” and learned that he and Troxler are “going to attack, if you will, the business of food processing to see if we can get food processing in North Carolina.”

Think Campbell’s Soup and tomatoes. Or Smuckers and grapes. Or Motts and apples.

“We’ve got the best strawberry crop in the world right here,” McInnis said. “We’ve got the biggest producer of sweet potatoes. Sweet potato fries are the hottest thing on the market.”

But there’s no need to stop at selling the raw fruit or vegetable, he said.

“If we grow it here, process it here and ship it (from) here, that adds 10 times to the value of the initial product,” McInnis said.

McInnis, a first-term Republican, serves on the Agriculture Committee and the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Less than two months into his time in Raleigh, a lot of new information has come his way.

Source: N.C. State University

Source: N.C. State University

“We just learned this week that the exports of agriculture products (from) North Carolina have exceeded $5 billion,”  McInnis said. “These are big numbers. We already know that for us to succeed in North Carolina, we’ve got to produce more, sell more … we can sell only so much in the state and in the United States. The export market is where we’re gonna harvest the extra money.”

“I see it as an opportunity,” he said.

Weighed down

McInnis said he plans to seek assistance from Rep. Richard Hudson and the rest of Congress to offer a waiver for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of over 90,000 pounds. Currently, those vehicles that carry ag products — grain, timber, berries and more — are relegated to roadways such as Old U.S. Route 220 which are hillier, have less shoulder room and are the same roads on which school buses travel.

It’s a safety issue for one, McInnis said, and it’s a common-sense issue for another. Those vehicles should be able to travel Interstates 73 and 74, which are flatter, straighter and safer for everyone, he said.


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