Home Local News Hudson, Richmond County farmers discuss challenges in agriculture

Hudson, Richmond County farmers discuss challenges in agriculture

Rep. Richard Hudson listens to the challenges faced by Richmond County farmers during a meeting Aug. 29 at Farm Bureau. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Farmers in Richmond County, and across the country, are not only having to deal with increasing production costs, but also increasing federal government regulations.

Rep. Richard Hudson lent his congressional ear to listen to several concerns during a meeting with constituents Monday morning at the Richmond County Farm Bureau office in Rockingham.

“He’s been around long enough, he knows the importance of agriculture,” the top industry in North Carolina, Chris Yaklin, president of the Richmond County Farm Bureau, said about Hudson. “But unfortunately there’s a lot of people in Congress … they’re so many generations away from agriculture, they don’t realize the impact that some of the things they do can cause.”

Hudson, a Republican, is familiar with Richmond County. Not only did he represent the county in Congress prior to a district shift, he spent time here while working for former congressman Robin Hayes, and also has family from the area.

In addition to veteran farmers like Yaklin, Dwayne Wright and Rusty Williamson, the group included younger prospective farmers, like Chase Puckett, who plan to own their own chicken houses.

Puckett, who manages chicken houses for Yaklin, will soon be starting a job as a flock supervisor for Perdue Farms.

Yaklin joked saying his advice to the young adults was to not go into the field.

“There’s a lot of things that are in our way to going into agriculture,” Yaklin said.

One of them is age.

Both Yaklin and Wright are in their mid-60s.

According to USDA statistics from 2017, the average age of American farmers was around 57 years old. The report shows that 34% were over 65 and 73% had been farming for 11 years or more.

Hudson, whose grandfather was a farmer, echoed Yaklin’s observation of some Congress members’ disassociation with agriculture. He recalled a situation from his freshman term when he asked a colleague about the upcoming farm bill and said the unnamed Democrat freshman told Hudson it wouldn’t impact his constituents: “I said, ‘Really? They don’t like to eat and wear clothes?”

“That is the problem in Congress,” Hudson continued. “There’s fewer and fewer of us that represent rural areas, but even the ones that represent rural areas are so far removed from the farm that … they don’t understand these things.”

Hudson said he’s dedicated his time in the House of Representatives to “spread the gospel,” serving on the ag committee his first term and then the Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.

The congressman said he tries to stay non-partisan when it comes to agricultural issues, “because there are some Democrats who get it and they are Republicans who don’t,” previously giving an example of conservatives against subsidized crop insurance.

But the Biden administration, Hudson said, “has gone to war against agriculture,” with new Security and Exchange Commission and EPA regulations.

Yaklin said that one of the younger farmers, who is dating his daughter, wants to raise hogs, “and it scares me to death knowing that he’s one lawsuit away from shutting him down.”

Yaklin thanked Hudson for helping defeat an earlier clean air agreement, but the congressman said the EPA was trying to bring it back.

Hudson said regulators want to “mucky” up the law so they can come after more people for violations.

“Sometimes the government just needs to get out of our way,” Yaklin said.

The Clean Water Act is another muddy regulation.

According to Hudson, the act gives the federal government jurisdiction over all waters that are “navigable” — “but it didn’t define ‘navigable’ very well.”

“There are some on the Left that want to say any low-lying area of land that fills up with water every now and again is navigable,” Hudson said. “They want to say the federal government ought to regulate it and you ought to have to get a permit to make any changes to that land. You can imagine the problems that causes for agriculture, for developers, for anybody doing anything on their land.”

Hudson said those trying to stop it will concede to rivers or streams that a boat can traverse — “but if it’s a mud puddle, that’s not what we had in mind.”

A July post at the Pacific Legal Foundation highlights three cases of overzealous regulation.

One case, set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in October, involves a family who has been involved in litigation with the EPA for 15 years after the agency stopped them from building a home on a 0.6-acre lot in a subdivision because the property featured wetlands that could be considered “navigable” waters.

Chris Yaklin discusses issues with the EPA.

Yaklin said he has a similar issue with a pond he wants to build between two valleys.

“The Corps of Engineers come over there and (said), ‘You’ve got wetlands here,’” Yaklin recalled, to which he replied, “Yeah, when it rains, it’s wet. It’s just amazing how that works.”

Yaklin said he was told he’d have to pay for $16,000 in mitigation to build the pond.

“There are reasons we have the Clean Water Act,” Hudson said. “This is well beyond the scope of that.


“No one cares more about your land than you,” the congressman continued. “No one has more incentive to preserve it for future generations than you. And some bureaucrat in Washington that can’t even pronounce ‘Ellerbe’ is going to tell us they love the land more than we do.”

“How can so many intelligent people in Washington do such stupid things?” Williamson asked. “It’s just unfathomable for the person out here in the general public. I just can’t believe what they’re doing.”

Hudson says he expects Republicans to take control of the House after November “and you will see us use our oversight ability to put a stop to that regulation.”
“Hopefully there will be Democrats willing to go along with us and we can make it bipartisan and stop it,” Hudson said.

Production costs are also a stumbling block for those wanting to enter agriculture.

Yaklin said the price tag on building a new chicken house was about $85,000 nearly 40 years ago — today it would cost more than $600,000.

The price of tractors has increased, and parts are getting harder to find, Yaklin said, adding that he’s been waiting six months for a wiring harness.

“It is very difficult for them (prospective farmers) to get a leg up,” Yaklin said. “You pretty much have to inherit a farm.”

The price of groceries is also continuing to rise — but the money isn’t going to the farmers.

“There’s a whole lotta middle people making money,” Yaklin said.

Williamson said he spoke to a fellow farmer in Michigan who was spending $3,000 a day in diesel fuel to maintain his corn crop and that it cost $36,000 just to change the tires.

Wright, a poultry farmer in Hamlet, lamented the rising costs of diesel fuel, remembering how, historically, the cost was lower than gasoline.

“Who can operate?” Williamson asked. “How can you generate a profit with costs so high?”

Williamson said the first five months of the year, most farmers are “working for the government.” After expenses are covered, farmers make a profit about two months out of the year — barring a devastating crop or livestock loss.

“It’s just hard for us to make a living,” Williamson said.

While there is help for farmers through the Farm Service Agency and the Cooperative Extension, Wright said there should be more transparency in the process.
Yaklin said the older farmers need to mentor the younger ones and educate them on the services that are available.

Wright said the government should get involved where it needs to be involved — “and where you don’t … stay out of the way.”

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.