USDA Secretary Perdue tours Scott Farms

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LUCAMA — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Scott Farms last week to tour the Wilson County sweet potato processing plant and discuss the future of American farming.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler accompanied Perdue on the Oct. 5 tour led by Scott Farms International owners Sonny and Alice Scott.

“The secretary seemed to be very interested in what we were doing and how we were growing in all areas of the farm,” Sonny Scott said in a news release. “Secretary Perdue, Commissioner Troxler and the lieutenant governor toured the fields and packing facility with us, and it gave us an opportunity to talk about what the needs of the future would be. Not only for us, but the entire industry. New technologies help some, but our sweet potatoes are hand-harvested. We can innovate in other areas of the farm to streamline the process, but in harvesting, the old way is the best way.”

Perdue is a former Georgia state legislator who served as governor of the Peachtree State from 2003-11. The U.S. Senate approved his nomination as secretary of agriculture on April 24.

The Cabinet post includes administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has more than 100,000 employees and a $140 billion annual budget.

Scott Farms is a sixth-generation family farm that harvests more than 2,500 acres of sweet potatoes and more than 6,000 acres of tobacco and other crops annually. The company built a 60,000 square-foot packing and grading facility for sweet potatoes in 2015 and later opened an 80,000 square-foot climate-controlled curing and storage facility.

Officials discussed “the importance of technology and a stable on-farm workforce” with Scott Farms leaders, according to the company.

“Technology is a necessity in today’s marketplace,” said Dewey Scott, vice president for sweet potato operations. “We have tried to stay on the front side of technology in our operation. As we continue to grow, our need for qualified individuals to operate that technology only increases.”

Technology in use includes on-farm micropropagation units, and Scott Farms works with universities for research on growing practices and new varieties, the news release states.

“We work very closely with N.C. State University to better the industry,” Dewey Scott said. “Currently, we grow several varieties like the Covington, Bonita and Murasaki to name a few. It allows us to be a primary supplier for our customers and offer them what they need for their customers.”

In addition to its homestead farm in Wilson County, Scott Farms also operates an international office in the British town of Evesham, Worcestershire.