North Carolina’s tech industry gets a lot of visibility, and understandably so. According to NC TECH’s 2023 report, the industry “supports $72 billion in wages across the N.C. economy” and employs 291,000 people. 

But the agriculture sector far surpasses tech in North Carolina. Just last month, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced the industry reached $103.2 billion in economic impact this year — the highest level ever recorded.  

Fully one in five North Carolina jobs — nearly one million total — stem from agriculture. And while more than half of tech jobs are in just three counties (Mecklenburg, Wake, and Durham), ag jobs are disbursed from the mountains to the coast. 

Indeed, in many parts of the state, agriculture is just about the only sector contributing to the economy. 

With this context, it’s not hard to see why rural North Carolinians register massive favorability numbers for the farmers in their area. 

First, some numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolina ranks as a top-three state in the country for producing: 

  • Tobacco (53% of all national yield) 
  • Sweet potatoes (64%) 
  • Poultry & eggs (16%) 
  • Turkeys (14%) 
  • Trout sold (8%) 
  • Cucumbers (11%) 
  • Hogs & pigs (11%) 

We’re home to 45,000 farms, and 83% of them are small, with less than $100,000 sales class estimate. 

Livestock, dairy, and poultry comprise 70% of the state’s $13.3 billion in annual farm cash receipts — good for sixth in the country. Broilers alone account for one third of all North Carolina farm cash receipts. 

And the industry — especially poultry — is growing, not shrinking. USDA has been tracking poultry production since the 1920s. For chickens, eggs, and commercial broilers, the highest state yields in North Carolina history all came within the past four years. 

We shared with you last time some numbers from our recent poll of residents in the state’s top poultry-producing counties. Here’s some more data that shows how supportive poultry neighbors are of the industry that helps propel their county. They support poultry farming in their communities.  

By a large +31 margin, rural North Carolinians believe the poultry industry is a net positive for the state:  

And they’re wary of overregulation harming the industry that supports their community. Rural residents, by a 42-point margin, disagree that more environmental regulations are needed. They also believe that environmental regulations have a negative impact on the state. 

The people closest to poultry farms weighed the tradeoffs between economic growth and more stringent environmental regulations, and they overwhelmingly choose economic growth.  

Thinking back to the sweeping economic impact of the agricultural industry — and poultry in particular — it’s easy to see why residents feel this way. Farming touches every corner of North Carolina. It’s been a way of life since before the founding of the country. 

Detached elitists, urban newspapers, and politicians might like to talk about North Carolina as an emerging tech hub. But outside those few areas — in the other 97 counties that comprise North Carolina — agriculture is king. 

And those who live there, those who know it best, are proud of it.