Trip to China promotes N.C. farm products

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is in China this week on a trade mission with representatives for the state’s cotton, peanut, soybean and tobacco farmers.

China has grown in importance to North Carolina’s farmers. Last year, more than $542 million worth of N.C. agricultural products were bought in China, up from $271 million in 2008. The country is expected to soon become North Carolina’s largest market for U.S. agricultural exports.

In addition to meeting with buyers, Troxler will open a North Carolina trade office in Beijing, which will serve N.C. companies that already do business in China and develop new leads for agricultural commodities. It will be the state’s second trade office in China; the first is in Shanghai. The state also has trade offices in Hong Kong, Japan, Europe, Mexico, Brazil and Canada.

Troxler made a trade mission to China two years ago. After that trip, China Tobacco, the country’s main tobacco buying group, contracted to purchase more than 50 million pounds of North Carolina tobacco.

Troxler is scheduled to be in China through Thursday. The department’s international marketing staff will continue a second leg of the trip through March 16, with stops in Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

According to a news release issued by the department, a grant from the Tobacco Trust Fund will cover some of the transportation and other expenses of the trade mission.

The business of charity

Advocates of socially responsible capitalism are hoping North Carolina becomes one of the few states in the nation that gives businesses legal permission to fulfill moral obligations – to the poor or to the environment – at the expense of their shareholders.

Legislation recently introduced in the General Assembly could get its first vote as early as Tuesday in a Senate judiciary committee. The bill would allow a business to turn idealistic mission statements into legally enforceable documents by diverting company profits to humanitarian goals.

The bill has been in the works for more than a year by the B Lab, a Pennsylvania group that promotes socially responsible entrepreneurship. Nationwide, 381 companies have incorporated themselves as B corporations, with 13 in this state.

The B stands for “benefit” and requires member companies to commit to serving a public interest and submit to audits measuring governance, accountability, community service, environmental stewardship and other public benefits. The concept runs counter to the well-established principle that the sole purpose of a corporation is to generate wealth for shareholders.

North Carolina’s bill (S 26) was introduced by two Democrats and two Republicans. The Democrats are Don Vaughan of Guilford County and Eleanor Kinnaird ofOrange and Person counties. The two Republicans are Richard Stevens of Wake County and Peter Brunstetter of Forsyth County.

The absence of legal cover hasn’t stopped businesses from incorporating as B corporations, although their mission statements don’t carry any legal weight. One local example is the Redwoods Group, a Morrisville company that insures Jewish Community Centers and YMCAs.

Redwoods pays its employees to perform 40 hours a year of volunteer community service for charities or nonprofits. The company caps its CEO’s salary at 10 times the wage of its lowest-paid worker.

And Redwoods has taken a loss two years in a row rather than lay off employees. Its CEO, Kevin Trapani, is an outspoken critic of business practices he considers predatory and Darwinist.

A little feedback

Also among the items the legislature is poised to take up this week is voter ID. On his Facebook page last week, House Speaker Thom Tillis wrote: “Some folks say it is unfair and we don’t need it. I think we do. What do you think?” Of the six replies he had received by Sunday, three said yes and three others offered variations on no (unconstitutional poll tax, unnecessary, not where legislators’ priorities should be).

Dome found this posted on the General Assembly’s website Sunday: an online sign-up form to offer your comments on education to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Education from 4 to 6 tonight in Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building. The notice makes clear that there are a limited number of speaker slots for the public comment period and that speakers get three minutes only. Public education gets the biggest time slot, an hour from 4 to 5 p.m. The community college system and the university system get a half-hour each. To keep tabs on the legislative calendar, go to

Compiled by staff writers John Murawski and Mary Cornatzer


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