CLAYTON — Congressman Mike McIntyre made two stops in Clayton this week, first to speak to business owners and then to help dedicate a water line.
At a Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Tuesday, McIntyre urged business leaders to serve as examples in the community. He also encouraged them to take advantage of the office hours his staff keeps at The Clayton Center. The congressman said he wants Clayton residents to call on his staff when they have issues with the federal government. The congressman’s staff also keeps office hours in Smithfield and Benson.
On an issue important to Johnston County, McIntyre said Congress needed to pass a farm bill. “I want to get the farm bill done,” he said. “It’s about rural economic development.”
In early July, in a party-line vote, the U.S. House passed a bill that separated aid to farmers from food stamps. A month earlier, the Senate passed a farm bill that included food stamps. The House and Senate must now reconcile their differences.
The farm bill is too important to languish in Washington, said McIntyre, who voted against the House bill. “Agribusiness is the most important industry in North Carolina and accounts for one in every five jobs in the state,” he said.
In an email later in the week, the congressman said he voted against the latest House farm bill because so many farmers’ groups opposed it. “With 500 national farm organizations ... opposing this particular version of the farm bill, farmers’ priorities are clearly not front and center,” he said.
“I will not rest until we have done everything we can to pass a bipartisan, five-year comprehensive farm bill that works for N.C. agriculture,” McIntyre added. “And that will be my goal in conference as we reconcile the differences between the Senate and House versions, so that ultimately we have the strongest, most beneficial farm bill possible.”
Town Manager Steve Biggs said town leaders have been in talks with McIntyre’s office about the farm bill and its effects on Clayton.
The current farm bill defines a rural community as one with 10,000 or fewer people. Clayton now has more than that, so unless the next farm bill raises the population threshold, Clayton would lose access to U.S. Rural Development loans.
“We have asked that number to be increased to 20,000 in the farm bill,” Biggs said. The latest U.S. Census estimate puts Clayton’s population at 17,000.
Clayton has relied on Rural Development loans to renovate The Clayton Center and build a water tank on NC. 42. It has also landed a loan to run a sewer line from Clayton to Raleigh.
New water line
McIntyre’s second stop was at the Johnston County Workforce Development Center for the dedication of a water line that will serve Grifols, Novo Nordisk and Hospira.
“The purpose is mainly for fire protection for those companies,” Biggs said.
The water line was part of a combined water project that included the water tower on N.C. 42. The town paid for the water tower and the county paid for the water line.