Local News

Some N.C. Farmers Still Support Ag Commissioner

Posted August 8, 2002

— Several major newspapers have called on state Ag Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps to resign after several controversial events in her campaign. However, some farmers in the state are not calling for her resignation even if they feel her leadership has been compromised by scandal.

"I think she's doing a tremendous job under the pressure and duress she's under," Wilson County tobacco farmer Pender Sharp said.

Sharp supported Phipps during the campaign and despite her troubles, he said he stands by the commissioner now.

"It could be she stepped on some toes in the good old boy network," he said.

Sharp believes Phipps rightly took the heat for illegal campaign contributions, but he said hardball politics have triggered lingering questions into controversial state fair contracts.

In addition, Sharp credits Phipps with working through the criticism to address such agriculture issues as foot-and-mouth disease prevention, specialty crop marketing and the tobacco buyout.

"We're more concerned with harvesting a tobacco crop," Sharp said. "We are concerned with diseases and insect problems that we have and weather problems and what the crop is going to bring and we could really care less about who's going to run the ferris wheel at the state fair.

Some prominent politicians are steering clear of Phipps' problems. Gov. Mike Easley says the state and federal investigations should be allowed to take its course. Former Ag Commissioner Jim Graham said he is disappointed, but he wants to stay out of the issue for now.

Officials said if Phipps refuses to step down, she could be impeached. However, that process would have to be carried out by the state Legislature. However, GOP House officials said they have not even considered that option.

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