From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Protecting farmland is one of my major priorities as Agriculture Commissioner. Not too many years ago, North Carolina led the country in the loss of farms – a distinction that I was not proud of.
But we were not alone in the loss of farms and farmland to development. Other states were experiencing similar situations, which really signified a bigger crisis to me.
To me, I saw our rich, fertile farmland coming under attack, with little in the way of defenders. And the loss of farmland meant a loss also of future production opportunities since developed land rarely returns to its natural state.
One of the ways we have worked to slow the loss of farms and farmland in North Carolina is by providing grants through the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. We have been extremely fortunate to receive funding from the N.C. General Assembly for the trust fund even in tough economic times. I would love to see even more funding for ADFPTF grants because I think the needs are definitely there, but I am proud that we continue to chip away at this issue in North Carolina.
We recently awarded more than $2 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. It is estimated that these projects will have a total economic impact of $11.6 million across 40 counties, with every region of the state represented.
A total of 20 projects received funding in the latest grant cycle. Among them were three agricultural plans, seven agricultural development projects and 10 perpetual conservation easements. In addition, funding was provided to counties looking to beef up their Voluntary Agricultural District programs.
More than 900 acres of farm and forest land will be protected through the conservation easements. In total, since 2005 when the trust fund started, more than 8,500 acres of working lands have been protected across the state.
We still have a lot of work to do, but we have tremendous support from our counties and conservation groups, which is encouraging. This is important work and I am proud that there is increased attention on this situation. We need to ensure we leave the next generation of farmers with the tools they need to produce food and fiber for the world.
North Carolina is blessed with great natural resources, but we will not have them if we don't do something to protect them now. We will continue to work with the legislature to try to secure funding for this important program.