RALEIGH - North Carolina lost 1,000 farms during 2005, tying Florida and Tennessee for first place in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
These latest numbers continue a trend in North Carolina, which lost 3,000 farms in 2004, also tops in the nation.
"North Carolina is a leading agricultural state, but losing farms is one category where I don't want us to be No. 1," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Farm loss has become a chronic problem here. We've lost more than 6,000 farms and 300,000 acres of farmland since 2002.
"Development pressure and economic uncertainty make a deadly duo for family farms," Troxler said. "And fewer farms mean fewer jobs."
North Carolina had 48,000 farms at the beginning of 2006, down from 49,000 a year earlier, according to USDA's annual report on farm numbers and acreage.
Aside from Tennessee, North Carolina's neighboring states fared better. South Carolina gained 100 farms during 2005, Georgia saw no change and Virginia lost only 200 farms. Nationally, the number of farms declined by 8,900 during 2005, the report said.
Troxler said his top priority during the 2007 legislative session is to obtain funding for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.
The General Assembly created the trust fund in 2005 to provide money for programs that preserve working farms and protect farmland from development. Unlike some state trust funds, the ADFP Trust Fund does not have a dedicated source of funding and must rely on the legislature for appropriations. The fund received $50,000 in 2005 and nothing last year.
"Agriculture employs 17 percent of our state's workforce and contributes $68 billion to the economy," Troxler said. "As global demand for food increases, we can't afford for farmland to be taken out of production. We must put more resources into preserving our family farms."