Budget decision affects future of WNC AgOptions

Note from WNC Agricultural Options: The N.C. House Appropriations Committee released Tues., April 26 a draft of the state budget, which is circulating among legislators for review and discussion. Wording in the proposed budget suggests the elimination of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions’ sole funder since 2003.

The impact of the Commission in Western North Carolina alone is impressive. It is instrumental in helping the agricultural system transition from a tobacco-dependent economy. Click here to view the benefits of WNC AgOptions, which is just one program that the Commission funds.

The following column articulates the effect of the statewide program, Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, which works in partnership with WNC AgOptions. See http://www.rafiusa.org/savethencttfc.html for instructions on how to contact your legislators to comment on this issue.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Excerpt from column by Linda ShawThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Executive Director of RAFI-USA.

N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has very wisely invested the Master Settlement monies back into rural communities to help this state’s farmers survive the major transitions in agriculture created by the demise of tobacco as a cash crop for family farmers. This transition is still going on and is complicated further by the economic crisis that has impacted farmers and rural North Carolina most severely.

RAFI-USA utilizes Commission monies to help family farmers stay in business and create jobs in rural communities throughout the state. Thanks to the support of the Commission, we have been able to provide small cost-share awards to individual farmers and to farmer-supported community projects to support innovative and practical ideas for maintaining agriculture as an economic engine in rural areas. 

As a result of this investment, in the last two years, RAFI has distributed just over $3 million to 302 farmers and cooperative efforts across the state. We have had to deny almost twice as many applicants. That modest investment has:ttfchops2010

  • leveraged over $12 million in additional investment
  • created or retained over 2,900 jobs, and 
  • yielded almost $14 million in new income for these farm families
  • supported over 14,400 farmland acres in production.
  • Spurred replications by nearly 900 other farmers
  • Benefitted thousands of others through sharing of ideas and lessons learned

That’s a heckuva return on an investment anywhere, and doubly so in rural farming communities that are bypassed by almost all other “economic development” programs.

Because of the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, we are able to provide direct assistance to North Carolina’s rural areas and its small businesspersons – the farmers and related agricultural enterprises – that are the backbone of this state’s rural economy. It is an investment that returns many times over its initial expense.

The Commission was established with monies from the tobacco companies (not with taxpayer money!) to help farmers and rural communities rebound from the economic loss of tobacco as a major cash crop. RAFI and the Commission have demonstrated, through the ideas and hard work of hundreds of farmers, that transition is possible, but there is still much to do.

It is unconscionable to divert this funding from its intended beneficiaries. Combined with the equally egregious grab of the Master Settlement monies from Golden LEAF, the General Assembly is sidestepping the tremendous needs of the farmers and the agriculture-dependent communities of rural North Carolina.

If your grant truly has made a difference in your life, your family, or your community, let your legislators and your friends know about it. Now is the time for farmers and rural communities to stand up for the program that has stood with them. See http://www.rafiusa.org/savethencttfc.html for more information.