Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How the Loss of the NC Tobacco Trust Fund will Affect NC Agriculture

The NC Tobacco Trust Fund has been very supportive of my research and extension program.  It provided much of the financial support for our Medicinal Herbs for Commerce Project (http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/specialty_crops//medherbs/) and supported the statewide truffle project I assisted with (http://www.growingmagazine.com/print-3836.aspx).  My research assistant, Emily, and I were just waiting to hear back about a proposal that we had submitted to the NC Tobacco Trust Fund that would have helped us get the Mountain Organic Research and Education Unit in Waynesville firmly established when we got a letter from them that the legislature was probably going to pull all their funding.  The letter below from Megan Riley and the press release from RAFI explain how the loss of the Tobacco Trust Fund would affect such popular programs as WNC Ag Options.  If these programs are important to you, today is the day to act.  Read below for more info.

(This was originally printed on the ASAP listserv):

Dear farmers and local food supporters,
I hope you all had great success at this weekend's tailgate markets and Herb Festival.

I know a lot of you on this list-serve are already in shock over the proposed budget that the N.C. House Appropriations Committee released last week as it had multiple ramifications to important agricultural, non-profit and public programs.  I want to make sure everyone is aware of an unexpected hit: the complete elimination of N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, which has been instrumental in transitioning our region's tobacco-dependent agricultural economy to a diverse system reliant on local markets. This decision does not just affect farmers in 2012. It is a decision that affects all of us in the ag community forever. Since TTFC has been a loyal supporter of farm diversification grants administered through WNC AgOptions in partnership with RAFI-USA, we are helping to raise awareness on this issue. Please see the press release from RAFI and its farm group supporters below.

Also refer to http://www.wncagoptions.org/media-pr/program-benefits to see yearly impacts of small grants in Western North Carolina, and see http://www.rafiusa.org/savethencttfc.html for instructions on how to contact your legislators to comment on this issue.  If you'd like to Tweet a story how Tobacco Trust Fund impacted your life, farm or organization, please use the hashtag #NCTTFC

Time is of the essence!

PRESS RELEASE

BUDGET CUTS ENDANGER SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM, FARM GROUPS SAY
The state budget proposed by the Finance Committee in the North Carolina House of Representatives would cut off funding and eliminate the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.
That would be a mistake, according to a coalition of North Carolina nonprofits that serve family farmers.
"The Tobacco Trust Fund Commission’s funding has shown incredible return on investment in jobs and income in rural communities," said Linda Shaw, executive director at The Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, a nonprofit based in Pittsboro.
Shaw’s organization receives Commission support for its Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, which provides small grants to farmers and farmer groups piloting innovative new enterprises that work for North Carolina farms.
In the last three years, the program has resulted in $700 million in economic benefits to the state and 4,100 new jobs, according to a recent study by UNC-Greensboro researchers. The benefit comes from a relatively small investment: the $3.6 million distributed to 367 projects.
The program has created $205 new dollars circulating in the economy for every dollar spent, the study concluded.
"If it hadn't been for the RAFI grant, I would have had to just close the doors and find a job somewhere else," says 2010 participant Kay Doby, a former contract poultry farmer in Cameron, N.C.
Doby converted her empty poultry barns to serve her expanding meat goat business. "The grant saved my farm," she says.
The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission is funded by tobacco company money awarded to the state as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.
"I am a big proponent of the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission," says Steve Tate of Goat Lady Dairy in Climax, N.C.
"People are so frustrated and want say that the system is screwed up and that government does not work," Tate said. "Yes, a lot is wrong, but the tobacco settlement and the way it’s negotiated so there is money for farmers in rural communities, in my mind that is a huge success."
Shaw says farmers and rural advocates will fight the cuts. “Rural communities have been hit hard in the economic downturn, and this is one of a few state programs that specifically address rural communities.
"The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has been an effective driver of economic growth in North Carolina’s rural communities. It has created jobs, preserved farmland, enabled farmers to innovate and share their ideas, and provided nutritious food to our citizens. We are hopeful that the legislature will do the right thing."
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RAFI is a nonprofit organization that cultivates markets, policies and communities that support thriving, socially just and environmentally sound family farms. RAFI is based in Pittsboro, NC. Find us online at www.rafiusa.org or call (919) 542-1396.

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