Wednesday, February 9, 2011

House to Gut Crucial Rural Economic Development Funds

February 9, 2011

Contact: Fawn Pattison, Toxic Free North Carolina | (919) 833-5333

House to Gut Crucial Rural Economic Development Funds

“Balanced Budget” bill will limit jobs growth in rural North Carolina

Raleigh, NC - Today the NC House is expected to pass SB 13, the “Balanced Budget Act of 2011.” The bill takes money from the current year’s balanced budget in order to offset the looming budget hole faced by the NC Legislature for 2011-12, authorizing the Governor to make $400M in cuts. Ironically, the bill will drain another $87M away from a handful of the state’s trust funds aimed at economic development.

“Our message to the General Assembly is this: don’t cut funds that are creating jobs and strengthening our state’s economy” says Roland McReynolds, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association executive director.

What is at stake in rural North Carolina: the continued investment in projects that foster innovation and create jobs while building local food systems. Some examples of the types of successful projects that would not exist without this funding are:
  • Piedmont Food and Agricultural Processing Center
  • Carolina Ground Bread Flour Project
  • Blue Ridge Food Ventures
  • Eastern Carolina Organics
  • Foothills Farmer Fresh Market
Eastern Carolina Organics is a private, manager- and grower-owned distributor in Chatham County that connects North Carolina's organic farmers with the restaurants and grocers who want to buy from them. It all got started with a $48,000 grant from the Tobacco Trust Fund in 2004.

"Without the Tobacco Trust Fund, none of this would exist," says Sandi Kronick, ECO's CEO. In 2010, ECO sold over $2 million in products to local customers and buyers throughout the East Coast and in Canada, sending $1.6 million back to NC organic family farms in just one year.

For instance, in 2010 alone, RAFI-USA’s Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund received 403 applications requesting over $4.5 million. Of those, RAFI-USA was able to fund 120 new projects with $1.2 million in grants from the Tobacco Trust Fund. That investment along with the cost share from participating farmers totaled $5.9 million in new investment, created $5.25 million in new annual income for farmers and created and retained 1091 jobs as a result. 12,600 other farmers benefited from the funded projects, and approximately 330 unfunded farmers replicated a funded project.

The proposal would drain the unused balance of key trust funds used for job development in rural North Carolina: The Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and the Tobacco Trust Fund. It would also divert $67 million in tobacco settlement funds from the Golden LEAF Foundation to be used by legislators in the state’s General Fund.

The Golden Leaf Foundation, the Tobacco Trust Fund, and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund have been actively investing in local food to help farmers and rural communities maintain and regain vitality. Between 2000 and 2009, these trust funds have invested $36.6 million into local, regional, and statewide value-added agriculture enterprises and programs. These awards have also been leveraged to attract federal and private funding to support these and other projects.
  • The Golden Leaf Foundation has awarded $21 million in grants for 157 agriculture and food enterprise development programs since 2000.1
  • The Tobacco Trust Fund has awarded $12.9 million to value-added ag enterprises since 2002.2
  • The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has made $2.7 million in grants through the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.3
For more specifics about the projects listed above, contact:
Jennifer Lapidus, Carolina Ground Bread Flour Project,
Mary Lou Surgi, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, (828) 348-0128

Roland McReynolds, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, (919) 542-2402
Noah Ranells, Piedmont Food and Ag Processing Center, (919) 245-2330
Sandi Kronick, Eastern Carolina Organics, (919) 542-3264
Mike Faucette, Faucette Farms, Browns Summit, (336) 669-5262
Herbie Cottle, Cottles Organics, Rose Hill, (910) 289-5034
Stefan Hartmann, Black River Organic Farm, Ivanhoe, (910) 540-8600
Stanley Hughes, Pine Knot Farm, Hurdle Mills, (919) 880-5979
Joe Schroeder, Program Director, Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund RAFI-USA, (919) 542-1396

Timothy Will, Foothills Connect, (828) 447-2660


Sustainable Food NC is a coalition of organizations committed to advocating for state-level policies that foster sustainable and organic food production, enhance local economic development, support community health and increase access to local food throughout North Carolina. For more information, contact Shivaugn Rayl, Coalition Coordinator, at 919.576.9173.

1 The Golden LEAF Foundation,
2 North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission,
3 NC Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund,

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