Agricultural Advancement Consortium
Through research and advocacy, the Agricultural Advancement Consortium has helped launch several projects that hold particular promise for enhancing the agricultural sector of North Carolina’s economy.
Family Farm Innovation Fund
Five state and federal programs are partnering to make $18.4 million in assistance available to North Carolina famers.
The programs will help farmers:
• lower energy costs or implement renewable energy projects
• develop and implement value-added production
• develop other new sources of farm income
Gov. Beverly Perdue joined the program sponsors in announcing the availability of funds August 2, 2010, in an event at the Rural Center. “This initiative builds on the legacy of innovation in North Carolina’s family farms, and it is another step forward in our JobsNOW economic recovery efforts,” Perdue said.
Over the next year, the programs are expected to provide grants for up to 1,500 farm projects and energy efficiency training for an additional 2,400 farmers. The programs are operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development, the N.C. Farm Bureau, the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA and N.C. Market Ready.
Funding is provided by state and federal appropriations and the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The Rural Center is coordinating the partnership of the programs and administering the state appropriation through the Agricultural Advancement Consortium.
Applications are available for:
- Rural Energy for America Program. Administered by the USDA Office of Rural Development, REAP grants and guaranteed loans help farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses with energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy projects.
- Value-Added Producer Grants. These USDA-Rural Development grants help farmers produce and market value-added agricultural products.
- Farm Energy Efficiency Project. The N.C. Farm Bureau project provides low-cost energy audits and grants to help farmers boost energy efficiency. The energy audits and grants may be used to fulfill requirements of USDA’s REAP program.
- Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund. A program of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, the fund offers cost share grants to help farmers develop new sources of income.
- N.C. Value-Added Cost Share Program. Administered by N.C. MarketReady and the N.C. Agricultural Foundation, the program provides assistance with grantwriting, feasibility assessment, matching funds and equipment to help farmers implement value-added production. The assistance may be used in applying for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grants.
N.C. Equine Industry Study
The N.C. General Assembly funded a statewide study of North Carolina’s horse industry to assess its economic impact and identify opportunities for growth. The results, released May 11, 2009, documented an annual contribution to the state’s economy of nearly $2 billion. In addition, nearly 20,000 jobs are tied to the industry.
The study examined all equine breeds (horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and burros), the three large horsing sectors (showing, racing and recreation) and all associated activities. Eight leading recommendations emerged:
The Agricultural Advancement Consortium administered the study with the help of university, government and private consultants. Oversight was provided by the Equine Study Executive Committee, whose seven members included ties to the horse industry, agriculture and rural development.
Challenges and Opportunities in Farming
Under the direction of the consortium’s chair, a committee representing the state’s major agricultural organizations and farm leaders developed an extensive evaluation of agriculture in
the state. The study documented the current status of agriculture in each of the state’s seven economic development regions. This information will serve as a reference tool for state officials as they examine policy alternatives and their potential impacts.
A useful companion to the Regional Perspectives report is Fertile Ground: North Carolina leaders speak out on the future of agriculture. In this report, produced by the Rural Center, 20 farm leaders reflect on agriculture’s past, present and future role in North Carolina. Both reports may be downloaded in pdf format or may be ordered in print version.
N.C. Agriculture Drought Recovery Program
The N.C. Agriculture Drought Recovery Program established cost-share grants to help farmers recover from the drought of 2007-08 and take measures to meet future water needs.
It was established in 2008 with $6 million from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and $1.5 million from the N.C. General Assembly. Over the next three years, the program helped nearly 7,000 farmers, funding projects in all 100 counties.
The grants covered up to 75 percent of each farmer's project. The program emphasized restoring drought-damaged pastures and providing water for livestock and crops.
The Rural Center and the Agricultural Advancement Consortium worked with the General Assembly's Joint Selection Committee on Agricultural Drought Response, the Tobacco Trust Fund and other state agencies and agricultural interests to design the program. The state's 96 Soil and Water Conservation district offices handled the program's day-to-day affairs. After more than three years of working with farmers, the program granted its last dollar and closed in 2011.