With only two months between the announcement of North Carolina’s first major cycle for farmland preservation funding and the due date for applications, 53 local government entities and non-profit conservation organizations generated proposals to the NC Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF).
The Trust Fund, established by the General Assembly in 1985, received a total of $2.4 million in its first 21 years of existence. With the expansion of the fund’s purposes and the establishment of an Advisory Committee in 2005, a large groundswell of support began to develop in support of the need for significant funding for farmland protection in North Carolina. A broad-based outreach to the Legislature in 2007 resulted in an allocation of $8 million to the fund. North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) staff and the advisory committee moved quickly to establish guidelines and procedures for the fund, and eligible units of government and conservation non-profit organizations moved quickly to pull together their proposals.
The expansion of the fund authorized funding for the purchase of permanent conservation easements, conservation agreements (term easements), and public or private enterprise programs that would promote profitable and sustainable working landscapes. Ninety-three applications were submitted to the NCDA&CS, for a total request level of over $29 million—almost four times the available amount of funding.
These requests ranged from support for local farmland preservation plans to a regional multi-institutional effort to strengthen planning activities, build infrastructure, and protect land near North Carolina’s military bases. Land trusts and Soil and Water Conservation Districts submitted proposals for funding to protect individual farms. Non-profit organizations are seeking help to identify new farmers and assist in the transition of farms to the next generation, and local governments have applied for seed funding for the development of a value-added processing facility.
Alamance County is an example of the level of interest in the fund and the types of partnerships that it can foster. The Alamance County Commissioners made their first ever allocation of $50,000 to create a local Purchase of Development Rights program. Two public information meetings drew over 200 attendees, resulting in 27 applications to the county. The Alamance County Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) program ranked the applications according to an established scoring system, submitting three to the ADFPTF for funding. The VAD program also hopes to submit applications to the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program for additional matching funds to leverage their local investment.
NCDA&CS staff will conduct initial reviews of applications through February, perform site visits in March and April, and review recommendations with the Advisory Committee in June to be submitted to Commissioner Steve Troxler for final funding decisions. Grant recipients will be announced in June, with initial checks to be mailed out to recipients in early September.
For more information, contact Bob Wagner of American Farmland Trust or Maximilian Merrill of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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Senior Director, Farmland Protection Programs