The Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center within the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at the University of Mount Olive has been awarded $692,000.00 from the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to administer and award a three-year grant program named AgPrime.
“This is great news for the University of Mount Olive, its students, and the entire region,” said Representative John Bell. “It will further solidify and strengthen the great work being done at the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences to prepare future farmers and support agriculture in eastern North Carolina.”
According to Dr. Sandy Maddox, dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at UMO, AgPrime is a cost-share program designed to offer innovative agricultural producers or agribusinesses assistance in implementing farm diversification and expansion strategies which increase economic stability and sustainability.
“AgPrime is recognized for its ability to fund and jump start innovative agricultural projects,” Maddox said. “This effort aligns with the Agribusiness Center’s dedication to improve the economic prospects and stability of North Carolina counties impacted by the loss of tobacco income.
“We are thankful for the support of the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission which allows the University of Mount Olive, through AgPrime, to offer this opportunity to farmers and agribusinesses in our designated region.”
Maddox noted that the AgPrime cost-share program has the potential to impact a 33-county region in south central and eastern North Carolina to fund innovative projects.
Agricultural producers and agribusinesses in the following counties will be encouraged to submit applications: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Gates, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Montgomery, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Robeson, Richmond, Scotland, Tyrrell and Washington.
Applications will be accepted beginning in November of 2020. The application can be found at umo.edu/ag.
Each qualified AgPrime recipient can receive up to $10,000 cost-share dollars with a 10% match required.
Each project will be funded based on its potential to positively benefit the economic development of the respective local communities, agricultural diversification, farm profitability, and skill and resource development for current and future farmers.
The program seeks to fund projects that can be implemented in other regions of the state by agricultural producers and agribusinesses.
Since the program started in 2016, a total of 70 projects have been funded throughout the 33-county region. Examples of funded projects have included agri-tourism ventures, processing for vegetable specialty crops, roadside stands and other support for marketing produce, farm diversification, livestock management, cheese-making, improved conservation measures, cold storage and season extension projects.
“Coming from a farming community and having a small family farm of my own, I know just how beneficial programs like this can be,” said UMO President Dr. Ed Croom. “We are grateful to the NCTTFC for allowing us to be a part of this important initiative. It means a great deal to us and to the farmers of rural North Carolina.”
The N.C. General Assembly created the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission in 2000 to lessen the financial impact to farmers and tobacco-related businesses caused by the sharp decline of tobacco in the agricultural economy.
The commission’s original funding was established through tobacco industry annual payments as a result of the Master Settlement Agreement. Its current funding comes from a set appropriation of funds.
Since 2002, the N.C. TTF has awarded more than 380 grants to public and nonprofit agencies that meet the goals of strengthening the rural and tobacco-dependent economies of North Carolina.
For more information and a list of grant recipients, visit the N.C. TTFC website at www.tobaccotrustfund.org.