Legislative ask includes $15 million for farmland preservation efforts

by | Mar 21, 2023

Summary: With members of the legislature currently working on the budget for the next two years, Commissioner Troxler and the N.C. Department of Agriculture is going big on their request for funding for farmland preservation efforts.

Today’s Topic with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis

  • Two weeks ago, I spoke to the House and Senate joint ag committees, outlining needs for my department and for agriculture.
  • This is the long session for the General Assembly, when legislative members are working on the budget for state government for the next two years.
  • I used my time to talk about challenges facing the department and agriculture, especially with rapid development happening in North Carolina and the state becoming a destination for many moving here from other states.
  • I am not against development, but one point I tried to impress upon members of the ag committees is that development affects rural areas outside our growing urban cities, too, not just the cities.
  • As we work to attract more business to the state, we need to pay attention to ensure our infrastructure keeps up with the growth and can adequately accommodate existing business and new business.
  • That includes traffic, utilities, flood mitigation and other services.
  • A couple of examples I mentioned, is how the building and paving of open land in and around cities can have serious downstream effects when heavy rains come.
  • We have seen how water accelerates downstream over paved and impervious surfaces during tropical storms and hurricanes, causing flooding in areas where rivers and streams overflow with the excess water.
  • Another example I mentioned is how we reduce the capacity to sequester carbon when we convert farm and forest lands to industrial sites, subdivisions and shopping centers.
  • Agriculture and forest lands currently sequester 26 % of carbon emissions. When we as a state convert land use from agriculture or forestry, we are contributing to more carbon in the atmosphere.
  • Those two points tie into our need to continue to focus on farmland preservation.
  • I have gone in big with my request for farmland preservation this year. I am asking for $15 million in recurring funding so we can step up efforts to put more farm and forest land under conservation easements.
  • In our most recent farmland preservation funding cycle, we received 84 applications. Of those, 67 are for perpetual easements totaling $20.2 million.
  • Farmland preservation is an investment in our future and the future of North Carolina agriculture.
  • If we can afford to invest money to attract new companies, then I believe we can afford to invest money to retain our agricultural production capacity and military readiness.
  • I stressed with legislators that there is an urgency to protecting farmland now.
  • The American Farmland Trust’s report called “Farms Under Threat 2040” noted that North Carolina ranks second in the country in potential for farmland loss by 2040.
  • We have 8.3 million acres in farms now.
  • The report projected 1.1 million acres of North Carolina farmland would be converted from agricultural use. Or 13.25 percent.
  • That number was based on current development numbers, but land loss could increase to 1.6 million if development increases. That would represent over 19.2 percent.
  • I see development happening across this state and I imagine your listeners do, too.
  • Protecting farmland ensures we have the ability of feed ourselves long term.
  • I believe that is an investment worth making.