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Tobacco settlement money to help farmers

The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee was recently awarded a portion of a $200,000 grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee works with landowners in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties to protect important tracts of farm and forest land.

As farming become less lucrative, it becomes harder for farmers to keep farming and more tempting to sell their land for development. The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, charged with allocating money for programs to help farmers transition to new crops other than tobacco, awarded a group of 10 land trusts across the state $200,000 in recognition of their important work to save farmland — and therefore farmers.

LTLT will use the funds to expand outreach to farmers and landowners participating in the tobacco buyout program. This grant will build on the land trusts’ ongoing work statewide to contact tobacco farmers and buyout participants to make them more aware of conservation agreements, which can be used as a tool to protect their farms.

Through conservation, farmers can maintain ownership of their farms, produce food locally, and protect air and water quality, wildlife, and rural North Carolina’s way of life. North Carolina is losing farmland at the fourth fastest rate in the nation.

“We are excited about this opportunity to reach out to more tobacco farmers about conservation options that can help them protect their land and maintain and expand their farming operations,” said Paul Carlson, LTLT executive director. “By working with local tobacco farmers, we will be able to continue to preserve our area’s natural resources as a legacy for future generations. We greatly appreciate the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission for providing this grant.”

This grant will help tobacco farmers maintain the land base necessary for viable agricultural operations. Conservation agreements allow tobacco farmers to obtain tax savings and/or cash payments in exchange for agreeing not to develop the land. Farmers can use the tax incentives or payments to pay off debt, invest in alternative and environmentally sound production methods, transition into new crops, or provide for retirement funding - all while protecting their farms for future generations.

The ten land trusts included in the grant award are the Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, Land Trust for Central North Carolina, NC Coastal Land Trust, Piedmont Land Conservancy, Sandhills Area Land Trust, Tar River Land Conservancy, Triangle Greenways Council and Triangle Land Conservancy.

The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee is one of 23 North Carolina land trusts. North Carolina’s land trusts preserve land and water resources to safeguard your way of life. We work in local communities to ensure that critical lands are protected for working farms and forests, recreation, and tourism.

Contact LTLT at 828.524.2711 for more information.

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