Innovative projects that address agricultural issues and the needs of communities and North Carolina farmers affected by the changes in the tobacco industry can apply now for grant funds.

The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission (NCTTFC) in Raleigh has announced its next grant cycle and is accepting applications until Dec. 4, 2009. Grant winners will be announced by May 1, 2010.

“Grant ideas that target tobacco-dependent regions, assist current and former tobacco farmers, or have the potential to generate additional income for farming sectors will be given top priority,” said Billy Carter, NCTTFC Chairman. “The Commission currently serves hundreds of thousands of people through the various grants we fund across the state, and we feel confident that there are additional projects that could utilize our assistance.”

Previous grants include farmer’s market renovations, new crop research, agricultural marketing campaigns and assistance for unemployed workers to improve job skills. The NCTTFC also funds programs designed to decrease farm energy costs, assist value-added producers and provide research on brambles, improved pasture grazing and strawberry season extension.

Applications and guidelines can be found at www.tobaccotrustfund.org and potential applicants may contact the NCTTFC at tobaccotrustfund@ncagr.gov or by calling 919-733-2160.

The commission’s funding comes from monies paid by cigarette manufacturers as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. The Commission was established in 2000 by the North Carolina General Assembly to help members of the tobacco community — including farmers, tobacco workers and related businesses — lessen the impact of declining tobacco production. When the Commission was created, legislators recognized the strong role that agriculture, and tobacco in particular, have historically played in the state’s economy, as well as the impact the Master Settlement Agreement has had on the agricultural economy.