Research grants have aided market development for sweet potatoes and grapes along with creating better links between farms and markets. From helping communities retain physicians to industrial recruitment, Golden LEAF and the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission have generated immediate positive impact.

In reality, the funds are venture capital — the only venture capital monies available in many areas of North Carolina. A balance of $1 billion to $2 billion in the Golden LEAF Foundation represents true opportunities for the future. Grants from Golden LEAF and the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission leverage local dollars and encourage private investors to build stronger communities and provide jobs for our people.

North Carolina Farm Bureau strongly supports the preservation of the tobacco settlement trust funds, both the Golden LEAF Foundation and the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

It is unfortunate that the economic condition of our state and nation has caused North Carolina to experience a drastic budget deficit. The easy answer is not always the best answer. Two wrongs never make a right. Farm Bureau urges the legislature to resist the temptation to balance the state’s budget at the expense of rural North Carolina’s future.

Seizing the accumulated funds in Golden LEAF to erase North Carolina’s budget deficit would be analogous to a farmer eating his seed corn. His seed is his hope for the future. Likewise, the Golden LEAF funds are among our state’s hopes for the future.

North Carolina is unique in that almost every other state squandered the MSA funds, while we chose to invest in the future. If changes are to be made in the operation and governance of the Golden LEAF Foundation, let’s have that discussion. Our economy will recover. Our urban economies will improve much faster than our rural counties. To decimate the Golden LEAF Foundation is shortsighted and wrong.