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State Ag Commissioner Pledges To Help Family-Owned Farms

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The state agriculture commissioner wants state lawmakers to help save the family farm. In 1997, there were more than 59,000 farms covering 9.4 million acres. Today, 52,000 farms sit on 400,000 fewer acres.

Like many North Carolina farms, tobacco once filled Franklin County fields, but not anymore.

"We've been at it for 25 years trying to make a transition to a new way of living," farmer John Vollmer said.

For John and Russ Vollmer, who are fifth- and sixth-generation farmers, that transition means assorted strawberries in the spring and pumpkins in the fall. The Vollmers' diversification includes an on-site farmer's market and group tours.

"It is a value that these farms are here and can produce crops and can educate kids on how important agriculture is," said Russ Vollmer.

Some communities want to classify the agritourism aspect as a separate business that would be taxed higher than the crop land. Instead, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler argues all farm-related business deserves the same tax breaks.

"I'm really concerned about where the next generation of farmers is going to come from," Troxler said.

Troxler also hopes to replenish the farmland preservation trust fund to keep farmers from selling out to subdivisions.

"This is a way for North Carolina to protect its heritage," he said.

Troxler presented his farm-friendly recommendations to lawmakers last week.


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