Perspectives Online

Brown proposes new value-added foundation, center to help economic development

Everyone from former tobacco farmers moving into alternative enterprises to private bioprocessing businesses should benefit from a proposed new College-based foundation and center.

Responding to fast growth in the agricultural economy sector, the College's Dr. Blake Brown is spearheading an effort to create the N.C. Foundation for Value-Added Agriculture and Applied Biotechnology.

Although North Carolina's annual farm product cash receipts total a healthy $8 billion, adding agricultural or life science product value through manufacturing or more processing brings our state about $60 billion annually, says Brown.

The foundation would fund research and extension projects on value-added agriculture and applied biotechnology and would function much like the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation. Brown says the foundation, which would ensure research and Extension projects include a value-added component, should serve everyone from county-based economic development projects to corporate bioprocessing projects linked directly or indirectly to farm production.

"The bioprocessing sector ranges from value-added at the farm level through marketing or farm-level processing to production of pharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals or functional foods and nutraceuticals," says Brown, Hugh C. Kiger professor of policy and farm management in the College's Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. "The foundation will be vital to developing rural economies that are in transition."

Two proposed boards would prioritize foundation projects and fund disbursements.

One would focus on technologies that add value to family farm products such as sustainable agriculture, specialty crops and non-traditional commodity agriculture. The second would handle proposals for bioprocessing technologies that use renewable materials to generate value-added products.

Brown is also proposing the foundation-related N.C. Center for Value-Added Profitability to assist College campus and field faculty by adding an economic and business component to value-added projects.

The center would:
  • provide market analysis and information value-added opportunities
  • help add economic or business components to faculty led value-added projects
  • provide grant writing assistance to faculty working on value-added proposals
  • provide a public forum for value-added effort in CALS
  • provide faculty with grant-writing assistance for value-added projects
  • create and disseminate value-added opportunity information to the public, faculty and foundation boards to help prioritize funding needs
  • identify and link N.C. State and other university faculty working in the value-added area
  • help develop appropriate faculty teams to implement needed executive or extension educational programs in the value-added sector
Brown has submitted proposals to the N.C. Agricultural Advancement Consortium to develop a strategic plan for the foundation and center and the N.C, Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to develop a project to help tobacco farm families transition to or add value-added enterprises to their farms.

- Art Latham