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Strategic Planning Initiative to Strengthen North Carolina’s Position as a Leader for Agriculture and Agribusiness

Today, the Golden LEAF Foundation and the NC Chamber Foundation, with support from NC Farm Bureau and Google, formally announce NC Ag Leads, a pivotal strategic planning initiative for the North Carolina agriculture industry that will position the state’s number one economic driver for continued success. The initiative will be overseen by a steering committee that includes Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler in addition to representatives of Golden LEAF, the NC Farm Bureau, and the NC Chamber.

Golden LEAF has identified the NC Chamber Foundation to lead a strategic visioning and planning process that will bring together agriculture stakeholders to address industry-wide, cross-cutting topics that impact commodities grown in our state, and to chart a course that strengthens North Carolina’s position as a leader for agriculture and agribusiness in the United States.

“I never cease to be amazed by the state’s agriculture and agribusiness industry and its collective contributions to the state and the world. I believe it has an even brighter future ahead as we work together to increase production to meet the global demand for food,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “NC Ag Leads is about coming together, discussing and establishing priorities, identifying things we can control, and building on our deep agricultural foundation to move the industry forward.”

NC Ag Leads will conduct a research and planning exercise that brings together North Carolina’s agriculture leaders, investors, and influencers to identify policy recommendations and strategies for fostering agricultural innovation, job creation, and economic growth in rural North Carolina.

“Golden LEAF is proud to be the lead funder in this initiative that will broaden our impact in rural and economically distressed areas,” said Golden LEAF President Scott T. Hamilton. “NC Ag Leads will deliver a roadmap of clear and actionable steps to best prepare North Carolina to continue to be a leader in agriculture into the future.”

Ray Starling, NC Chamber General Counsel and President of the NC Chamber Legal Institute, and Laura Kilian, Associate State Legislative Director at NC Farm Bureau, will lead the NC Ag Leads strategic planning process, directed by Steering Committee members N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, NC Farm Bureau President Shawn Harding, NC Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido, and Golden LEAF board members Lawrence Davenport, Laurence Lilley, and Don Flow, and Golden LEAF President and CEO Scott T. Hamilton.

Phase one of the initiative, focused primarily on researching and discerning opportunities, barriers, and alignment within the state’s agriculture industry, is currently underway and will culminate at the end of June 2024. Pending Steering Committee review and approval, phase two of the project will consist of solving and executing on the initiatives identified in phase one. Phase two will begin in July 2024 and conclude in January 2025.

“With its $103 billion annual contribution to our state’s economy, agribusiness and agriculture drive a major share of North Carolina’s economic success and status as a top state to do business,” said Salamido. “NC Ag Leads will ensure that North Carolina’s number one industry is positioned for continued competitiveness.”

Through the NC Ag Leads initiative, stakeholders will identify, educate, and plan for the impacts of external factors on the future state of the industry to position North Carolina’s capital markets, educational systems, farmer community, and the processing and marketing end of the agricultural value chain to take advantage of the opportunities for North Carolina agriculture in the next era.

“North Carolina Farm Bureau’s mission aligns perfectly with the goals of NC Ag Leads, and I have every confidence this initiative will deliver tools and strategies necessary to strengthen and support North Carolina agriculture, agribusiness and rural communities for the years ahead,” said NC Farm Bureau President Shawn Harding. “We are proud to be part of this team.”

At the conclusion of the NC Ag Leads strategic planning process, the North Carolina agriculture community will have agreed to a set of priorities that are both aspirational and attainable, and if given effect, would significantly strengthen the productivity, economic vitality, and community spirit of the industry, charting a prosperous future for North Carolina Agriculture.


About Golden LEAF:
The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to receive a portion of North Carolina’s funding from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers. For more than 20 years, Golden LEAF has worked to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

The Foundation has provided lasting impact to tobacco-dependent, economically distressed, and rural areas of the state by helping create 67,000 jobs, more than $720 million in new payrolls, and more than 95,000 workers trained or retrained for higher wages. For more information about Golden LEAF and our programs, visit

About the NC Chamber Foundation:
The NC Chamber Foundation works to create a strong, sustainable future for businesses and communities across North Carolina. Through nonpartisan research and collaboration, the Foundation serves as a convener, working to disseminate information related to complex issues, track progress, and focus on a future-driven vision to expand economic growth in the state of North Carolina. The Foundation is a nonpartisan affiliate of the NC Chamber. For more information, visit