Working Lands Trust, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of North Carolina’s vital farms and working forests, is thrilled to announce the successful closing of the McCotter Promised Land Opportunity Zone (PLOZ) Farm Easement in Pamlico County, North Carolina. This significant milestone marks the second-largest agricultural conservation easement to close in the state and is a testament to the tireless efforts of our organization and our valued partners.

The McCotter PLOZ Farm Easement, encompassing a sprawling 1,200 acres of agricultural land and working forests, has been safeguarded thanks to the generous support and funding from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) and the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. This collaborative effort ensures the protection of essential farmlands, which play a critical role in feeding our nation and maintaining the rural integrity of vital military training areas.

Mikey Fulk, Executive Director of Working Lands Trust, expressed her enthusiasm, stating, “The closing of the McCotter PLOZ Farm Easement is a momentous occasion for Working Lands Trust and demonstrates the power of collaboration and dedication. This achievement reinforces our commitment to protecting the farmlands and rural communities that are the backbone of our state’s agriculture and defense industries.”

The closing of the McCotter PLOZ Farm Easement comes at a crucial time. According to American Farmland Trust, North Carolina faces the potential loss of approximately 20% of its 8 million acres of farmland to development by 2040. Currently, NC ranks second in the nation for agricultural land loss, trailing only behind Texas. The protection of these vital farmlands is not only a victory for Working Lands Trust but for the entire community as well.

“Once land like this is converted from agricultural use, it is lost to food and fiber production, so we’re very proud this project will preserve the land’s use as a farm for generations to come,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “To complete a transaction this large takes great teamwork and we appreciate our partners in the Working Land Trust, the U.S. Navy, and

Promised Land Opportunity Zone Funds. North Carolina is at high risk of losing farmland in the decades to come, but easements like this help ensure the future of our state’s top industry.”

According to the report published May 2023 entitled “Agriculture and Agribusiness, North Carolina’s Number One Industry” by Mike Walden, Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus, NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina agriculture and agribusiness reached a milestone of $103.2 billion in economic impact. In addition, the state’s food, natural fiber, and forestry industries employ almost one in five North Carolina workers.

The placement of a conservation easement on a portion of our 4,500 acres at McCotter PLOZ Farm is a landmark transaction for Promised Land and the Pamlico County community,” commented John Heneghan, Manager of Promised Land Opportunity Zone Funds. “McCotter is highly productive farmland with attractive return potential from its rental income and appreciation attributes. We were delighted to work with Working Lands Trust and its capital partners to place a conservation value on the farm for its many ecological and environmental benefits.”

Colonel Brendan Burks added, “The successful closing of the McCotter Easement not only protects our military training capabilities but it also reinforces our commitment to maintaining the rural character of working farmlands that are compatible with military training and testing areas. We are proud to contribute to the preservation of North Carolina’s working lands through REPI and other partnering programs.”