Perspectives Online

N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission grant to expand AgriSafe and Certified Safe Farm programs

Pictured at the Oct. 12 check presentation at the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Center are (from left) Dr. Jon Ort, N.C. Cooperative Extension Service director; Dr. Greg Cope, associate professor of toxicology and Agromedicine campus coordinator at N.C. State University; Dr. Johnny Wynne, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, NCSU; Dr. Lloyd Novick, chair, Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, and N.C. Agromedicine Institute board member; Rick Smith, CALS alumnus and N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission board member; Billy Carter, TTFC president; Dr. Ed Jones, Cooperative Extension; Dr. Ron Newton, assistant vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, ECU, and N.C. Agromedicine Institute board member; and Robin Tutor, interim director, N.C. Agromedicine Institute, ECU.Marc Hall Photo

The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant to expand the AgriSafe Network of North Carolina program and to establish a new component, the Certified Safe Farm program, for North Carolina agriculture. The check presentation took place Oct. 12 at the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Center.

Based on a successful program developed in Iowa, the AgriSafe Network of North Carolina and Certified Safe Farm of North Carolina programs combine health and safety components proven to result in lower health claims costs and safer, healthier farmers. Agricultural health and safety experts from Iowa are assisting in the development of the program in North Carolina.

Project leaders are Dr. Greg Cope, campus coordinator for agromedicine at N. C. State University and associate professor and Extension leader in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Robin Tutor, interim director of the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, a partnership of East Carolina University, NCSU and N. C. A&T State University; and Dr. Ed Jones, associate director and state program leader with N.C. Cooperative Extension.

"We believe this grant will have a major impact on farmers and their families," said William Upchurch, executive director of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. "The commission is proud to be a partner on this project, and we're excited to see how smarter and healthier lifestyles, in addition to safer farms, will benefit our farmers in many ways."

A long-term goal is to develop health and liability insurance discounts for farmers who successfully participate in the AgriSafe and Certified Safe Farm programs. In addition, project staff will work with advisors to explore other incentives, such as a cost-sharing fund to help offset the costs of making high-priority safety improvements on farms.

The program initially will be offered in Johnston, Duplin and Sampson counties, with the goal to expand into the piedmont and western regions of the state.

“One of the best features of this program is that services are offered at locations and times convenient to very busy and hard-working farmers, family members and employees,” Tutor said. “Health insurance is not required, and most services are provided at little or no cost.”

Cooperative Extension agents will receive special training in conducting on-farm safety reviews, as part of the new Certified Safe Farm of North Carolina program. During these one-on-one reviews, farmers will receive tailored recommendations for safety improvements on their farms.

“This is the kind of program that we have envisioned all along for agromedicine in North Carolina,” said Cope. “We are excited to see it take shape at the community level.”

A major activity of the project will be a course, “Agricultural Medicine: Occupational and Environmental Health for Rural Health Professionals,” held Nov. 30 - Dec. 4 in Greenville, N.C.

Taught by experts from the University of Iowa, along with faculty and partners of the N.C. Agromedicine Institute, the course will address diagnosis, treatment and prevention of agricultural health conditions. It will be required for nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians and physician assistants interested in becoming AgriSafe providers. Continuing education credit will be offered. (For more information on the course, contact Dr. Jeffery Alejandro, Division of Continuing Studies, East Carolina University, at 1-800-767-9111 or

“Right now, there is little if any agricultural occupational safety and health preparation for nurses, doctors and allied health professionals in North Carolina,” Tutor said. “We are excited to collaborate with Dr. Kelley Donham of the University of Iowa, a recognized expert in agricultural medicine, and Natalie Roy, executive director of the AgriSafe Network.”

The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission awarded the grant to the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, with a subcontract to East Carolina University. Project partners are the Tri-County Community Health Council and the N.C. Cooperative Extension centers of Johnston, Duplin and Sampson Counties. -- Suzanne Stanard