The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and First Union National Bank of Charlotte are teaming up to offer a cobranded Visa credit card that will help it promote the state's agricultural products.

The card, called "Goodness Grows in North Carolina," is the first such cobranded venture with a state agriculture agency. It will initially be marketed to farmers and other agricultural-related businesses, and future prospects will include business travelers and other residents who want to support commerce in the state.

North Carolina is the No. 1 U.S. producer of turkeys, sweet potatoes, and tobacco, and is No. 2 in pork. Its card program will promote those products and 24 other commodities important to its economy.

The Department of Agriculture has targeted 500,000 potential cardholders. The first batch of letters will be sent out in July, and the program is expected to bring in 10,000 cardholders over a two-year period.

North Carolina Agricultural Promotions Inc., an organization of agricultural leaders, will be responsible for the marketing.

The agriculture department will receive 0.5% of purchase amounts on the Visa card, and the proceeds will help defray advertising, trade show, and in-store promotion costs.

The card "serves as an excellent tool to promote North Carolina food products, but also generates additional marketing funds for North Carolina commodities and increases consumer awareness about the state's agriculture," said James A. Graham, commissioner of agriculture.

Discounts Offered

Benefits to cardholders include discounts from a group of North Carolina companies such as hotels, rental cars, restaurants, and farm-supply dealers. The discounts, which are good only within the state, will range from buy-one-get-one-free offers to 10% off the price of an oil change.

Cardholders also will be eligible for discounts on business trips and family vacations in North Carolina, and they will receive a quarterly newsletter about agricultural issues and upcoming state promotions. Coupons that can be redeemed at participating partners will be slipped into the newsletter mailings.

The credit card will be available in Visa gold and classic versions, with no annual fee.

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