News Roundup

News Roundup: April 22-28

By on April 28, 2017

News Roundup - this week's top news stories about NC agriculture

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories.

  • “Troxler joins Trump as president signs order to rethink agriculture policy,” North State Journal: On Tuesday N.C.’s Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler joined President Donald Trump, his newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and the president’s special assistant on agriculture, Autryville native Ray Starling, at the White House. The group announced Trump’s latest executive order which represents what may be a new outlook on U.S. agriculture policy. This is the first time a group of farmers has met with a U.S. president in such a high-profile setting since the early Reagan years. “Everybody was amazed at how engaged the president was, and the vice president was with him,” said Troxler in an interview with the North State Journal just after leaving the White House. “We really came away with a feeling that this is something we have never seen from a president in many, many years. “We wanted to make our key points immigration reform, trade, regulatory reform and transportation infrastructure. We got all those point across and he really listened and got them. I think it went extremely well,” he added. …
  • “Study: North Carolina’s lack of refuge acres putting Bt corn at risk,” Southeast Farm Press: A new study from North Carolina State University finds a significant shortfall in the amount of “refuge” cropland being planted in North Carolina – likely increasing the rate at which crop pests will evolve the ability to safely devour genetically engineered Bt crops. However, the study also identified actions that may make farmers more likely to plant refuge crops in the future. For about 20 years, growers have made use of Bt crops to limit crop damage from pests. Bt crops, including corn, are genetically engineered to produce proteins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium. These proteins are harmless to vertebrates, but toxic to a specific class of invertebrate crop pests. To date, these Bt crops have been remarkably successful. However, insect pests have shown the ability to evolve resistance to Bt proteins. In order to slow down the development of Bt resistance, farmers who plant Bt crops are urged to plant a certain percentage of their fields with non-Bt crops – called refuge crops. In fact, in the case of Bt corn, farmers are required to plant a section of their fields with refuge crops. That’s because refuge crops provide fodder for insect pests that are not resistant to Bt proteins. These pests are then able to breed with their Bt-resistant counterparts, diluting Bt resistance in the overall pest population. But compliance with planting refuge crops is variable. Some growers plant too little of their fields with Bt crops, and some don’t plant refuge crops at all. …
  • “NC lawmakers advance protections for agriculture industry,” The News & Observer: A state Senate committee approved a proposal to protect hog farms against citizen lawsuits filed over odors, flies, buzzards and other nuisances caused by large-scale hog farming operators. The state House passed a similar bill two weeks ago, but only after lawmakers agreed to drop a controversial provision that would have extended the legal protections to hog producer Murphy-Brown in 26 federal lawsuits filed in 2014 and now awaiting trial. The Senate version of the legislation was likewise written not to interfere with the federal lawsuits now pending against Murphy-Brown, North Carolina’s largest hog producer. If the proposal becomes law, it would limit the amount of money neighbors can collect from hog producers in future court cases. The bill’s supporters said limiting such lawsuits is necessary to protect the state’s hog industry against predatory lawyers who have their sights set on the state’s farming industry. “Without the livestock industry in Eastern North Carolina, there would be tumbleweeds growing in the streets,” said Republican Sen. Brent Jackson, a farmer who represents Duplin, Sampson and Johnston counties. “I don’t care how big and strong you are, if you don’t have the right protections in place, you will not survive.” …
  • “Even as crops change, generations stay rooted in family farm,” The News & Observer: At the beginning of each grape-growing season, John Quincy Adams IV thanks his earthly father for having the vision to launch a vineyard on a former tobacco farm, and his heavenly father for helping to make it a viable agricultural enterprise. “They’re (God’s) vines,” Adams said Sunday before the Rev. Roger Horne conducted a brief blessing ceremony at the vineyard, about 15 miles south of Raleigh. “I tell him that all the time: They’re your vines. Just help me take care of them like I need to.” Normally held outside in view of the sprawling green vineyard, Sunday’s ceremony was moved to an indoor gathering space adjacent to the winery’s tasting room to get guests out of an unseasonably cool, drizzling rain. Adams wasn’t complaining. The family’s 15 acres of thick-skinned muscadines are naturally drought-resistant, but it’s been a while since the grapes — and the pears, apples, peaches and blackberries grown on the farm — had a good soaking rain. That’s how it is with farming, whether it’s row crops, cotton and tobacco, which seven previous generations of Adamses grew on the farm starting in the mid-1700s, or muscadine grapes, which John Quincy Adams III first planted in 2006. The idea of a vineyard was a surprise to his wife, Joyce, and their three children, but Johnny Adams had been thinking about how he could make sure his family’s land would remain a working farm in the aftermath of the tobacco buyout, part of the process that deregulated tobacco production. …
  • “A berry good crop,” Lexington Dispatch: Strawberry farmers in Davidson County say that despite a freeze in late February, they are seeing an exceptional crop of berries coming in much earlier than normal. John Hedgecock, owner of Hedgecock Strawberry Farm in Wallburg, said that although he did have some moments of panic when the freeze hit, he has seen a very good crop this year. “It got hot in January and February, so they came in earlier,” Hedgecock said. “Then when the freeze hit, it slowed them down a little. … We actually got through the cold weather better than I expected. I thought we had lost more than we actually did.” Thomas Penninger, owner of High Rock Nursery in Southmont, said they began picking earlier than usual and despite the setback earlier in the season, they too have seen a very healthy crop. “Picking is well underway,” Penninger said. “We started the last day of March which is almost a month earlier than usual. … The first couple of weeks were a little slow; it was kind of sporadic. But since then, what we have been seeing is some exceptional strawberries.” North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation, and the crop generated more than $23 million in farm income in 2015. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a news release it has been an unusual strawberry season in North Carolina. “Thanks to a warm February, many growers were picking at least two weeks ahead of schedule. Then the state had freezing temperatures in March, which put production on hold. It takes 30 days or more for a blossom to turn into a berry. Now that we are past the last freeze, more strawberries are about ready for picking, and consumers should expect a strong crop through the end of May.” Growers in Davidson County warn consumers that because of the warm weather in early January and February, the berries are coming in fast, and the normally short season will be shorter than usual. …
  • “Inaugural Apple Country Cider Jam brings hundreds downtown,” Hendersonville Times-News: The inaugural Apple Country Cider Jam kicked off in downtown Hendersonville Saturday afternoon, drawing large crowds eager to sample the offerings from local cideries that use Henderson County apples. A long line of people was already waiting at the gates before the event got started, and by midafternoon Main Street was thick with visitors enjoying different ciders, food and music. Eight area cideries were represented: Bold Rock Hard Cider, Noble Cider, Flat Rock Ciderworks, Appalachian Ridge Artisan Ciders, Bull City Ciderworks, Crimson Ridge, GoodRoad CiderWorks and 1898 Hard Cider. Internationally renowned bluegrass group Balsam Range headlined the event, which also included performances by Americana trio Underhill Rose and bluegrass, soul, reggae and rock mash-up the Josh Daniel-Mark Schimick Project. In addition to hard ciders, nonalcoholic ciders from McConnell Farms and Apple Wedge Packers and Cider were also available. Mark Williams, executive director of Agribusiness Henderson County and one of the organizers of the event, said around 800 tickets were pre-ordered, and he expected total attendance to be between 1,200 and 1,500 visitors. Williams said he was very pleased by the turnout, and called the event’s debut “phenomenal.” Area apple farmer and chair of the AgHC board Kenny Barnwell said the cider jam is another way to spotlight Henderson County apples. …
  • “NCDA Agronomics Division Working on Fertilization Tests,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) When we think of the soils division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, we automatically think of having soils tested. Dr. David Hardy, head of the soils division at NCDA’s agronomics division explains that they are also doing in-the-field nutrient testing: “For the second year we’ve been working on soybeans and looking at potassium rates, there’s been some concern with both corn and soybeans as yields have increased over the years that our recommendations may not be what they should be, and could possibly limiting yields. Growers are yielding much higher than they were 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago, and our recommendations have not changed, historically, for some time period. So, do we have tests out looking at varying rates of potash in both corn and soybeans to verify if our recommendations are accurate and up-to-date. So, we try to find sites that have a varying level of potassium and then putting out rates from zero to 200 pounds of potash per acre in 50 pound to increments to make those tests.” …
  • “Sandhills Farm to Table’ Helps Keep Farmers in Business” Spectrum News: (Video) “Sandhills Farm to Table” teams up with more than 30 local farmers to bring fruits and veggies straight from the ground to your table.
  • “Southeast ag’s new foothold in Washington,” Southeast Farm Press: Leaders from the Southeast will sway big influence over agriculture’s future during a time in which the nation is working out where and how it wants to be positioned and regarded in the world. Sonny Perdue, former Georgia governor, officially took the helm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture April 25, becoming the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. (Perdue was sworn into office by fellow Georgian Clarence Thomas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.) The last secretary of agriculture from the Southeast was David Houston, a North Carolinian who served as President Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of agriculture from 1913 to 1920. Mississippian Michael Espy was the last Southerner to be secretary of agriculture, serving two years under President Bill Clinton. Zippy Duvall now leads the American Farm Bureau Federation, the voice of American agriculture. He’s a Georgia farmer. AFBF has had at least one other influential national leader from the Southeast. Alabama farmer Edward A. O’Neal led the organization and American agriculture during the Great Depression and World War II and was its leader when the first U.S. farm bill, known as the Agriculture Adjustment Act, was birthed by Congress in 1933 as a part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. O’Neal retired from AFBF in 1947. During his tenure, the secretaries of agriculture came from Missouri, Iowa, Indiana and New Mexico consecutively. North Carolina native Ray Starling was tapped by President Donald Trump earlier this year to be part of the White House National Economic Council and be the special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance. …

Recipe Roundup: Spring time is egg time

By on April 27, 2017

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Local Dish Cooking segment. Below, Brian and Lisa feature recipes with eggs as the star ingredient. The egg industry ranks seventh in North Carolina commodity


What does this week’s rain mean for NC crops?

By on April 26, 2017

Dry conditions across North Carolina appear to have blunted the impact of this week’s heavy rain on crops. The rain damaged ripe strawberries that had not been picked, but green fruit and the plants themselves came through the event in good

Today's Topic

Today’s Topic: Soil tests can help homeowners manage fertility in warm-season grasses

By on April 25, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.” Farmers are accustomed to using soil tests to help them determine their crops’ nutrient needs. Homeowners can benefit from the tests, too.

Changes to Worker Protection Standard include fit testing and more worker training

By on April 24, 2017

It’s been a few months since new revisions to federal rules to protect agricultural workers from pesticide exposure went into effect. Since then, inspectors with the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division have been working to assist farmers, producers and

News Roundup

News Roundup: April 15-21

By on April 21, 2017

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. “One of farming’s tragic truths gets national news coverage,” Southeast Farm Press: Farming is more

Recipe: Strawberry Upside Down Cake

By on April 20, 2017

Have you heard the good news? Strawberry growers are expecting a strong second wave of the crop, which should hopefully be ready for picking and last through the end of May. Farmers markets and roadside stands should have plenty of

Laurel wilt disease continues to spread in NC

By on April 19, 2017

Laurel wilt is a devastating non-native disease of redbay trees and other plants in the laurel family in the Southeastern U.S. Native to Southeast Asia, it was first detected near Savannah in the early 2000s and has since spread to

Today's Topic

Today’s Topic: April is Plant Pest Awareness Month

By on April 18, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.” April is National Plant Pest Awareness Month, which is intended to educate the public about the threat that certain insects, plant diseases

News Roundup

News Roundup: April 8-14

By on April 14, 2017

Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. “March freeze legacy: Triangle strawberry shortage,” The News & Observer: In a strawberry season unlike