News Roundup: May 31-June 6

By on June 6, 2014

News Roundup logoEach 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. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “NC And Climate Change, Part 3: Agriculture Accidentally Prepares,” WFAE: North Carolina’s agriculture industry supplies nearly a fifth of the state’s jobs and revenue, according to the Department of Agriculture. It is also perhaps the industry most threatened by the increasing temperatures and extreme weather associated with climate change, but studies show only a minority of farmers believe in it. Nevertheless, the industry is unintentionally preparing. Brent Barbee’s family has been farming the same ground in Concord for over 100 years. He grows peaches, strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, and dozens of other fruits and vegetables. And, he knows something is happening to the climate. “We’ve had record lows and then record highs and then record lows and then record highs,” says Barbee. Last year, the heavy rains washed out about a fifth of the farm’s crop. This year the “polar vortex” delayed by three weeks an unseasonably warm spring season. “There’s only so much you can do,” Barbee says. “Like look down across the cantaloupe field.” He gestures at sheets of white and black plastic, which stretch across portions of the field. They absorb or reflect the sun to adjust the soil temperature. …
  • “Biofuels company to bring 79 jobs, $36M to area,” Richmond County Daily Journal: A Virginia company will reopen a Hoke County refinery to convert tobacco into ethanol, state officials said Monday, bringing 79 jobs and a $36 million investment to Hoke and surrounding counties. Danville, Virginia-based Tyton BioEnergy Systems will restart the former Clean Burn Fuels biorefinery as part of its strategy to convert its regionally grown proprietary tobacco into ethanol, Gov. Pat McCrory and state Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker announced. Tyton’s partner, Tyton NC Biofuels LLC, purchased the facility and is planning to add the biofuels manufacturing jobs and restart North Carolina’s only commercial-scale ethanol refinery, which has been idle for more than three years in the city of Raeford. “Companies are establishing operations in North Carolina because our economic environment is strong and our work force is extremely capable,” McCrory said in a statement. “Tyton will generate jobs in green manufacturing and provide new opportunities for farmers while investing millions of dollars in North Carolina’s economy.” …
  • “NC research farms demonstrate auto-steer tractors, high-tech gear,” News & Observer: Swarthy from a North Carolina summer sun, Travis Lassiter sat in the air-conditioned cab of a John Deere tractor, flipped a switch, revved the engine and tapped an icon on a touch screen. The employee of Central Crops research station in Clayton – one of North Carolina’s 18 state-run farms – flicked the steering wheel to an upright position. He leaned back, crossed his arms and smiled. “We’re at sub-inch,” he said, referring to the accuracy of the Trimble Navigation auto-steer system installed in the machinery. The GPS-driven technology keeps tractors almost perfectly aligned in a field with minimal interaction from the driver. “If you called me, I could text you,” he said. “It’s hands-free. If you dozed off, the end of row alarm goes off. If there’s a rock in the field, I can mark it. If there’s a hole in the field, I can mark it.” …
  • “Research looks to keep North Carolina strawberries sustainable, competitive,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina is the No. 3 strawberry-producing state. But can its strawberry industry remain sustainable and keep its top-status behind fruit and veggie behemoths California and Florida, the top two U.S. strawberry producers? NC State crop science Ph.D. student Amanda McWhirt is working with fellow university agroecologists, horticulture scientists and entomologists on a National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative research project to implement sustainable soil methods on strawberry farms – methods that won’t blow a hole in farmers’ budgets or overcomplicate their lives. Much of the new regimen involves using compost and cover crops in the summer months after strawberries have been harvested. …
  • “Editorial: Poultry plant is another win for Davie County,” Winston-Salem Journal: Davie County continues its economic rebound. Almost three years after the county had its largest business closing when the Omtron USA LLC poultry plant with its 476 jobs shut down, poultry production has begun anew.House of Raeford Farms, with headquarters in Rose Hill, reopened in April the former Crestwood Farms/Townsends plant at 251 Eaton Road, the Journal’s Richard Craver reported recently. Plant production manager Steve Mixon said in a Davie County Economic Development Commission statement that the company has hired 35 full-time workers and expects to add another 200 over two years, with all hiring to be done through the N.C. Division of Employment Security. And here’s the best part: military veterans will be given “first shot at new job openings.” …
  • “Factbox: Killer pig virus limits U.S. hog exports,” Chicago Tribune: Russia said on Thursday that it was suspending hog imports from the United States due to concerns about outbreaks of a virus killing baby piglets. China and Japan also have restricted imports of live U.S. hogs over Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), a highly contagious disease that has wiped out 10 percent of the U.S. hog population since it was first identified in the country a year ago. The restrictions affect live animals that are primarily used for genetic breeding programs and do not impact pork exports, according to the Livestock Exporters Association of the USA. China was the top importer of U.S. hogs last year, followed by Mexico and Russia. …
  • “North Carolina Poised to See Strong Blueberry Season,” Time Warner Cable News: In North Carolina, blueberries are ripe for picking. After a harsh winter, it wasn’t always clear that would be the case. But now, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) says the 2014 crop will be a strong one. In a statement Thursday, NCDA&CS said the blueberry harvest looks good despite a late freeze. “Fortunately, the cold snap did not damage the crop, and fresh North Carolina blueberries should be available into July,” said Steve Troxler, NCDA&CS commissioner. Frank Siebenbrunner owns Bluefield FRMFP Farm in Hampstead and opened up for the summer season on Friday. He says he hopes to stay open for at least another four weeks. As customers streamed onto the farm, they agreed with the officials’ assessment. “The quality of the crop is better than ever,” said Jennifer Arcuri, a frequent visitor to the farm. …
  • “North Canton student wins NC Farm to School calendar art contest,” The Mountaineer: Thirteen elementary school students’ art pieces have been chosen for the North Carolina Farm to School 2013-14 calendar. In addition to the artwork, the calendar includes daily agricultural facts. This is the fourth year for the contest. The artwork of Todd Evans, a second-grader at North Canton Elementary, was selected as September 2014 entry in the calendar. “This year, we received more than 3,800 entries with images of agricultural scenes such as tractors, farmers, cows, fruits and vegetables,” agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “These calendars will help kids learn more about North Carolina agriculture and its connection to our food supply.” …
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