News Roundup: Jan. 10-16

By on January 16, 2015

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 State Presses For $180M Plant Sciences Plan with Ag Industry,” Xconomy: Agriculture is a $78 billion annual business in North Carolina, making it far and away the state’s largest industry. Now North Carolina State University is working on a $180 million plan that backers hope will grow that industry into a $100 billion market. To make that math work, the university is pursuing what it calls the Plant Sciences Initiative, a plan to bring academia and industry together in a new research facility where scientists can tackle drought tolerance, crop yield, and other major agricultural issues. Steven Lommel, associate dean of research for the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), says the university is particularly suited to this plan because of the state’s agricultural diversity as well as NC State’s proximity to the global agbio R&D operations for Bayer CropScience, Syngenta (NYSE: SYT), and BASF Plant Science, in nearby Research Triangle Park. …
  • “Predator Beetles Released on Sandy Mush Game Land to Combat Hemlock Woolly Adelgid,” Stanly News & Press: Pitting insect against insect, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission released predator beetles last month on the Sandy Mush Game Land to combat the devastating effects of the hemlock woolly adelgid on hemlock trees. Staff released 50 of the small black beetles — a natural predator of the adelgid — as part of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services in March 2014 designed to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health. The hemlock woolly adelgid is a tiny, aphid-like insect that derives its name from the covering of wool-like wax filaments that it forms as it matures to protect itself and its eggs from natural enemies. …
  • “Lessons learned by Carolinians in two wet cropping seasons,” Delta Farm Press: Corn and soybean growers in the Eastern North Carolina coastal plain have suffered through two consecutive seasons of excessive rain in 2013 and 2014. Are there any lessons to be learned from these exceptional weather situations? Ron Heiniger, North Carolina Extension corn specialist, has a couple to share relative to corn. “The start and finish of the corn crop are the most important parts of the season in a wet year,” he says. “In a dry year, the mid-season may be a little more important.” But to do well in a wet season, it’s very important to get the crop off to a good start. “It is so difficult to overcome a poor stand,” he says. “Skips at planting will follow you all season.” …
  • “Defying national trend, Blue Ridge Biofuels expands,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Slogging is a concept with which Woody Eaton and his colleagues at Blue Ridge Biofuels are familiar. For 12 years, they’ve earned a living by transforming leftover cooking grease from more than 600 Asheville-area restaurants into biodiesel. The physical toil is only part of it. Navigating the market’s obstacles has been taxing, too. Plunging oil prices have made the company’s product pricier than petroleum. Congress chose not to renew the federal biodiesel blenders tax credit until the middle of last month. …
  • “Stakeholders pull together for bee health,” Delta Farm Press: Mid-South entomologists, beekeepers, farmers and the crop protection industry are pulling together to improve honeybee health. It was no surprise when agriculture listened, gathered information and developed plans of action to address recent concerns about honeybee colony collapse disorder and declining honeybee health. Agriculture has long been keenly aware of the relationship between bees and crops. In fact, I recall seeing bee boxes in a cotton seed production field in Arizona back in the early 1990s. The bees were critical for the production of hybrid cotton seed, which enjoyed a modicum of success at the time.  …
  • “What The Reynolds/Lorillard Merger Says About Tobacco In North Carolina (audio),” WUNC’s “The State of Things”: Reynolds American and the Lorillard Tobacco Company are expected to approve a $27.4 billion buyout during shareholders’ meetings later this month. The move is part of a new generation of smoking in which rolled cigarettes are giving way to e-cigarettes, raising the question of whether tobacco will actually be a part of Tobacco Road in the future. Host Frank Stasio talks with Richard Craver, reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal, and Andrew Brod, economics professor at UNC-Greensboro, about the evolution of the tobacco industry in North Carolina. …
  • “Don’t pick that Venus flytrap,” Florida Alligator: The nature-walk mantra “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” has not only ecological implications but political and legal ones as well. The Venus flytrap is charismatic, recognizable to many at a young age and highly sought-after as a houseplant. Because they’re so popular — yet very rare — Venus flytraps are often taken from the wild, making them one of the most poached plants in North America. On Jan. 3, a wildlife officer arrested four men in possession of 970 Venus flytraps at Holly Shelter Game Land in eastern North Carolina. These men will be the first charged with poaching Venus flytraps under a new state law that went into effect Dec. 1, which makes it a felony to remove Venus flytraps or any part of one from the wild. This law elevated Venus flytrap poaching from a misdemeanor to a class H felony. The severity of the penalty was increased from a maximum fine of $50 to a sentence of up to 25 months in prison, on top of fines. Other class H felonies include a hit-and-run resulting in injury, escape from a state prison and possession of stolen goods. …
  • “NC Sen. Brent Jackson rode farm support to key budget committee,” News & Observer: Three-term Republican Sen. Brent Jackson quietly worked his way into one of the most influential positions in the legislature last year as one of the chief budget writers in the Senate. As the only farmer in the Senate – there are just a handful in the House – Jackson has benefited heavily from agribusiness financial contributions and has become their flag-bearer. More than 30 years ago, he turned a small farm into a successful watermelon enterprise, and now Jackson Farming grows, packs, ships, and brokers fruit and vegetables grown in this and several other states. Jackson was one of the most successful senators at getting his bills passed in the last session, according to a ranking by the NC Insider. Among those he successfully sponsored over the past two years were a pair of wide-ranging farm bills. But he hasn’t succeeded in passing a so-called “ag-gag” law, which would make undercover investigations by reporters and animal welfare advocates illegal. Environmentalists and media outlets were concerned about one of his bills last year because a provision in it would have kept secret records of reported environmental violations at agricultural operations. In response to their concerns, he changed the bill to make records public when a violation has been confirmed. The Autryville senator represents parts of Johnston, Duplin and Sampson counties. …
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