News Roundup: March 7-13

By on March 13, 2015

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. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Winter Season Impact On Local Farmers,” WFMY: Local farmers believe a harsh winter had a big impact on field crops. “It’s been terrible,” said Garry Brown, owner of Brown Farm & Garden Market in Ruffin. Brown grows cucumbers, tomatoes and other heirloom vegetables. “We should already have all of our cool season crops planted, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes and onions and all our plants are still sitting in the greenhouse,” said Brown. “It’s been so cold that we just cold get out here to work.” Brown said the up and down temperatures this winter stopped production for about 30-percent of his crop. “If my cool crops are not in the next 30-days. I probably won’t plant them. I just go ahead and get spring crops planted,” said the Ruffin grower. …
  • “Tobacco farmers fear big planting cut this season,” Southeast Farm Press: The mood was somber when the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina held its annual meeting in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 6 in conjunction with the Southern Farm Show. Nearly every grower in attendance, it seemed, had received news that the pounds he could contract to produce had been reduced from 2014, said the association’s president Tim Yarbrough of Prospect Hill, N.C. “Every conversation among growers is about a bleak forecast in terms of real leaf demand,” he said. “It isn’t easy to understand how we seemingly find ourselves in this oversupply situation all of a sudden.” …
  • “Jimbo’s Jumbos to expand,” Roanoke Chowan News Herald: Peanuts may have taken a backseat to other farm crops, but one longtime staple of the state’s farming community is leading to job opportunities. In an announcement on Monday, Governor Pat McCrory, N.C. Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla III and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. said Jimbo’s Jumbos, Inc. will expand its operations in Chowan County and create 78 new jobs over the next three years. The company plans to invest $30 million in the city of Edenton over the same period. …
  • “North Carolina facing neonicotinoid-resistant thrips,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina now has neonicotinoid-resistant thrips; not a good thing for cotton producers in the state, said Dominic Reisig, North Carolina State University Extension entomologist. “We don’t know a lot about this resistance, but we know that in some locations thrips are only thiamethoxam-resistant and in some locations they’re only imidacloprid-resistant. And in some locations there is resistance to both so I cannot predict on your farm which seed treatment is going to look better or worse. But what I think I can tell you is that thiamethoxam seems to be looking worse than imidacloprid n terms of field performance,” Reisig said at the 2015 Blackland Cotton Production meeting Feb. 13 in Belhaven, N.C. …
  • “Approval of ‘birds and the bees act’ sought by three NC senators,” News & Observer: Three state senators are hoping their idea for the “birds and the bees act” will win support in the state legislature. That’s the short title of a law proposed by Wesley Meredith, Brent Jackson and Tamara Barringer, all Republicans. Its subject matter isn’t what you might think. The long title is more cumbersome and less titillating. It runs 34 words: “An act to clarify the authority of local governments to adopt ordinances related to bee hives and to require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to study strategies for protecting and supporting pollinators.” If passed, the bill would stop counties, cities and towns from adopting ordinances that prohibit anyone from owning or possessing five or fewer bee hives. …
  • “All is Not Lost with Winter Wheat,” Southern Farm Network: When the weather broke, it broke in a big way, and producers are very anxious about their wheat crop. Don Nicholson, Regional Agronomist with North Carolina Department of Agriculture: “Folks are very concerned. Usually by mid-February we have some break in the weather and we can put some nitrogen on, but this was not one of those years. It’s been so wet and so cold this year, and really the moisture in the land that has prevented most folks from getting out and putting on nitrogen.” …
  • “Jones Family Farms supplies sweet potatoes around globe,” The Wilson Times: There’s not a prettier picture in the world to Jim Jones than what he sees from the cab of his tractor about 4 a.m. on fall mornings. Sweet potatoes roll up out of the ground as his tractor and plow pass over them. There’s the glow from the tractor’s lights and the hint of the coming sunrise reflecting against the dark dirt. Jones and other sweet potato growers make big investments each year in producing a sweet potato crop. But with sweet potatoes, growers don’t know what kind of crop they’re going to end up with until the potatoes are brought to the ground’s surface. As with most types of crops, growing sweet potatoes is a gamble. Too much rain can ruin a crop just as easily as not enough rain and too much heat. But more farmers are making moves to give growing sweet potatoes a try and many already in the business are looking to expand how many acres they’re growing. Jones Family Farms is one of a few in the world growing micropropagated, certified, virus-indexed plants for sweet potato production. They serve customers in North Carolina, across the nation and in Canada. They also have customers in Honduras and Greece. …
  • “FDA to lean heavily on states for compliance,” The Packer: As court-ordered deadlines for final food safety rules draw closer, the eventual task of inspecting fruit and vegetable farms for compliance with the produce safety rule will fall mostly to state inspectors. That’s what a Food and Drug Administration official told the U.S. Department of Agriculture Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee March 9. “(FDA inspectors) will be doing very few if any of the actual on-farm inspections,” said Jennifer Thomas, deputy director of the Office of Compliance with the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and co-chairwoman of the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Workgroup/Implementation Strategy. “We will be working very closely with our state regulators and our other partners to have that inspection coverage.” Responding to question from committee member Roland McReynolds, executive director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Pittsboro, N.C., Thomas said the FDA has not committed to an inspection frequency for the estimated 40,000 farms subject to the produce safety rule. …
  • “Will China remain a consistent buyer of U.S. sorghum?” Southeast Farm Press: China’s grand entrance into the U.S. sorghum market began September 2013, and roughly coincided with its import ban of a genetically modified corn, MR162. Since that point, U.S. sorghum exports to China have been on a long and impressive 79-week run and have totaled more than 340 million bushels, averaging 4.4 million bushels per week. Current expectations are for this trend to continue despite China’s recent end to the yearlong ban of MR162. USDA’s February 2015 Agricultural Projections to 2024 reported that “since sorghum is a low cost feed substitute for corn, China is projected to remain a large sorghum importer in the next decade.” …
  • “Sanderson Farms to build plant in St. Pauls, employ 1,100,” Fayetteville Observer: By this summer, poultry producer Sanderson Farms Inc. plans to start constructing a processing plant that will employ 1,100 workers on the outskirts of this Robeson County town. “I think it’s probably one of the best things we’ve had in 30 years,” St. Pauls Mayor Gordon “Buddy” Westbrook said. “We need the project. We need the jobs, so it’s great.” …
  • “Anti-GMO, Biotech Factions Clash at Food Summit,” Wall Street Journal: Can genetically modified crops grow in harmony with their non-GMO counterparts? The debate between the pro-biotech and non-GMO camps increasingly looks more like scorched earth than common ground. Biotech seed makers like Monsanto and Syngenta, along with farmer groups, argue that genetically modified crops are critical to feed a growing global population. Organic food companies and consumer groups charge that GMO crops promote a chemical-heavy approach to farming that’s harsh on land and animals and could contribute to human-health problems. The increasingly polarized debate prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to convene Thursday a two-day summit on “agricultural coexistence” that seeks to mend some farmland fence-posts. “The one thing I am really tired of is division,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, at the event at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. …
  • “Persistently Cold Weather May have Saved Strawberry Crop,” Southern Farm Network: Poor strawberries, they’ve really had a time of it this winter, but the weather of late has helped perk them up. Don Nicholson, Regional Agronomist with North Carolina Department of Agriculture: “Many of the ones that I have seen look a lot better than they did a few weeks ago. The thing about having some low temperatures, especially that week when it was going to zero, the concern was having damage in the grounds and how bad it would be.” Upon further inspection, Nicholson says damage was found to the crop, but it doesn’t appear mortal: …
  • “Honey bees & butterflies vital for produce production,” WECT: Farmers in southeastern North Carolina have spent most of the winter months getting ready for spring planting time. Although it is still a little early for some seeds to be placed in the ground, state agricultural officials have been getting ready for the upcoming season by making sure our insect plant pollinators have an easier time doing their jobs this year. If we did not have them around, you would not be able to more most of the produce found in the grocery stores and farmer’s markets. …
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