News Roundup: April 18-24

By on April 24, 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.

  • “Experts: Bioenergy industry has potential to bring jobs to North Carolina,” Triangle Business Journal: With crude oil prices hovering around $60 per barrel, policymakers may not feel as much pressure to embrace renewable forms of energy. But bioenergy experts say it would be a mistake for North Carolina to step back from efforts to expand its bioenergy market. Jacob Traverse, technology development director for the N.C. Biotechnology Center, says the bioenergy market has the ability to create something that Republicans and Democrats can agree on — jobs. …
  • “Freeze Could Damage Apple Crops,” WLOS: A freeze warning will be issued for parts of the mountains on Thursday, which could have a big impact on some budding apple trees. At 28 degrees, 10 percent of blooms can be damaged in just 30 minutes. How much damage the weather inflicts depends how long it stays at 28 or below, how cool or warm it was before, and what stage the crops have reached. Trey Enloe’s family lost everything in a 2012 freeze. “[It was] pretty much a total wipe out,” Enloe said, a fourth generation apple grower. “There were some of our processing varieties around, but a lot of people got wiped out that year.” Enloe says it takes some time to see damage. So he won’t know for sure one way or the other until about noon Friday. …
  • “Vanishing fruits, veggies: Could climate change what we eat?” Asheville Citizen-Times: Even with a thriving local food movement, Asheville remains dependent on food shipped into the mountains, says Laura Lengnick of Warren Wilson College. With California’s Central Valley and Florida producing 70 percent of our fruits and vegetables, the drought in Central Valley or rising sea levels in the Sunshine State brought on by climate change could change what we eat. “No matter where you live, climate change is affecting the cost, quality, and availability of the foods that you enjoy,” Lengnick said. But even with a warming planet, all is not doom and gloom. In her book “Resilient Agriculture,” Lengnick interviewed 25 farmers from across the nation to discover what they’re doing to protect their livelihoods and our food supplies against unpredictable long-term weather patterns. …
  • “Haywood farmers to lawmakers: enough with the regulations,” Smoky Mountain News: Haywood County farmers caught some face time with elected leaders this week over heaping plates of bacon, eggs, grits, biscuits and hash browns to talk candidly about the issues facing today’s farmers — and the unrelenting rain over the past week wasn’t one of them. Instead, ever-stricter environmental regulations, tougher labor standards, tighter immigration policies, loss of tax write-offs, pesky animal rights groups and arduous food safety rules are what’s putting the squeeze on WNC’s small farmers. …
  • “Initiative would allow Guilford farmers to accept food stamps,” Greensboro News & Record: More than 50 farmers in Guilford County could begin accepting food stamps this summer, part of an expanding effort to make fresh food more available throughout North Carolina.
    The program, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, allows growers to enroll as retailers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program, better known as SNAP benefits or food stamps. …
  • “Strawberry picking season is underway,” Jacksonville Daily News: Local strawberries are ready a little early this year — and so are local farmers. The growers at Mike’s Farm started picking their berries last week. “A lot of people don’t know that they’re quite ready,” said Caitlin Lafferty, manager at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville. “Usually we start around the end of April.” Caleb Benoit, Onslow County Farmer’s Market manager, said he’s been getting calls from consumers wanting to know if the spring fruit is ready. “I have had a few people call and ask … We have a few vendors right now … a full stock of strawberries,” he said. …
  • “North Carolina Prepares For The Possibility Of Bird Flu,” WFDD: Over 5 million chickens are going to be euthanized in Iowa after the bird flu impacted a flock in Iowa. It’s the latest report of the devastation the virus is taking on the Midwest. North Carolina is taking measures to prevent an outbreak here. The poultry industry is big business in the state. It’s North Carolina’s top agricultural industry with an economic impact of over $12-billion. It also ranks third in the nation in poultry production. That’s why state officials and companies are paying close attention. There are no cases in North Carolina yet. But Joe Reardon, an assistant commissioner with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, says his agency is working with poultry producers and farmers to protect their livestock. “We are also talking with the companies about understanding and reconfirming the needs of having very stringent security programs that would apply to personnel coming and going from facilities and equipment,” says Reardon. “That is one of the major tips today is to make sure you are implementing biosecurity whether that would be in a commercial operation or backyard flocks as well.” …
  • “NC farmer brings home conservation legacy award,” Southern Farm Network: Person County Farmer, Jimmy Thomas, and his family were recently awarded the United Soybean Board’s Conservation Legacy award for practices on his tobacco, corn, wheat, soybeans as well as an independent hog operation. Thomas explains what USB is looking for when judging for this award: “They look at your farm an what type of practices you implement to improve water quality and to help retain soil in the fields.” Thomas farms with three generations of his family, himself, his father, father-in-law, brothers and sons. He outlines one of the practices that impressed USB on his 3000 acre operation: “On our grain operation we have been on no till since 1983. My father was really a pioneer in our community for no till corn, but we were still doing conventional wheat. But now we are on 100% no till on our grains as well.” In the Thomas operation, fertilizer and other inputs are measured very carefully: “We have a very intense nutrient management program. We do a lot of soil sampling where we do one on every 2.5 acres on our farm and we use prescriptions to write our nutrient needs. We have a company that takes our samples and we apply our nutrients on those 2.5 acre grids so each gets exactly what it needs.” …
  • “Is focus on banning pesticides hurting efforts to rescue bees?” Delta Farm Press: The timing couldn’t have been better for environmental activists groups. In 2006, the public seemed to be growing weary of repeated, unfounded attacks on pesticides. Donations to organizations that had turned farm chemical-bashing into a cottage industry were declining, and some were laying off employees. In October of that year, beekeepers began reporting losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives. According to USDA, it wasn’t the first episode of colony collapse disorder. Scientists had been reporting unexplained losses of bee hives dating back to the 1860s. But environmental activists seized on one possible explanation – applications of insecticides – for the decline in bee populations and began calling on EPA to ban currently labeled compounds and to stop registering new active ingredients until a thorough investigation could be launched into the losses. …
  • “Tobacco Season Continues While SUPCO Hearing Arguments Over Co-op,” Time Warner Cable News: Tobacco growers in North Carolina are moving forward with this year’s crop even as the State Supreme Court decides how much of a stake they should have in a $340 million reserve held by a grower’s co-op based in Raleigh. Marvin Eaton’s keeping a close eye on the tobacco plants in his greenhouses. He uses hydroponics to get them started. “It’s a lot more efficient,” said Eaton. “This really made a difference in growing plants for us.” With some of his 200 acres plowed, he’s waiting for drier conditions to transplant his plants. Tobacco plays the bills on this farm his grandfather started and the growers coop that was started in the 40s helped. “Far as tobacco the companies didn’t buy, they would purchase tobacco, and they would put it, process and store it, and when they could find a buyer they could sell it,’’ said Eaton. It was part of the price-support system, that guaranteed prices at tobacco auctions. …
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