News Roundup: April 25- May 1

By on May 1, 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.

  • “TOE TALK — NTR water quality and the Christmas tree industry,” Avery Journal: During a 20-year period between 1960 and 1980 a significant portion of the farmable land of the North Toe River watershed was converted to Christmas tree production. The previous 175 years this land was used more for subsistence farming with vegetable, fruit, grain and livestock production. A common cash crop, tobacco, was grown since the earliest years of the Toe River Valley settlements. By the 1930s, soil and water quality conservation practices had been developed to help maintain farm land on the steep mountain slopes of the valley. …
  • “Bayer celebrates bee center anniversary amid pesticide backlash,” Durham Herald-Sun: Bayer CropScience celebrated the one-year anniversary of North American Bee Care Center Monday, amid some public backlash against the company’s pesticides alleged effect on the insects. Lowe’s announced earlier this month that it would be phasing out the sale of products that contain neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months as “soon as suitable alternatives become commercially available.” …
  • “NC House panel votes to legalize raw milk through ‘cow shares,’ The News & Observer: The N.C. House Health Committee voted Monday to legalize raw, unpasteurized milk despite safety concerns from the N.C. Department of Agriculture. If House Bill 309 becomes law, raw milk wouldn’t be available on grocery store shelves. Instead, consumers could purchase “cow shares” allowing them to obtain raw milk directly from dairy farms. “Natural milk is a healthy, natural food commodity that has been around for millennia, and it is safe when handled properly to consume,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Dennis Riddell of Alamance County. Riddell stressed that his bill wouldn’t allow for the sale of raw milk. “If you want to purchase and consume natural milk without being a criminal, you can purchase a share in a cow or a herd,” he said. “You’d be consuming it from your own animal.” The raw milk bill cleared the Health Committee on a split voice vote after opponents said raw milk would likely make people sick. Joe Reardon, the state’s assistant agriculture commissioner for consumer protection, said unpasteurized milk has caused pregnant women to have miscarriages, and it also can make kids sick. “This is a very, very important bill around public health,” Reardon said. “The impact to expectant mothers and small children is very significant.” …
  • “Broadway grower uses renewable energy to heat greenhouses,” The Sanford Herald: Upon visiting Patterson Greenhouses, a grower in Broadway, visitors can take a bite of a vine-ripened tomato or a European Burpless cucumber freshly-picked from its greenhouses. Besides tomatoes and tobacco, Patterson Greenhouses also grows corn, soybeans, wheat and rapeseed. The company sells much of its product locally to other growers, including Gross Farms and Spivey Farms, but individuals can also stop by the greenhouses at 10712 U.S. 421 to pick up their own bushel of tomatoes. But while conventional greenhouses are heated with liquefied petroleum gas or natural gas, Ryan and Phil Patterson, owners and operators of Patterson Greenhouses, heat their greenhouses and tobacco barns with a boiler fueled by burning wood chips. …
  • “Strawberry season is here,” Kinston Free Press: Strawberries are ready and ripe for picking or purchasing at area farms. Putnam Family Farms, Porter Farms Produce & Nursery, T.C. Smith Produce and Jones Fruit Farm all have strawberries available now. You can also find strawberries at road stands, Kinston-Lenoir County Farmers Market and Elaney Wood Heritage Farmers Market, which opens Saturday under the new name and manager. The Putnam farm, 2044 Lightwood Knot Road, Kinston, has three varieties with different sugar content, size, color and texture, said Kelly Putnam, who owns the farm with her husband Steve. “Absolutely wonderful,” is how she describes this year’s crop. “We’re getting into peak season.” …
  • “Pop the Cork! NC Wine Industry Plans for Growth,” Public News Service: Although North Carolina’s craft beer gets plenty of accolades for quality and growth, the state’s wine industry is experiencing success of its own. About 7,600 people now are employed by the industry in the Tar Heel State, and researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Greensboro campus developed a five-year plan for further growth. Marketing and tourism professor Bonnie Canziani worked on the recommendations and said North Carolina wine comes down to raising the bar for quality and consistency. “Focus on quality in order to improve wine itself,” she said, “and then the second biggest recommendation is to focus on ways of getting North Carolina wine into the hands of more people.” …
  • “Partnership focuses on food insecurity, child poverty,” Greensboro News & Record: Three local organizations are working together to tackle issues of chronic food insecurity and child poverty in Guilford County. The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs of Greensboro is partnering with the city Parks and Recreation Department to expand its club sites. The nonprofit Out of the Garden Project plans to serve club members a hot meal each week night, starting with a pilot program this fall. That organization also will send some children home with backpacks full of food, including produce and meat. …
  • “A farmers market for every appetite in Charlotte,” Charlotte Observer: Is there any better place to see the change in American food than a farmers market on a Saturday morning? They aren’t just a few boxes of produce on the back of a pickup truck anymore. You can buy vegetables with the dirt still clinging to their roots, and put your money right into the hand of the person who planted, watered, weeded and picked them. The 20 years since the local-foods movement took off in the mid-1990s have shown an explosive interest in buying food directly from growers. USDA numbers show that farmers markets nationwide grew from 1,755 in 1994 to 8,268 in 2014. North Carolina ranked seventh in growth, from 86 markets in 2004 to 240 last year. …
  • “Catawba Valley farms grow larger, shrink in number,” Hickory Record: Farming is big business in Catawba County. Between the sale of crops and livestock, farms sold $67.3 million worth of grown products in 2012. That total is 121 percent higher than in 2007 — $30.5 million — when the previous Census of Agriculture tallied the totals. But, while sales skyrocketed, the number of farms is shriveling. “That’s definitely a nationwide trend in declining number of farms,” said Kellyn Montgomery, the Catawba County agent for the N.C. State University Cooperative Extension. The Cooperative Extension is an arm of NCSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and School of Agriculture at N.C. A&T State University. The same five year span saw a 5 percent decrease in Catawba County farms, from 737 to 698. But that decline did not prove significant for revenue, as each farm, on average, earned 133 percent more money for what they sold, to about $96,000 per farm. Additional revenue makes sense, Montgomery said, because as the total number of farms is declining, the ones that stick around are growing larger. She quoted late U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz who could have started this “get big or get out” trend. …
  • “Is organic food safer and healthier? The guy in charge of U.S. organics won’t say,” Charlotte Observer: Are consumers right to think that organic food is safer and healthier? It seems like a straightforward question, especially for Miles McEvoy, the chief of the National Organic Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s the section of the USDA that champions organic farming practices and defines which foods deserve the coveted organic label. But in an interview Wednesday, McEvoy wouldn’t speculate about any health benefits of organic food, saying the question wasn’t “relevant” to the role of the National Organic Program. Nor would he say whether growing consumer demand for organics reflects broader skepticism of conventional U.S. agriculture. …
  • “Gardens grow at Northern High,” The News & Observer: Where there was a barren courtyard at Northern High School, there is now a garden. Or gardens. There’s a garden of plants that make tea, a “bramble” garden with blackberry and raspberry vines, a garden to attract pollinating insects – even a pizza garden, with rosemary, oregano, thyme and other herbs. “Most people don’t realize all those herbs and spices that go into making a pizza, they come from plants,” said Larry Wooten, president of the state Farm Bureau. “They think they must have just floated on the pizza.” Wooten was one of the dignitaries at Northern last week for a dedication of the latest addition to the school’s Outdoor Learning Center: two beds raised high enough that students in wheelchairs can reach in to plant and tend growing things. …
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  1. Oona Houlihan
    May 15, 2015

    Good to hear Bayer phases out “neonicotinoid pesticides” soon, though the “suitable” alternatives (which they obviously already have ideas about, i.e. they exist in the lab and in trials or else 48 months would be a very optimistic schedule) might then turn out to have other side effects. What I am more amazed about is that in all those years while neonicotinoids were being blamed ever more intensively, no one attempted to genetically engineer resistant bees …