News Roundup

News Roundup: May 16-22

By on May 22, 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.

  • “A massive bird flu outbreak could make eggs, and just about anything made with them, a lot more expensive,” The Washington Post: This past December, the first case of avian flu was reported in Oregon. The second, in Washington state, was documented in early January. The third was detected six days later. And the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh all surfaced before month’s end. At the time, there was little sense of how serious the problem would be. Avian flu, though it had proved lethal elsewhere in the world, was unfamiliar to farmers in the United States. And February, which brought only three additional cases, eased anxiety a bit. But today, farmers from Iowa to California have learned that there is nothing forgiving about H5N2 — this particular strain of bird flu — which has spread like wildfire, paralyzing chicken farmers throughout the Midwest and casting a gloomy shadow over the U.S. egg industry. …
  • “Commercial catches are up for the first time in four years,” The Outer Banks Voice: North Carolina’s commercial fishing harvest increased by 23 percent in 2014, boosted by higher landings of blue crabs, spiny dogfish and summer flounder. Commercial fishermen sold 61.7 million pounds of fish and shellfish to North Carolina dealers last year, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Commercial Trip Ticket Program. It was the first year commercial landings rose since 2010, an upward tick in a long declining trend since the late 1990s. …
  • “NC ag officials concerned with impact of avian flu,” WNCN: State agricultural officials are concerned with the spread of the Avian flu to North Carolina and its impact on egg prices. While the avian flu hasn’t reached North Carolina yet, it could as soon as August. More than 38 million birds at turkey and chicken farms across 20 states have died from the virus. North Carolina has sent people to Minnesota and Iowa, some of the states hardest hit by the avian flu, to help and learn about the virus in case it arrives here later this year. Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon believes the virus could arrive in just a few months. “Our concern is later this year in the fall, those same birds will be migrating through the eastern flyway back through North Carolina and will bring it with them,” Reardon said. Poultry in North Carolina is an $18 billion industry, employing around 100,000 people. …
  • “Budding biotechs convene in Durham,” Durham Herald-Sun: Two out of state agricultural biotechnology companies came away with $12,500 in funding Tuesday after winning a pitch contest at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Texas-based SynShark and Pennsylvania-based ConidioTec were two of nine companies that came to the annual Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase, which is intended to drive commercialization by congregating investors, entrepreneurs, researchers and others. Company specializations ranged from regenerating tissue in injured horses, an LED light system that is controlled by the processes of the plants it grows, and a process to extract a rubber substitute from sunflowers. SynShark, which also operates out of Cornelius, has developed a process to extract squalene from tobacco plants, as opposed to traditional methods of using shark livers. …
  • “To fight bee decline, Obama proposes more land to feed bees,” Charlotte Observer: The Obama administration hopes to save the bees by feeding them better. A new federal plan aims to reverse America’s declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations by making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, spending millions of dollars more on research and considering the use of fewer pesticides. While putting different type of landscapes along highways, federal housing projects and elsewhere may not sound like much in terms of action, several bee scientists told The Associated Press that this a huge move. They say it may help pollinators that are starving because so much of the American landscape has been converted to lawns and corn that don’t provide foraging areas for bees. …
  • “Former teacher navigates expanding industry as The Vapor Girl,” The News & Observer: Over the past two-and-a-half years, Victoria Sylvestre has gone from teaching at Carrboro High School to co-owning five stores centered on the sale of electronic cigarettes and flavored e-juices.
    Sylvestre and her husband Marc own The Vapor Girl, which has two locations in Chapel Hill and stores in Durham, Burlington and Pittsboro. Yes, Sylvestre said, people ask her how, as a former teacher, she can sell vaping items such as e-cigarettes and e-juices. …
  • “Tar Heel of the Week: Rev. Richard Joyner preaches the value of local food,” The News & Observer: Rev. Richard Joyner, pastor of Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in one of the gardens he helped start to help congregants develop healthier eating habits. There’s a certain irony in the fact that the Rev. Richard Joyner’s church sits in what is considered a food desert, surrounded by vast tracts of farmland. Yet with most of that land devoted to large-scale farming and the nearest grocery store more than 10 miles away, the congregants at Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church subsist on the type of diet to blame for so many of our country’s health problems: fried, fatty, high on sugar and salt, low on vegetables. …
  • “Best Tobacco Crop … Ever,” Southern Farm Network: Like most crops, tobacco had something of a shaky start this spring, with persistent cold, wet weather. Don Nicholson, region 7 agronomist, with North Carolina Department of Agriculture says the crop is now some of the best he’s ever seen: “Our tobacco crop is pretty much done and we have the best stand that we have seen in my life. We had a shaky start with the wet and cold but the crop has done very well. We have had very few acres that folks have had to go back and reset or having problems with. My phone has been very quiet and there are not the problems we have had in the past.” …
  • “Behind The Butcher’s Counter,” WUNC: Cliff’s Meat Market has been a cornerstone of the food industry in the Triangle for more than four decades. Cliff Collins started the shop when he was in his 20s, and it’s now one of the last family-owned markets in the area. Many have noted that the key to Cliff’s success is his ability to evolve alongside the community he serves and create products to meet their needs. The market now caters to the area’s growing Latino consumer base with specific styles and cuts of meat, as well as a supportive and welcoming work environment for new immigrants. A new documentary “Un Buen Carnicero” tells the story of Cliff and one of the butchers in his shop, Gerardo “Tolo” Martinez, who has been working at the meat counter for almost 18 years. Host Frank Stasio previews the documentary with director Victoria Bouloubasis, who co-founded Vittles documentary film company, Cliff’s Meat Market owner Cliff Collins, and Cliff’s Meat Market employee Tolo Martinez. …
  • “NC House backs food desert program to put produce in corner stores,” The News & Observer: The House voted 67-49 Thursday to budget for a new program to put fresh produce in convenience stores. The Healthy Food Small Retailer Fund would spend $1 million to put refrigerators full of fruits and vegetables in 6,000 convenience stores located in “food deserts” that don’t have easy access to grocery stores. “Getting nutrient-rich foods to these people is critical in many communities – to be able to buy more than a honey bun and a Coke,” said the budget amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Yvonne Holley of Raleigh. “We have people in a city that have access to all the junk food in the world, and they can’t get nutrient-rich food.” The program would use local farmers to supply produce to the stores. Funding for the program is contingent on a separate House bill becoming law; that bill hasn’t moved yet in the House or Senate. …
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