News Roundup: May 23-29

By on May 29, 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.

  • “FAA’S Approval to Spray Fields from UAVs Limited,” Southern Farm Network: The Federal Aviation Administration released information last week that they would begin approval for unmanned aircraft to spray crops. Kyle Snyder, director of the NextGen Air Transportation Program at NC State, leading the unmanned aircraft initiative for the state says the exemption was pretty specific: “They approved a section 333 exemption for the Yamaha RMax helicopter to provide aerial application services. It’s a new process to allow for specific operators to operate specific aircraft for commercial use.” And, according to Snyder, the exemption will stay in place until there’s an approved rule: “The exemption until the proposed rule becomes a live rule is in 2017.” Snyder explains that the exemption for aerial spray application was for only one particular aircraft: “It is just for the one aircraft, its about 150 pounds and it will be a while before those are used every day. The FAA determines the air space laws and the state determines who is allowed to do aerial application. An aerial applicator must have about 200 hours of apprentice time before they can apply for a license.” …
  • “Tobacco farmers deal with chaotic market, emphasize quality,” Southeast Farm Press: There is one certainty about the chaotic market situation tobacco growers are facing: The best chance for success will come from producing the best possible quality. “What we really need to produce this year is good, ripe, clean tobacco,” said Tim Yarbrough, a flue-cured grower of Prospect Hill, N.C., and president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina (TGANC). “If it is not clean, you need to pick out the foreign material.” There has been a particular problem the last few years with mechanically harvested flue-cured: The harvesters are pulling some stalks or pieces of stalks into the harvested leaf. “Our buyers don’t like this and you can see why,” said Yarbrough. “It is not difficult to avoid — all you have to do is run your leaf through a picking line and you can get the majority of it.” In Yarbrough’s area of North Carolina — north central Piedmont near Danville, Va. — transplanting was expected to begin the last days of April. But because of near constant rain, as much as 50 percent of field preparation remained to be done at that time. Fortunately, the supply of transplants is good, he added. …
  • “US bird flu causes egg shortage, emergency measures,” Fox News: As a virulent avian influenza outbreak continues to spread across the Midwestern United States, some egg-dependent companies are contemplating drastic steps – importing eggs from overseas or looking to egg alternatives. A spokeswoman for Archer Daniels Midland Co said that as egg supplies tighten and prices rise, the food processing and commodities company has received numerous inquiries from manufacturers about the plant-based egg substitutes it makes. With a strong dollar bolstering the buying power of U.S. importers, some companies are scouting for egg supplies abroad. “The U.S. has never imported any significant amount of eggs, because we’ve always been a very low-cost producer,” said Tom Elam of FarmEcon, an agricultural consulting company. “Now, that’s no longer the case.” The United States is grappling with its biggest outbreak of bird flu on record, which has led to the culling of 40 million birds.  …
  • “Local chef serving vegetables straight from his own farm,” Winston-Salem Journal: A lot of chefs have embraced the farm-to-table movement by buying food from local farms. Adam Andrews has gone one step further. He started his own farm. Andrews is the chef and a co-owner of Jeffrey Adams and also the chef and general manager of The Old Fourth Street Filling Station. In 2013, Andrews decided he liked having local produce so much that he would start growing it. …
  • “Carolina growers expect strong vegetable season,” The Packer: Despite a cold and wet spring that delayed plantings on some vegetables, grower-shippers in South Carolina and North Carolina expect to bring typical supplies on most items. Tropical Storm Ana, which made landfall in South Carolina on May 10, drenched fields in both states and further delayed production of some vegetables, said Kevin Hardison, agricultural marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “The crops overall are looking good now,” Chris Rawl, president of Lexington, S.C.-based Clayton Rawl Farms, which grows and ships sweet corn, cabbage, squash, greens and eggplant, said in mid-May. “Being so wet and cold, we had a hard time getting things planted in a timely manner, but we managed to get everything in. We will have good volumes on all of our items.” …
  • “EPA plans temporary pesticide restrictions while bees feed,” Charlotte Observer: If honeybees are busy pollinating large, blooming croplands, farmers wanting to spray toxic pesticides will soon have to buzz off, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing. A federal rule to be proposed Thursday would create temporary pesticide-free zones when certain plants are in bloom around bees that are trucked from farm to farm by professional beekeepers, which are the majority of honeybees in the U.S. The pesticide halt would only happen during the time the flower is in bloom and the bees are there, and only on the property where the bees are working, not neighboring land.
  • “How Will New EPA Water Rules Affect NC?” WUNC: Depending on the perspective, the announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency was instituting a new, updated and clarified Clean Water Rule is either a cause for celebration in North Carolina or a cause for fear that it will choke the state’s economy. What is most likely, of course, is that the rule will come under further partisan attacks. While Congress and President Obama fight it out, examine some of the ways in which the Water Rule will affect North Carolina: 1. The main purpose of the Clean Water Rule, according to the EPA, is to “more precisely define” what bodies of water “form the foundation of the nation’s water resources” and are thus protected by the Clean Water Act. Where the headwaters of a river begin, for example, can have important ramifications on development near it. In various decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has made matters more confusing, so the agency is attempting to make it as clear as possible to farmers, developers, and anyone else who has a significant interest in land and water management. Because of its growing population, status as a major hog and chicken producer, and long and varied coastline, North Carolina is uniquely impacted by any water rule changes. …
  • “Sanderson says committed to responsible use of antibiotics,” Meatingplace.com: Saying it will not compromise its moral obligation to care for sick animals, Sanderson Farms pledged to continue administering to its chickens antibiotics that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A number of U.S. companies, from Walmart to Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride, are setting goals for eliminating antibiotics used in human medicine from their meat products. Sanderson said its policy on antibiotics takes into account animal welfare, food safety and environmental considerations. “After very deliberate, careful and measured consideration of this issue, we informed our customers last week that we will continue our responsible use of antibiotics when prescribed by our veterinarians,” CEO Joe Sanderson Jr. told analysts Thursday during the company’s second-quarter earnings call. …
  • “Working on Immigration Reform One Piece at a Time,” Southern Farm Network: US Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina is in the state this week talking agricultural business about the H2B program and worker shortages. Tillis outlines what he hopes to learn from the business owners he’s spending time with: “We are trying to get a definitive answer to see which visas they have already issued or which applications they have granted that have not been used, so we can see if there is capacity to help take the pressure off the worker shortage that is only a few weeks away. We have been promised this information just about every day but haven’t seen anything.” Several large sectors of the American economy, not just agriculture, have been lobbying for immigration and guest worker reform, and Tillis agrees that we’re no closer than we were five years ago: “This is one of the true examples of bipartisan failure. In states like NC, where we have the economy moving in the right direction, there are certain jobs being left unfilled and it’s a threat to the ag industry. We are talking about legal immigration and granting work visas where we cannot find Americans to fill these jobs.” …
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