News Roundup: June 20-26

By on June 26, 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.

  • “NC suspends bird shows amid avian flu fears,” Gaston Gazette: The threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza has led North Carolina to cancel all bird and poultry shows in the fall, including the poultry show scheduled for the 2015 Cleveland County Fair. State Veterinarian Doug Meckes and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced last week that all state poultry shows and public live bird sales will be suspended between Aug. 15 and Jan. 15. “We know this ban will affect a number of poultry shows and kids who have planned to exhibit at their county fair or the State Fair,” Troxler said in a news release from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We regret having to make this decision, but we think it is in the best interest of everyone involved. We’re working on ways to keep youth who wanted to show at fairs interested in showing.” …
  • “The heat takes its toll on blackberries,” Fayetteville Observer: There are no hunched-over “pick-your-own” berry lovers in the field at this early hour, but the regular farm pickers are plucking blackberries off the vines as the day begins to heat up. The rain from the night before has left a sheen of moisture on the berry-laden bushes at this roughly 2-acre blackberry farm in western Sampson County. “Fulgencio, you finding any berries?” Laurice Williams asked his 20-year-old farm hand. “Not really,” Fulgencio Estrado replied softly. …
  • “Planning a wine vacation? Don’t leave North Carolina,” Wilmington Star-News: Think wine vacations, and California or Italy might come to mind. But sipping and swirling is popular much closer to home. This story is from our Extra! special section on regional travel that will appear in the Sunday, June 21, StarNews. More regional travel stories: www.starnewsonline.com/travel. Each year, more than 1.2 million tourists visit North Carolina’s 120-plus wineries. Although you can find winemakers all over the state, four areas have established geographic pedigrees. These American Viticulture Areas, or AVAs, are this country’s answer to France’s AOC designation for regions like Champagne, Bordeaux and Cotes du Rhone. Napa Valley is an AVA, as is New York’s Finger Lakes. If you’re planning a wine-focused vacation in North Carolina, try visiting Yadkin Valley, Swan Creek, Haw River or the Upper Hiwassee Highlands. Yadkin Valley winemakers were the first in North Carolina to prove that their land was distinct in characteristics such as climate, soil and topography. Established in 2003, it’s also the biggest AVA, with more than 30 wineries located in seven counties along the Yadkin River and bordering the Blue Ridge Mountains. This was also where a new chapter in North Carolina wine began. …
  • “Agriculture’s changing face in Henderson County,” Hendersonville Times-News: Henderson County is blessed with many positive attributes which make our community a great place to live, work and raise a family. Being located in an idyllic location that experiences four seasons and has spectacular scenery is a gift we all appreciate. Having an economy that boasts a low unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, which is the fifth lowest in the state, is something we have worked diligently to attain. Much of that success can be attributed to the four economic engines that drive Henderson County’s economy — retirement, manufacturing, tourism and agribusiness. This column focuses on agriculture and its changing face in Henderson County. Apples have been the king crop for many generations in our community, so much so that we have a major festival each year to celebrate the apple crop and pay homage to its significant impact on our local economy. …
  • “Europeans gobbling up NC sweet potatoes,” WRAL: It seems Europeans have developed a taste for North Carolina sweet potatoes. State agriculture officials say demand for the bright orange tubers is growing overseas, and local farmers are trying to keep pace. Sue Johnson-Langdon, president of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, said her group has been busy promoting sweet potatoes in European supermarkets with great success. Exports from the United States has grown from less than 50 million pounds per year in 2000 to about 300 million pounds now. And North Carolina is the largest grower of sweet potatoes in the nation. “The whole entire industry has gotten larger,” Johnson-Langdon said. “It’s not just a trend. This is sustained growth that we believe will last.” …
  • “What’s At Stake For NC With The Avian Bird Flu?” WUNC: (Audio) The avian bird flu is spreading across the country, and officials in North Carolina are doing what they can to protect the state’s birds before the flu becomes a serious threat. The disease could have devastating effects on North Carolina’s $18 billion poultry industry if infected waterfowl enter the state, but State Veterinarian Doug Meckes said that won’t be a threat until possibly this fall. “At this point, the migratory fowls do continue to harbor the virus, but most of them are in Canada and not a threat,” Meckes said. However, Meckes said North Carolina is in the Atlantic flyway and parts of the Mississippi flyway, which means it is vulnerable to waterfowl flying in from Canada once they migrate south this fall. …
  • “As peach season nears its juicy peak, what to expect at fruit stands,” Fayetteville Observer: Billy Atkinson, known as “Cotton,” has been selling South Carolina peaches in Haymount for more than 30 years. Atkinson set up his peach display in the back of his pickup along Fort Bragg Road near Hay Street on June 13, 2015. Barbara Johnson believes Johnson’s Farm in Candor may be in the perfect location.
    “We’re on a straight route to the beach,” Johnson said. “We get them going and coming, so we have a pretty good market.” Right now, a lot of visitors to the Montgomery County farmer’s market and others have one thing on their mind: Peaches. …
  • “Farmer has high hopes for hops growth as craft brewing booms,” Triad Business Journal: Given the hop-heavy beers you see dominating the craft beer scene today, you’d figure it’s a love of brewing that’s driving a farmer like Steven Valencsin to invest the time, money and energy into launching one of the Triad’s first commercial hops farms. But that’s not the case. “This was born more out of a passion for farming than a passion for beer,” said the 26-year-old Valencsin. A South Dakota native and N.C. State grad, Valencsin is into his second season as a hops grower, with his Hy Hops farm (a play on “high hopes”) spread out across 4.5 acres in Browns Summit in northern Guilford County. He has 4,500 plants of Cascade, Chinook and Zeus varieties spread across the farm, with the plants making rapid progress up lines strung up into the air in preparation for a harvest next month. …
  • “Pitt County farmers concerned about early summer heat wave,” WNCT: Tuesday was another scorching hot day across the East and farmers are starting to get a little concerned. They’re hoping that rain comes soon. For the past 2 weeks, rain has been scarce in Pitt County. It’s also the 13th day in a row with temperatures above 90 degrees. Andy McLawhorn owns a small farm just outside of Winterville. He’s had a tough time keeping his crops from wilting in the early summer heat. “The moisture content is critical for a plant to be able to survive this type of heat” said McLawhorn, who owns the Renston Garden Market. But that’s not his only worry. High heat and high humidity have also been bad for pick-your-own business. “We probably are running 15-20% behind what we did last year as far as pick your own customers” said McLawhorn. He’s had to close up shop during the hottest part of the day since the heat wave started. Heat like this certainly isn’t unprecedented, so many crops that are grown here can handle it as long as they’re watered. It may end up doing a number on crops like soybeans and corn though. …
  • “Local farming family featured on milk carton,” Salisbury Post: Chris and Alan Hoffner, owners of Hoffner Organic Farm, decided to stop using chemicals of any kind on their farm in February 2005. Their families are invested in organic farming and active in the farm life, as well. Since joining Organic Valley, a farmer owned co-op, those family members have often been part of the promotion efforts of the company. Tara and Owen Hoffner have been recently featured on an Organic Valley milk carton, a first for the family. Tara is Chris’ wife, and Owen is their 6-year-old son. The milk carton, for their 1-percent lactose-free product, is sold locally at Harris Teeter. Also featured on the carton is a 12-year-old milk cow called Rosa and numbered 413. While the family doesn’t usually drink lactose-free or 1-percent milk, Owen was born with intolerance for lactose and actually had to drink the product. Tara said, “He drank the lactose free milk until he overcame his allergy and now is able to use all the Organic Valley products,” Tara said. “Owen prefers chocolate milk now.” …
  • “Do drones make sense for my corn fields? A company called Measure is trying to find out.” The Washington Post: Commercial drone flight could be legal in as soon as a year, and agriculture appears likely to be first to see the most significant impact. It’s a lot simpler and safer to fly a drone over a soybean field than to deliver a package in a crowded city. But for farmers questions remain over when and where flying drones is of value. The drone services company Measure is doing tests over cornfields in Raleigh, N.C. Thursday in partnership with PrecisionHawk and the American Farm Bureau, as it looks to provide answers. Measure plans to release a report of its findings later this year. It will also develop an online tool — a return-on-investment calculator — to help farmers understand if drones make sense for them. “There are cases where it may not make sense,” said Measure president Justin Oberman. “So everybody needs to put a toe in the water and say let’s do some analysis and figure out if we really ought to use this tool.” …
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