News Roundup

News Roundup: Dec. 5-11

By on December 11, 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.

  • “A Weekend in Christmas Tree Country,” Garden & Gun’s Daily Shot Blog: Deep in the forested heart of northwestern North Carolina lies Watauga County, the self-proclaimed “Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Capital of the World.” The Tar Heel State is the second largest grower of Christmas trees in the nation—just behind Oregon—and most of that enormous output comes from fifteen small rural counties. Only a fraction of North Carolina tree farms are open to the public. In Watauga, however, more than two-dozen welcome tree-hunters, and each is eager to help you find and fell your perfect specimen. In this part of the world, perfect means a Fraser fir. Say what you may about white pines and blue spruces, the popularity of the Fraser fir speaks for itself—98% of all the Christmas trees grown in North Carolina are Frasers. …
  • “Tobacco Economist Cautiously Optimistic for 2016,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) At the 2015 Tobacco Day last week, NC State Extension Economist Dr. Blake Brown was pretty much the man of the hour, as he often times is, especially after a difficult year. Brown is cautiously optimistic for 2016: “It’s been an interesting season, not a great season for our growers. Hopefully the situation will improve a little bit next year, basically because of crop problems in other parts of the world, basically the crop excess will be worked off. The biggest obstacle we have in the coming year is the very, very strong dollar and very weak Brazilin currency. It just means that competitors products are much, much cheaper on the world market than ours, and it makes for a difficult situation when we depend so heavily on exports.” …
  • “UNCA researchers hope to unlock ginseng secrets,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Folklore has long said wild ginseng is good to boost energy, and dealers have been willing to pay up to $700 per pound of the plant that grows wild in Western North Carolina. Now UNC Asheville researchers are trying to unlock the chemical and genetic secrets of wild ginseng perhaps giving growers a better chance to produce a wild-simulated ginseng. UNCA biology faculty members Jonathan Horton, David Clarke and Jen Ward started researching ginseng in 2008, working closely with students. Their research got a big boost this year with a $98,872 grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Part of their research has focused on finding the specific genetic markers in ginseng that identify those valuable medicinal compounds. …
  • “Climate affecting Christmas tree growers in the East,” WNCT: North Carolina growers produce over 20% of the fresh cut Christmas trees in the country, second only to Oregon. And North Carolina Christmas trees are shipped all over the country. For growers here in the East, the climate makes growing a breeze. “The acidic soil, well-drained soil, is an important part of that for us to grow them here and then of course adequate rainfall which we’ve certainly had our fair share of that recently,” says Joseph Noble, son of Bert Noble, owner of Noble Tree Farm. North Carolina is the leading producer of one of the most popular types of Christmas trees: the fraser fir. But you won’t find them growing in the East. …
  • “Wood pellet company pledges money for conservation in NC, Virginia,” News & Observer: Dogged by critics who say the growing wood pellet industry fouls the air and spoils sensitive woodlands, Maryland-based Enviva says it will provide $5 million over 10 years for conservation grants to protect bottomland forests in North Carolina and Virginia. Enviva makes pellets at two mills in northeastern North Carolina and one in southeastern Virginia, using wood from nearby forests, and loads the pellets onto ships at its export terminal in Chesapeake, Va. Electric utilities in Europe and the United Kingdom burn American wood pellets for fuel. Nonprofit groups will be eligible for grants for two purposes, Enviva said Wednesday: to shield some of the most ecologically sensitive forests from any logging, and to protect other woodlands – where bottomland timber is harvested for furniture, construction lumber, pellets and other uses – from being converted to farms and shopping centers. …
  • “NC farmers question Duke Energy’s decision to go elsewhere for swine waste,” WRAL: For years, hog waste has been a major environmental concern in North Carolina. Now that farmers are starting to convert that waste into energy, state regulators are looking at why Duke Energy is going out of state to buy the bio-gas. A 2007 state law requires utilities to obtain a certain amount of the energy they provide from renewable sources, and tax credits are provided for the suppliers of solar, wind and converted animal waste energy. The estimated 8.7 million hogs in North Carolina produce plenty of waste, and farmers want to know why their pigs aren’t being used more for that power. Six farms in the state capture methane produced by hog waste lagoons to produce electricity, but Duke officials say that doesn’t come close to meeting their renewable energy requirement. So, the utility wants to sign deals to get it’s methane from animal waste in Missouri and Oklahoma. “We would prefer that Duke take advantage of North Carolina resources,” said Angie Maier, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Pork Council. “We don’t think the intent of the General Assembly in 2007 was for farmers in Missouri to reap the benefits or North Carolina’s renewable energy law.” The dispute went before the North Carolina Utilities Commission last month. Duke’s attorneys argued the company has every right to contract out of state. …
  • “Making spirits bright for local distilleries,” Creative Loafing Charlotte: Doc Porter’s Named after owner Andrew Porter’s grandfather, the distillery opened this November with its “cleverly crafted” vodka. Plans are afoot to expand to gin, whiskey and perhaps even absinthe… Liquor distilleries offering everything from rustic moonshine to elegant gin have sprung up all over the state, and at least six have set up shop around the Queen City. This October, they all received an early Christmas present, with a new law allowing limited on-site bottle sales. For their proprietors, this could be a first step into gaining the same kind of popular support that their big beer brothers enjoy today. The North Carolina bill implemented on Oct. 1 allows distillers to sell a single bottle per customer per year — not exactly a recipe for explosive growth. Yet as part of the ongoing trend of eating and drinking locally, makers of craft spirits are excited about this small modification that may allow their industry to snowball into a major player in the state’s economy. Under the watchful eye of the state’s alcohol commission, they are eager to prove that strong spirits have a place in North Carolina. …
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