News Roundup: Dec. 26-31

By on January 1, 2016

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.

  • “Warm, wet winter wreaking havoc on NC farm fields,” WRAL: Winter is the season to grow wheat, to harvest soybeans and for strawberries to take hold, among other crops. But the unseasonably warm weather is confusing plants and trees, and recent heavy rains have saturated fields. Don Nicholson, a regional agronomist for the state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, said strawberries are growing too fast and could be more susceptible to a cold snap later in the winter. Soggy ground also limits the harvesting of soybeans and other field crops and the planting of winter wheat and rapeseed. “The wet, warm conditions have led to as much crop damage as I have ever seen to soybeans,” Nicholson said in an email to WRAL News. “They are molding, which, depending on the amount of damage, can make them unmarketable.” …
  • “Forsyth County creating farmland protection plan,” Winston-Salem Journal: Terry Crater said, “There has to be some way to preserve farmland in Forsyth County.” In 1954, Forsyth County had about 159,000 acres of farmland and 2,927 farms, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. Fast-forward to 2012, and the numbers had fallen to 40,467 acres of farmland and 662 farms. Such local farmers as Terry Crater and Edgar Miller, who each have seen their families’ farm acreage decrease over the generations, understand the trend all too well. They were among several farmers and community members who gathered at the county agriculture building in mid-December to take part in an effort to assess farmland in the county and plan for its future. Forsyth County, including the Cooperative Extension Service and the Forsyth Soil and Water Conservation District, is creating a farmland protection plan. It will evaluate the state of agriculture and forestry in Forsyth County, the challenges, and outline ideas for keeping agriculture sustainable and promoting agricultural economic development. …
  • “How to protect backyard chickens from avian flu,” News & Observer: Wildlife gardeners tend to enjoy the outdoors, and many are animal-keepers as well, whether it’s bees, bat houses or flocks of chickens under their care. With that in mind, I wanted to address concerns that some gardeners are having about an avian flu strain that hit hard in the Midwest last fall and spring and may be winging its way now toward North Carolina. The highly pathogenic strain of bird flu, known as H5N1, found its way from Asia across the Bering Strait to North America in 2014, causing deaths of chickens and turkeys on dozens of farms. Wild waterfowl, such as ducks and swans, carry the virus, but it rarely makes them sick. In contrast, the virus is quite deadly to flocks of domestic chickens, turkeys and ducks, which are less likely to have genetic resistance to the disease. We haven’t had any reports of this flu in North Carolina.  …
  • “Farmers grow Christmas trees full of spirit,” Hickory Daily Record: It’s a Smith family reunion nearly every day at the Mountain Top Fraser Fir Christmas tree lot just off Morganton Boulevard in Lenoir. Larry Smith of Newland is the head honcho. He grows Christmas trees in Avery County and sells them each fall in Lenoir as well as on a lot across from Valley Hills Mall in Hickory. Smith’s the tree grower who won the honor of providing the Christmas trees that now stand in the Rotunda of the North Carolina State Capitol and in Gov. Pat McCrory’s office. Smith’s also the farmer who grew the tree enjoyed by former Vice President Dick Cheney when he lived in Washington, D.C.’s Naval Observatory following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. More about all that in a minute. Back to the family affair. …
  • “Court rejects challenge to poultry inspection rules from N.C. doctor,” McClatchy News: A retired Rocky Mount, North Carolina, doctor who’s worried about food safety failed Tuesday in her challenge to revised U.S. Department of Agriculture poultry inspection rules. n a unanimous ruling closely watched by agribusiness and activists alike, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Dr. Margaret E. Sowerwine and her allies with Food and Water Watch lacked the legal standing to sue. The ruling by what’s often called the nation’s second-highest court leaves intact the inspection revisions that Sowerwine claims threaten her health. Sowerwine’s fear, the court panel concluded, was insufficient reason to block the New Poultry Inspection System. “A careful examination of allegations demonstrates that they have not plausibly alleged that the NPIS substantially increases the risk of foodborne illness compared to the existing inspection systems,” Judge Robert L. Wilkins wrote. …
  • “Editorial: As NC’s population tops 10 million, investment must keep up with growth,” News & Observer: New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau have put North Carolina’s population over the 10 million mark for the first time. By the 2020 census, it’s likely if not certain that the nation’s ninth-most populous state will get its 14th seat in the U.S. House, giving it even more influence on the national stage. That’s one of the benefits of population. The state’s two largest cities, Charlotte and Raleigh, have been the chief sources of growth, with two-thirds of the growth in the state going to the Charlotte area and the Research Triangle. The reasons are no mystery: The urban areas provide more jobs through technology and research, with financial jobs related to banks and service areas, and of course with respected research universities that bring in jobs through research projects. Gov. Pat McCrory says the state’s appealing qualities account for its growth, underscoring the state’s new tagline, “nothing compares to North Carolina.” In many ways, given the state economic growth coupled with the scenic vistas and vacation areas in the mountains and on the coast, and its draw for retirees, he’s right. …
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