News Roundup: Jan. 9-15

By on January 15, 2016

News Roundup - this week's top news stories about NC agricultureEach 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.

  • “State lifts ban after avian flu outbreak last year,” Shelby Star: The suspension of live poultry shows and sales has been lifted, a week earlier than when the ban was set to expire. The ban, in place since Aug. 15, was initiated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to guard against the introduction and spread of highly pathogenic avian flu after nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest died or were depopulated due to the disease outbreak. The suspension was announced to the public in June. “I promised at the beginning that we would review the ban in January, and now it looks as if it is safe to go ahead and lift the restrictions,” North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. The statewide suspension meant the cancellation of the poultry show at the Cleveland County Fair, along with shows at the North Carolina State Fair, Mountain State Fair and other county fairs, as well as all live bird auctions and poultry swap meets. Private sales between individuals were allowed to continue. If no bans on poultry shows are in effect during the fall, Cleveland County Fair manager Bobby Jenks said residents can expect the poultry show to return to the 2016 fair. …
  • “Our view: Effort should help keep family farms alive,” Winston-Salem Journal: You don’t have to be a fan of sage superstar Willie Nelson to know that family farms and farmland are in decline throughout America today. We hope a new initiative will be able to help this American tradition thrive in our area. Farming has never been an easy life, and for whatever truth can be found in romantic visions of working with animals and the earth, the challenges never let up: Hard work, long hours, low market prices, unpredictable weather. And in Forsyth County, farmers have been losing their land. Since 1954, Forsyth County farmland has decreased from about 159,000 acres to 40,467 acres in 2012, the Journal’s Meghann Evans reported recently. Farms have dropped in the same time frame from 2,927 to 662. That’s well over a 75 percent loss. …
  • “Soybeans Still in the Field Worth Harvesting,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) To say that we’ve had a challenging harvest season in regards to soybeans is probably the understatement of the 2015 growing season. NC State Extension Soybean Specialist Dr. Jim Dunphy says it’s possible, but not likely that there will be a shortage of soybean seed for the 2016 growing season: “Rhonda, I think it could, and I’m sure it will, on some select varieties. The shortage may not be as serious as our weather would suggest it to be. I think several of the companies, essentially planted some extra acres of seed beans to make sure that they did not run short, literally they’re taking care of their customers. And of course they hate to miss out on a sale, but the bottom line is that they end up taking care of their customers and that’s a good thing. So, we may not be as short as our weather would have dictated.” Dunphy says we should know by the first of February what the availability of see will look like: “It’ll probably be the end of the month before we get a good handle on quality and germination percentage to have a good enough guess as to whether it’s going to be a serious shortage or a minor shortage, or any shortage at all, which I assume we will.” …
  • “Our View: Sampson plants will turn hog waste into power,” Fayetteville Observer: Could that be the sweet smell of success coming, of all things, from hog manure?It could. Sampson County, and its next-door neighbor Duplin, form the epicenter of North Carolina’s pork industry and are the top hog-producing counties in the country. In that, they are also a leading producer of hog waste. But Sampson has just approved half-million-dollar incentive packages for two plants that will convert the methane from manure into electricity. That is breakthrough technology and a welcome change in hog-waste disposal. The plants will be developed by a Detroit-area electric utility, NOVI Energy, which will invest about $25 million in each plant. They will be about 20 miles apart and will bring tax revenue of about $1.7 million to Sampson County over their first five years. …
  • “Reynolds completes $5B sale of international rights to super-premium brand,” Winston-Salem Journal: Reynolds American Inc. has exited the global tobacco marketplace — again — with Wednesday’s completion of selling the international rights to Natural American Spirit for $5 billion in cash to Japan Tobacco Group. Natural American, made by Reynolds subsidiary Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., is the top-selling U.S. super-premium brand and a Top 10 traditional-cigarette brand. Reynolds said “the international rights to nearly all of its operating companies’ cigarette trademarks are now owned by international tobacco companies, allowing the companies to focus on brand growth in the U.S. market.” Reynolds retains the right to sell Natural American in U.S. duty-free locations, U.S. territories or in U.S. military outlets. …
  • “2015 Planted Crop Acres Down to a 30-Year Low,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) The first crop reports of 2016 were released earlier this week reflecting year-end numbers from 2015. Chief of the Crops Branch for NASS, Lance Honig says there was at least one eye-opening number from last year: “When we look at the overall situation for the crop season, a lot of time we like to look at what we call our ‘principle crop total’, which is just the sum of the 21 major crops, and for 2015 producers planted 318.5 million acres to those crops, and that’s down 7.9 million acres from the previous season, and that’s a big drop. We haven’t seen a drop that big since back in the mid 80’s. So, what causes that…prices aren’t where they were a couple of seasons ago. We know there were a lot of different weather issues across the country this year, particularly back at the beginning of the season when producers were planting these crops. But, that really stands out, I think, when you see that big a drop overall, that tells you more than just something about an individual commodity. It kind of tells you what’s happening around the industry.” …
  • “FDA gives OK for company’s genetically engineered potato,” Charlotte Observer: A potato genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine is as safe as any other potato on the market, the Food and Drug Administration says. In a letter Tuesday to Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co., the FDA said the potato isn’t substantially different in composition or safety from other products already on the market, and it doesn’t raise any issues that would require the agency to do more stringent premarket vetting. “We’re pleased and hope that consumers recognize the benefits once it’s introduced into the marketplace next year,” Doug Cole, the company’s director of marketing and communications, said Wednesday. …
  • “After warm weather, farmers expect mixed berry harvest,” Wilmington StarNews: On New Year’s Day Sam Bellamy had a special treat on top of his cheesecake — freshly picked strawberries. The warmest Wilmington-area December on record coaxed berry bushes out of their slumber to flower and, in many areas, bear fruit. But Bellamy, who owns Indigo Farms Produce and Garden Center in Calabash, said the warm-up and abrupt January cool-down may not be as sweet for his other crops. “I think the most concern is with the blueberry and peach crops,” he said. “They need to have a good, consistent period of so many chilling hours to break bud and blossom like they should. Sometimes, if they don’t have a lot of chilling hours, the blossoms are weak when they open.” …
  • “NC progress slow on industrial hemp legalization,” News & Observer: Industrial hemp production became legal in North Carolina on Oct. 31, but don’t expect to see the crop planted here anytime soon. The permitting process is moving slowly. State legislators passed the legalization legislation in September, and Gov. Pat McCrory let it become law without his signature. But before farmers can grow hemp, private donors must provide $200,000 to cover the cost of regulating the industry. That hasn’t happened yet, legislators learned in a committee meeting Thursday. “It’s not moving as fast as everyone thought it would,” said Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican who chairs several agriculture committees. Hemp had not been legal in North Carolina in part because of a stigma: It’s a relative of marijuana and looks similar. But hemp lacks much of the ingredient that makes marijuana a recreational drug: tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. That means it’s next to impossible to get high from hemp. …
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