News Roundup: April 9-15

By on April 15, 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.

  • “When hives don’t thrive, pollinators needed,” Hendersonville Times-News: At Gary Steiner’s home on Newmann Road in Hendersonville, a row of neatly stacked white wooden boxes lines the side of his cow pasture and another stands beside his house. But instead of buzzing with life, they lie quiet. Last year, Steiner had 35 bee hives. Over the winter, 34 of them died, representing about a $10,000 loss, $6,000 for the bees and $4,000 in other losses. The culprit is the varroa mite, a small parasitic insect that looks like an orange crab, attaching itself to fullygrown and developing bees and transmitting a deadly virus. Two years ago, Steiner was up to 45 hives and his ultimate goal is to reach 100, moving toward a commercial-scale operation that may one day become his main source of income. …
  • “North Carolina has high hopes for industrial hemp,” The Daily Tar Heel: A newly organized association is seeking private fundraising to allow farmers in the state to produce industrial hemp. The N.C. Industrial Hemp Association hopes to use money raised to create a commission for regulation and permitting procedures that will allow farmers to finally cultivate the crop. The North Carolina legislature voted to legalize the production of industrial hemp in September. Now, seven months after this decision, members of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association hope to kickstart production of the crop in the state. Industrial hemp, or Cannabis sativa, lacks the potent chemical most identified with the mind-altering effects of marijuana, which is derived from THC. According to the association, sativa typically contains less than one percent of THC. A low-information crop Jeffrey Cartonia, executive director of the association, said the common misconception surrounding the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana can be attributed to the plant’s history. “I think there’s an education process, which is very simple, once you talk to somebody and actually discuss what each variant is and what the differences are,” Cartonia said. …
  • “Scientist and local fisherman work to restore oysters at the Crystal Coast,” Public Radio East: (Audio) There’s an environmental and economic crisis along our coast and around the world. Oyster populations are drastically low, as compared to their numbers a century ago. In North Carolina, oyster populations have dropped 90 percent. But two men in Carteret County think they may have the answer to the shortage. One is a scientist, the other is a fishermen. It’s an unlikely partnership, since scientists and commercial fishermen haven’t traditionally had the best relationship. Against big odds, these two have worked together for the past six years to figure out the best way to increase oyster populations in the estuarine of North Carolina’s coast. Waters were once abundant with oysters, but now their populations have been decimated because of overharvesting and habitat destruction. “It’s also important to note that the environment has changed dramatically over the years.” Dr. Neils Lindquist is a researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. “One of those big changes has been to allow more salt water into our estuaries, dredging inlets and building the intercostal waterway. When you change the water and make it saltier, it’s harder for oysters because there are so many more predators and pest that love to eat oysters as much as we do.” …
  • “Milk Prices Hurting NC Dairy Farmers,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) Good news for you at the grocery store! The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a gallon of milk selling for $3.21. That’s the lowest price in six years. But that’s not good news for everyone. North Carolina dairy producers are facing tough decisions on operating in the red, or going out of business. “We’re the biggest dairy producer in North Carolina,” said Dr. Ben Shelton, owner of Rocky River Dairy Farm. “Each morning, it’s about 97 pounds of milk per cow. About 110 thousand pounds a day.” Dr. Shelton’s owned the farm for nearly a quarter of century. But he now faces uncertain times. “2016 looks like it could be a really bad year,” said Dr. Shelton. “We’re about 60-65 percent price wise where we were in 2014. It’s a global problem. Supply and demand for the whole world is out of balance.” There are 43 dairy farmers in Iredell County, making it the largest producer in the state. The slump in milk prices is costing the region millions. “Milk prices for farmers around here are below the break even cost, so when they actually go to the barn in the morning, they’re losing money,” said Nancy Keith, County Extension Director COOP Iredell County. Dr. Shelton adds trying to stay afloat is only causing the industry to sink deeper. “Everybody makes more milk and ship more volume to overcome the lack of margin. Then it takes longer for the cycle to work its way through,” said Dr. Shelton. They say you can help, by drinking more milk.
  • “State’s strawberry season in full swing,” Jacksonville Daily News: The open strawberry season is the perfect time to enjoy farm-fresh fruit that your whole family can pick themselves. There are more than 200 farms in North Carolina with “Pick Your Own” experiences and these interactive farms are educating families like yours on local agriculture through family fun. North Carolina is the country’s fourth largest producer of strawberries with 1,800 acres harvested each year. Strawberry season typically begins in early April and lasts through mid-June, but always check local farm websites or Facebook pages for opening dates, hours and directions. “The strawberry fields just opened Thursday,” said Caitlin Lafferty on Friday at Mike’s Farm in Beulaville. “Our strawberry plants are bigger than they were at this time last year and we have a lot more green berries than we normally would too.” …
  • “Sen. Grassley authors bill to stop ‘farm subsidy loophole” Southeast Farm Press: Farmers already being hammered by low commodity prices and a reduced safety net in the 2014 farm bill may face additional challenges if new legislation introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, gains passage. Grassley, who calls himself one of the only working family farmers in the U.S. Senate, has introduced the Farm Payment Loophole Elimination Act. The bill would close “a farm subsidy loophole that was intentionally included in the 2014 farm bill,” according to the senator. “The original actively engaged language that both bodies of Congress passed as part of the 2014 farm bill would have limited the number of ‘non-farming managers’ to one per entity,” Grassley said in a statement released by his office. “However, conferees denied these reforms put forth by Grassley and overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress, and instead opted for instructions that restricted the Agriculture’s Department’s ability to fix blatant abuses of the farm safety net.” …
  • “COLUMN: Support the Food System; you’re a part of it,” The Technician: It can be easier to overlook the underemphasized concern of food sustainability in the community when being taught about those in impoverished areas. However, according to the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks, 18 percent of North Carolinians do not know where their next meal will be coming from. North Carolina is also ranked one of the highest food-insecure states among individuals under 18 years of age, involving approximately one out of every four children. o state the obvious, everyone is connected to food by the need to consume energy. But this is why a relationship and participation with the food system is essential. Calgary defines a sustainable food system to be “a collaborative network that integrates several components in order to enhance a community’s environmental, economic and social well-being.” Most people travel to grocery stores or farmers’ markets to access fresh produce. But an alternative to this conventional method of acquiring food is a local food system. This sustainable solution makes food more geographically and economically accessible in the closer proximity. ..
  • “The Looming Threat of Avian Flu,” The New York Times: Even at a distance, it was obvious that there was something odd about the compost pile behind one of Brad Moline’s long white barns. Moline, 37, tops six feet, but the pile towered above him. It was 30 feet wide and 100 feet long, and the compost was crumbly and rich. But its sloping sides were studded with bones. There were seven other piles like this on the Moline family farm, in northwest Iowa, enough to fill three football fields up to the first row of seats. Bleached pelvic crests and the knobby ends of shins poked up from the humus alongside an unbroken wishbone. They were all that was left of the 56,000 turkeys that Moline and his older brother, Grant, and their father, John, were raising last May, when avian influenza arrived on their farm. When they went to bed one night, their turkeys were healthy; the next morning, almost 100 were dead and hundreds more were gasping for breath. Thousands of birds died in days. “I’d never seen anything like it before,” Moline said when I visited him last October. “My father, who is 70 years old, he’d never seen anything like it before, and some older relatives that have been around this area for a long time, they’d never seen anything like it. It rolled through the farm like a runaway train.” …
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