News Roundup: July 30-Aug. 5

By on August 5, 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.

  • “Local nonprofit declares war on the hemlock woolly adelgid,” Mountain Xpress: Since its accidental arrival here from southern Japan about two decades ago, the hemlock woolly adelgid has killed hundreds of thousands of trees, devastating some forests in the region. Exact numbers are hard to come by, says Margot Wallston, statewide coordinator for the Hemlock Restoration Initative, but hemlocks “are a major player in our forested and residential landscapes. Many local natural-resource managers estimate the loss to be upward of 80 percent, especially in areas with naturally high hemlock densities.” The initiative is a program of WNC Communities, an Asheville-based nonprofit. Public lands aren’t the only areas at risk, however: The invasive insect can also infect homeowners’ trees, requiring costly removal, notes Bill Yarborough, special assistant to state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. His department is helping fund the hemlock initiative, using money from North Carolina’s billion-dollar settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Attorney General Roy Cooper sued the TVA, claiming the agency had failed to meet Clean Air Act standards; in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. Since 2014, North Carolina has funneled $350,000 of the settlement money to the hemlock initiative, seeking to limit the damage to the state’s agriculture, tourism and recreation industries. The U.S. Forest Service is also funding the project. The mission, says Wallston, “is to work with a variety of partners to restore hemlocks to long-term health throughout North Carolina and ensure that both eastern and Carolina hemlocks can withstand adelgid attacks and survive to maturity on public and private lands.” …
  • “Sanderson Farms to begin interviews, hiring in September,” Fayetteville Observer: A poultry operation bringing 1,100 jobs to Robeson County has already received about 3,700 applications five months before operations begin. Sanderson Farms will continue interviewing and hiring future employees next month for the plant in St. Pauls, a spokesman said Thursday as the company wrapped up “career interest sessions” at a Lumberton hotel. The Mississippi-based poultry producer will begin training employees mid-November and start operations in earnest Jan. 9, said Pic Billingsley, the company’s director of development and engineering. “That will give us six weeks of training with employees at the plant,” he said. “We’ll begin teaching them the way our company conducts business environmentally, with food safety, policies and procedures and more importantly, the culture of Sanderson Farms.” The 1,100 job slots will be filled over the next 12 to 14 months. Entry-level employees will start at $11.50 an hour, with wages varying according to shift time. The $145 million plant and $17million hatchery were originally courted by Fayetteville and Cumberland County. Residents’ objections led to Robeson County landing the deal. Still, count Cumberland residents among the future employees. …
  • “Organic Growers School accepting applications,” Tryon Daily Bulletin: Organic Growers School’s Farm Beginnings is a year¬long farmer training course beginning on October 15, now open to applicants. OGS will be hosting regional drop¬in information sessions for those interested to come and learn about what the program offers. Farm Beginnings was developed to directly address the needs of the regional farming community and offer a comprehensive farmer¬led training course to better prepare the future generation of farming professionals in western North Carolina. Farmer Programs director, Cameron Farlow, and Farmer Programs coordinator, Nicole DelCogliano, will be available for one¬on¬one conversations to answer questions, discuss the details of the training, and to help candidates understand if they are ready to take the course. …
  • “Delaying wheat harvest reduces soybean yields in a double-crop system,” Southeast Farm Press: The challenge of double-crop soybean production is yields often don’t keep up with full-season yields. An initiative was launched two years ago to increase yields in double-crop small grain/soybean systems across the Mid-Atlantic. During the Northeast Ag Expo field day held at the Lynn Hobbs Farm in Hobbsville, N.C. July 28, David Holshouser, Virginia Tech Extension soybean specialist, said the study is being conducted across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina with the aim of improving yields of both soybeans and small grains (either wheat or barley) in a double-crop system. In the five-state study, six different soybean varieties across different maturity groups are being examined for yield performance. The study includes two late maturity group four varieties, two early maturity group five varieties and two late maturity group five varieties. Holshouser noted that when wheat yields go down in a double-crop system, soybean yields go down as well. He said research shows soybean yields are best when wheat is harvested at 20 percent moisture. “The most profitable option is to harvest high moisture wheat,” the Virginia Tech specialist said. …
  • “‘Good crop’ will be ready for Apple Festival,” Hendersonville Times-News: With the North Carolina Apple Festival a month away, county growers say the apple crop is set to be a good one, aside from some damage caused by low temperatures and hail. “It’s not a full crop, but it’s a good crop,” said County Extension Director Marvin Owings. This year, there should be plenty of fruit for the festival, including the crowd favorite honey crisp variety. Growers faced challenges very similar to last year, including frost and freeze damage, hail and a week of rain during full bloom that hampered pollination. The impacts of freezes and hail have been spotty, he said, dependent on location. It doesn’t seem like there’s ever a perfect season, as “there’s always something related to weather.”
  • “Conservation efforts boosted by hog waste agreement funds,” The News & Observer: Grants totaling $2 million will pay for environmental improvements around the state this year, under a 16-year-old agreement with Smithfield Foods to compensate for hog waste pollution. The annual grants come from a $65 million agreement with the world’s largest hog producing and pork processing company and its subsidiaries struck by then-Attorney General Mike Easley in 2000. N.C. State University received $15 million of that to develop new ways of hog waste disposal. The rest of the money is being paid out over 25 years for environmental projects. So far more than $27 million has been granted to over 100 recipients. Some of the money has been used to close more than 200 animal waste lagoons, and to restore and protect more than 23,000 acres of natural areas and wildlife habitat. Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office announced the current projects, including two in the Triangle. …
  • “Agriculture industry looks to veterans to fill job gap,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) Leaders in the state’s agriculture industry are hoping veterans will help lower the ever-increasing need for more farmers. Experts in agriculture say for every five farmers that leave the industry, only one is entering the field. Recruiters say veterans have the perfect skill set to become successful farmers. “It’s not just sitting on a farm on a tractor, farming tobacco or cotton or anything like that. It’s logistics, it’s security, it’s computers. It’s everything,” said Robert Elliott, a veteran Marine who also serves as a veteran liaison for NC State’s Agriculture Institute. This past week, Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Farm Act into law which will support the increasing the agriculture industry. He also signed a bill into law that will help the state gather information from veterans and their families about their specific needs. …
  • “A Guilford County farm could save sharks and that’s no fish story,” Greensboro News & Record: Sharks are typically thought of as predators, but now they’ve become the prey. Deep-water sharks, especially in the Pacific, are declining quickly because of aggressive fishing to harvest squalene — a compound in their livers that’s a key component in a variety of products from cosmetics to vaccines. Now, Guilford County is at the heart of work to turn tobacco into a renewable source of squalene. The organization driving the project hopes that it will be able to supply up to 10 percent of the world’s squalene market in the coming years. Enter SynShark, a Delaware company that believes the squalene market is growing quickly, from about $250 million to $500 million in the next five years. Pat Short’s family farm in southern Guilford is ground zero for the project and during this growing season, the partnership with SynShark is expanding quickly. Short said projects like this could save small farms. “They can’t just farm and spin their wheels and not make any money,” Short said. SynShark’s road to the Short farm began with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to a researcher at Texas A&M University. Scientist Joshua Yuan designed a way to modify tobacco plants to make more squalene, which is produced at some level in all plants and animals, including humans. …
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