News Roundup: Aug. 27- Sept. 2

By on September 2, 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.

  • “NC plans $94 million ag lab in Raleigh,” News and Observer: The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plans to build a $94 million laboratory complex off Edwards Mill Road that will allow it to close and consolidate four aging lab buildings in the city. The Agricultural Sciences Center will combine labs that test food and drugs and motor fuels, that detect animal diseases and that calibrate scales and other measurement devices into one 200,000-square-foot building. The old labs are 43 years old on average and are outdated, said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “These labs we have now are cramped,” Troxler said Thursday. The money for the project will come from the Connect NC bonds that state voters approved in March. The building will take 18 months to design and won’t be completed until late 2020, Troxler said. …
  • “Farmers, old-fashioned food meet in Chatham County,” WRAL: (Video) The Carolina Stockyards hold a cattle auction every week while serving up burgers at The Carolina Restaurant next door.
  • “Boomer couple named top county, regional tree farmers,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: In 1984, “B” and Martha Ham Townes began turning their 73 acres off High Rock Road in Boomer into a diverse natural landscape for the enjoyment of their family and others. The endeavor included converting pastureland into woodland and managing for diverse tree and wildlife species as a certified Tree Farm. The couple built a home and raised a son and daughter, William and Charlotte, on the property while also pursuing their careers. For their accomplishments in timber production, recreation, water quality and wildlife habitat, the four key objectives of the American Tree Farm System, the Towneses were chosen as Wilkes County and N.C. Mountain Region Tree Farmers of the Year for 2016. Jeff Pardue of Wilkesboro, a certified tree farm inspector, and Joe Cox of Durham, vice president of outreach and education for the nonprofit N.C. Tree Farm Program, presented the awards in an event Friday morning on the Townes farm. Pardue and Cox are both private forestry consultants. The Towneses, plus central, eastern and two at-large winners, will now be considered for 2016 N.C. Tree Farmers of the Year. State winners go on to national competition. …
  • “Pilot program set to address food deserts,” Carolina Journal: North Carolina is initiating an effort to provide healthier food in areas of the state where people may have trouble finding fresh produce, though a federal study of similar efforts in other locations have found they had a “negligible” effect on the amount of produce sold in areas called “food deserts.” During the 2016 short session of the General Assembly, lawmakers set aside $250,000 for a Healthy Food Small Retailer Program to increase access to fresher food. “A food desert is an area where there is no access to a full-service grocery store within one mile in an urban area and 10 miles in a rural area, said Morgan Whittman Gramann, managing director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health. “Based on the [U.S. Department of Agriculture’s] recent data, there are 349 food deserts across 80 counties in North Carolina, affecting 1.5 million North Carolina residents,” Gramann said. The program will be administered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The money primarily will pay to install commercial grade refrigerators for fresh produce at convenience stores or similar retailers. Brian Long, a spokesman for the department, said that the agency is still working on some of the details of the new program and hopes to be in the position to accept grant proposals from small retailers by late fall. “I think what we would hope to do is be able to have the grants dispersed so the retailers could purchase the refrigeration equipment and have it in place to coincide with next year’s growing season,” Long said.  …
  • “Salisbury family breeds water buffalo to create cheese,” WGHP: North Carolina has a rich history in agriculture, and whether it’s growing food, raising animals or learning how to market and sell them, many thousands of families make a living trying to feed us. But one farmer in Rowan County is using animals that you rarely see to breed something you’ll have to try – and it’s made in North Carolina. While every other farm in the state is milking cows, the folks at Fading D Farm in Salisbury are milking water buffalo to create water buffalo cheese. For more information, visit their website.
  • “From blueberries to cattle, drought leaves mark in WNC,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Rainfall in August has taken the edge off drought conditions in Western North Carolina, but hot and dry weather have hurt some areas of agriculture and could linger into fall. Buncombe County has been in a drought since April, according to the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory report, which is published weekly. Buncombe and surrounding counties have ranged between three categories – abnormally dry, moderate drought and severe drought. Buncombe was listed as abnormally dry in the most recent report. Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, and Macon counties remained in a moderate drought, while Cherokee was listed in a severe drought. The dry conditions came as climate scientists recorded July being the hottest month on record in Asheville, with data going back to 1902. The monthly average temperature was 78.9 degrees, 4.2 degrees above normal. The previous record was set in 1993. …
  • “Tyson to launch $14-MM expansion of N.C. poultry plant,” Meatingplace: Tyson Foods Inc. is preparing to spend $14 million on capital improvements and other expansion-related activities at a poultry facility in Wilkesboro, N.C., the processor announced yesterday. Tyson said the project is expected to create as many as 75 jobs and the cooked poultry products facility, although it is contingent on the company winning approval of a community development block grant from the N.C. Dept. of Commerce. Wilkesboro officials are expected to apply for a $1.9-million state grant to design and build a clarifier at the local wastewater treatment facility in support of the Tyson expansion. …
  • “Peanuts Awaiting Rain,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) This weekend’s forecast rains could be a instrumental in saving the North Carolina peanut crop says Bob Sutter, Executive Director of the North Carolina Peanut Growers says it’s been a tale of two seasons, good moisture until August showed up: “Many people in eastern North Carolina, many peanut fields didn’t receive hardly any rain in August, some about an inch or so, they were in wonderful shape before August the first, and they’re just sitting there waiting for rain, but they can wait only so long. Hopefully we’ll get rain out of this tropical storm this weekend, it will sure make a big difference in yields if we do.” As far as disease and insect pressure…: “Thrips can be a problem when it gets hot and dry, but we’re in pretty good shape on that issue.” …
  • “Migrant labor dries up, threatening apple harvest,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Between a fungal disease that sounds like a Disney villain and farmers having their labor pool looted, apple growing isn’t quite the idyllic pursuit it seems at first blush. “It’s kind of a cutthroat business,” said Don Ward, owner of T&D Orchards, bouncing down the mountain to Polk County in a truck full of apples. Those apples were picked in Dana, a quiet Western North Carolina town, with a small post office, a few larger churches, and a Mexican mercado to supply the day laborers. It’s the heart of apple country, filled with picturesque and rolling orchards, Sugarloaf Mountain rising in the distance. It’s a peaceful scene that belies the worry the men who own these fields feel. Growers like Ward have numerous challenges: disease, weather and pests. But no challenge seems more dire than the labor shortage, with not enough workers and a crop that’s ripening at least a week or two ahead of schedule this year. …
  • “Massive crowd expected in Hendersonville,” Hendersonville Times-News: The threat of bad weather and rising gas prices aren’t likely to deter any of the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected this weekend in Hendersonville. The 70th annual N.C. Apple Festival kicks off this morning, and Beth Carden, executive director for the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, said as many as 300,000 people will be crowding into Hendersonville for the festival and the long Labor Day weekend. Local hotel owners are reporting that they’re “absolutely totally full,” she said. “We expect as big a crowd — if not bigger — this year than last,” which was estimated at 300,000. …
  • “Celebrate North Carolina Wine Month,” WFMY: (Video) Calling all wine lovers! If you need another reason to open a bottle of wine, September is North Carolina Wine Month! Tom Hughes of Divine Llama Vineyards in East Bend and Larry Somers of Lynox Castle Vineyards in Rockingham County joined The Good Morning Show this morning to help celebrate NC wine. The annual celebration the state’s $1.7 billion wine and grape industry aligns with the traditional harvest season of grapes across the state. The N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council, which promotes the industry, is encouraging consumers to visit local wineries during the month. “North Carolina is home to more than 180 wineries, and each one is as unique as the wines it offers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “On top of that, the state has 525 grape growers from the mountains to the coast.” …
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