News Roundup: Oct. 22-28

By on October 28, 2016

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

Each week 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. This week’s roundup focuses mostly on the impact of Hurricane Matthew on North Carolina’s farmers.

  • “Feeling for NC farmers after Hurricane Matthew’s flooding,” The News & Observer: In Wake County, the worries from Hurricane Matthew came mainly in the form of damage from flooding to some homes. Urban areas have their own special problems with roadways and with some sites of development when severe weather comes. But in neighboring Johnston County, the hurricane took a different but severe kind of toll, one that reminds those in “metropolitan” Wake of North Carolina’s rich agriculture heritage. Johnston officials estimate the losses from Hurricane Matthew’s torrential trains at $19 million and counting. And that’s not including the loss of livestock and flooded-out equipment or buildings. In addition, farmers have to worry about unpaved farm roads and sometimes complex irrigation systems. Some farmers scrambled to get what they could out of their fields. Tobacco was pretty much harvested. But tobacco curing in barns needs power, and that was out in many places in Johnston. The county also is home to huge sweet potato crops, and some farmers got out in the fields and salvaged what they could when they could, and that includes peanut crops. North Carolinians understand all that farmers have to go through to feed the rest of the world. But it’s well to remember in the aftermath of a natural calamity how it affects the farms so nearby. And, to help. …
  • “Crop damage from Hurricane Matthew in the billions,” WITN: (Video) Agriculture officials say across the east, the flooding from Hurricane Matthew caused billions of dollars in crop damage and lost revenue. Pitt County Cooperative Extension Agent Andy Burlingham says many crops are located near or along the Tar River – or other bodies of water – and as a result of the flooding, he says every farmer in the county was impacted in some way or another. Pitt County farmer Steve Tyson says after several days of flooding, he lost fifteen to twenty percent of all his soybean crops, plus ten percent of his peanut crops, totaling up to nearly $50,000 of lost revenue. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also issued a letter saying any crop harvested from a field impacted by flood waters cannot be used for human consumption and crops can only be used for animal feed if they pass an FDA established test. The crops from flooded fields can’t be harvested because the water – which could contain chemicals, toxins and sewage – has seeped into the soil and contaminated the crop. But even then, Tyson says the price he’d get for the crop would still be below the cost of production, meaning he’ll still be losing money. …
  • “North Carolina’s Peanut Losses in the Double Digits,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Farmers have been able to get back into the fields the last few days following Hurricane Matthew, and Bob Sutter, Executive Director of the North Carolina Peanut Growers says at least part of the crop is salvageable: “You know, you always look at the silver lining, when you look past Matthew, the weather that we have had since Matthew, has been absolutely perfect and has allowed farmers to get into the fields and get peanuts out. You know, I spoke to a farmer this morning who said, even with the weather that we’d had, he finished harvesting yesterday and almost got stuck in a couple of places, so it is slow to go away. If we’d had any water since the hurricane, it would be bad. We’ve seen probably 25 to 30% reduction in yields, and so that’s going to be difficult for the farmer to take, because that’s where his profit is. We’re looking at an off year again, and this will be the second one in a row.” …
  • “Locally, Rot Found In Field, Bins,” Dunn Daily Record: Farmers are still assessing damages from Hurricane Matthew and they face the reality that some foods they continue to harvest which may appear ready for sale may not be fit for human consumption. However, around here the main problem is rotting sweet potatoes, not flood water. With North Carolina being the largest sweet potato-growing state and with Johnston and Sampson second- and third-largest sweep potato producing counties — this is significant to the area. Crops and commodities exposed to floodwaters are considered adulterated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and cannot enter human food channels, according to a press release from North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. They also cannot be used for animal feed unless they pass a testing protocol. “There is a higher notch for any crops that are grown for human consumption,” Johnston County Extension Director Bryant Spivey said. “Any crop that was flooded is considered not to be safe.” Harnett County Horticulture Extension Agent Matt Jones said the problem evolves from water that comes into fields of what he called overspill of flooded areas. The flood waters may contain sewage, harmful organisms, pesticides, chemical wastes or other toxic substances, according to Commissioner Troxler’s press release. …
  • “Shock, Rescue, Recovery: North Carolina Farmers Deal With Storm Loss,” Modern Farmer: The flood waters are subsiding along with the national news stories about the devastation wrought to North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, but for the farmers who have lost everything, the nightmare is far from over. “We’ve got some areas where whole counties were underwater because of riverine flooding and where farmers lost not just their crops, but their homes and their equipment,” Brian Long, the director of public affairs for the North Carolina Agricultural Department tells Modern Farmer in a phone interview. The storm devastated parts of the Caribbean before it hit the U.S. and tore a path along the coast of North Carolina two weeks ago causing massive flooding, killing 26 people and more than a million farm animals. The estimated price tag—an early tally— is about $1.5 billion in damages. The entire length of the eastern region of the state, from the north to south, was hit hardest, but the central portion of the state was also affected. Long says agriculture in nearly half of North Carolina’s counties, 48 of 100, was negatively impacted by the storm and subsequent flooding. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told CNN that farming could be one of the hardest-hit sectors—affecting everything from peanuts and sweet potatoes to poultry and pigs—and could have “a major, devastating impact on our (agricultural) community.” …

Other ag news:

  • “Can consumers’ skepticism of ag technology be changed?” Southeast Farm Press: Food in America is safer, more available and more affordable than ever before. Yet despite all of this, consumers remain skeptical of the technology necessary to feed the world. Charlie Arnot, chief executive officer of the Center for Food Integrity, says this presents a great challenge to agriculture today and steps must be taken to engage consumers so they will see the need and benefits of technology in agriculture and food production. “People are skeptical of institutions, and food and agriculture has become an institution,” Arnot said Sept. 28 at the Ag Biotech Summit sponsored by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center at the Friday Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In the age of social media, mistrust of institutions has become the norm. Arnot said transparency is no longer optional. Steps must be taken to build trust. “It is a basic consumer expectation for the entire system. It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re on the farm, you’re a food processor, a technology company, a restaurant or retailer, people want you to be more transparent,” he said. …
  • “Mind the Food Gap: Who Does Farm-to-Table Serve?” Indy Week: The Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw is not trying to rip you off by charging twelve dollars for a burger, says owner Claire Haslam. She explains that the restaurant she and her partner opened in the renovated mill at the center of Saxapahaw’s development boom, the one they describe as a “central gathering place for the community,” aims to build a model that’s economically viable for everyone—including farmers and their staff. “We’re here supporting the locals, and they come in and support us,” she says. This refrain is familiar to anyone who buys locally grown food in the Triangle. But given that inequality has grown alongside the Triangle’s food scene, invocations of community at hip restaurants and upscale markets can often seem grounded in questionable trickle-down thinking—less “let them eat cake” and more “if we eat enough cake, we’ll eventually create a market for bread.” …
  • “Federal investigation of raw milk farm expands to buying clubs,” Food Safety News: In March, it was associated with a raw milk Listeria outbreak involving one fatality. A judge then approved USDA’s request to inspect the farm, which led to requests for sales records. Now, Amish owner Amos Miller has been ordered back to court on Nov. 1 where he could be found in contempt for his failure to produce documents as requested for USDA’a Food Safety and Inspection Service. Miller-Farm-SiloFor Miller, however, a more troubling concern is likely USDA’s expansion of its investigation to include 1,100 members of a North Carolina food buying club that is associated with his Pennsylvania farm. …
  • “Drought has spotty impact on local growers,” Hendersonville Times-News: Henderson County has been in drought conditions for months and forecasters don’t expect it to lighten up anytime soon, but the effect of that drought varies across the area’s many farmers. Cooperative Extension Director Marvin Owings says there’s no doubt they are in a drought, but overall, the county hasn’t come out too badly. Vegetable growers mostly irrigate their crops, Owings noted, and since August, rain levels have been up and down. A very wet August was followed by a dry start to September, with rain coming later in the month. Now it’s back to very dry conditions so far in October, he said, moving from one extreme to the other. The hay crop, though, is down to about 50 percent of a full crop and there are worries about the winter supply, Owings said. Those difficulties are due not only to the drought, but also to the wet times, too. “The prediction is there will be a real shortage of hay, especially the square bale hay” this winter, he said, noting that some growers are putting more in storage in preparation. …
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