News Roundup: Oct. 29-Nov. 4

By on November 4, 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. This week’s news includes Hurricane Matthew recovery, drought conditions in western N.C. and the formation of the Industrial Hemp commission.

  • “Tarboro area farmer works to recover after Matthew,” WRAL: The Undersecretary of Agriculture visited a sweet potato farm near Tarboro on Thursday that was wiped out during Hurricane Matthew. The farm, leased by Ken Smith, spans about 4,000 acres in Edgecombe and Nash counties. About 800 acres were under 8 feet of water during the storm last month. “Anything that the water got on top of and sat for several days is a total loss,” Smith said. Smith lost about 200 acres of sweet potatoes and hundreds more acres of soybeans. …
  • “Officials survey crop damages,” Rocky Mount Telegram: Hurricane Matthew might have been the death knell for many Eastern North Carolina farmers, according to federal officials touring devastated farms Thursday in Edgecombe County. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District, said many farmers were already operating at a margin when the storm blew into town in early October. “This is the 21st century, we’ve got to do better for our farmers,” Butterfield said. …
  • “A controversial crop coming to North Carolina farms this spring,” Fox 46: Imagine if you will, a field completely covered with a crop many think is marijuana. In reality, it’s actually hemp. “They are both cannabis plants, but we kind of explain it to some people like corn. If you look out in a corn field you see corn but if you strip off the husk of the corn, you might have field corn which is what you feed animals and humans don’t eat or you might have silver queen which is what humans eat,” Founders Hemp Vice President Jamie Crumley said. “You can’t get high of it. The THC level is so low, you could smoke the whole field and not get high,” Founders Hemp Director of Farming Waylon Saunder said. …
  • “Growing Season is Getting Longer in North Carolina,” Time Warner Cable News: By late October, much of North Carolina is accustomed to hearing the saying “frost on the pumpkin.” Halloween pumpkins across the state with the exception of the mountains did not see much or any frost this year. Only the northern mountains have seen lows around freezing so far this fall. Even Asheville has not dropped to freezing just yet this season. There is evidence that the frost free season is getting longer across the country including here in North Carolina. The frost free season, often referred to the growing season, is the time between the final freeze of spring and the first freeze of fall. …
  • “With floods and drought, hay may be scarce,” Salisbury Post: Flooding in eastern North Carolina and drought in western counties has state agricultural officials concerned about feeding livestock and horses this winter. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is using a website, www.ncagr.gov/hayalert, to help livestock and horse owners in sourcing hay. The Hay Alert website was first launched during the drought in 2002 and used again in 2007. It is similar to Craigslist, in which users can post hay for sale or hay wanted ads. The department will not be involved in the transaction beyond hosting the website. …
  • “Drought conditions continue some water restrictions and new concerns for livestock,” WLOS: The City of Hendersonville just released an update on its water conservation efforts. Henderson County remains in a severe drought, according to the North Carolina Drought Monitor. In a release, the city says since it enacted voluntary water restrictions on Oct. 17, daily water production levels have been cut by 7.4%. During the advisory, the city said its goal was for customers to cut their daily water usage by 10%. … The drought, coupled with the flooding in the eastern part of the state, has North Carolina agricultural officials also concerned about feeding live stock and horses this winter. …
  • “North Carolina’s family-owned farms adapt to shifting tobacco industry,” The Daily Tar Heel: There once was a time when the tobacco industry was one of the most important industries in North Carolina and the backbone of the state’s agricultural market. As the number of American adults who smoke has declined steadily over the last five decades, the nature of tobacco farming has shifted from smaller, family-owned operations across the state to large-scale farms concentrated in eastern North Carolina. Stanley Hughes, a tobacco farmer and owner of Pine Knot Farms, which is just north of Hillsborough, said the automation techniques employed by these larger farms are expensive, but they allow for a significant increase in tobacco yield to compensate for lower tobacco prices. “These larger farms put in different kinds of automation that eliminate extra labor, and they can grow more,” Hughes said. “I don’t want to be in that kind of financial bind because you have to have more money to do all of that.” Rather than expanding and potentially going into debt, Hughes has found new ways to reinvent his farm by rotating out various crops and switching to organic tobacco and produce. This allows him to take advantage of different markets, as well as sell his goods for higher prices to match the “organic” label. “I’ve switched to other crops and have been able to grow more using some mechanical automation,” Hughes said. “We do crop rotation where we will plant tobacco, then come back later and grow some sweet potato and wheat.” Pine Knot Farms covers roughly 125 acres, 30 of which are devoted to tobacco. The farm is expected to see an increase in tobacco yield this harvest season, Hughes said. …
  • “Cost to Agriculture from Hurricane Matthew Still Poorly Defined,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Damage reports from Hurricane Matthew have been slow to come in, many locations haven’t been accessible until recently. Director of the North Carolina Farm Service Agency, Bob Etheridge says most people still don’t have a grasp on what the storm did to agriculture in North Carolina: “Last year, during the course of ’15, either with too much water in the east, or drought in the west, we had 91 of the 100 counties designated as secretarial disasters, that’s huge. And then this year, it was slow to getting the numbers in because power was off, and in some places roads were out, our offices were closed for several days, but to be declared a secretarial declaration for disaster under the qualifications, you had to have a 30% loss of one of the commodities, that being peanuts, sweet potatoes, cotton, soybeans, corn, or tobacco. Well, this year, in some of these counties down east, we had at least three commodities, and in some cases four. That is huge.” Etheridge says most every county east of Chatham County has a disaster declaration: “This year it looks like, we’ve just requested from the secretary’s office, 39 primary counties in the east, plus 12 contiguous, that would be 51 counties in eastern North Carolina, that’s every county, really east of Chatham County, all the way up north to Warren. And in the far western counties, we have a total of 11 counties that have already been declared secretarial disaster areas, because of drought. I mean, we’ve got water in the east and drought in the west in our state, and it’s really tough.” …
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