News Roundup: Dec. 23-30

By on December 30, 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.

  • “Waldenomics: NC growth to continue in 2017,” The News & Observer: N.C. State University economist Michael Walden predicts that the state will pull further ahead of the rest of the country in the coming year. To be precise, North Carolina’s urban centers – with plenty of high-tech jobs and advanced degrees and population growth – will outperform the national average. In an annual forecast issued Tuesday, Walden said he expects the unemployment rates in the Triangle and Asheville to fall below 4 percent next year, breaking a barrier not seen since well before the 2008 recession. In 2016, North Carolina performed above the national average in key economic measures, such as gross domestic product, labor force expansion, payroll jobs and inflation-adjusted wages. …
  • “Rare Wake County Christmas tree farm saved,” The News & Observer: On a busy stretch of Benson Road, the Christmas trees stand 30 feet high – tall enough that only a red-tailed hawk could mount a star on the topmost branch. The forest here contains some beauties, mostly Leyland cypress, but none will face an ax or bear a string of twinkle lights. The Triangle Land Conservancy now owns the 40 acres along Lake Benson and Swift Creek, including a rare Wake County tree farm that hides lush wildlife. “The Christmas trees are kind of unique,” said Leigh Ann Hammerbacher, TLC’s associate director, “but the hardwood is all mature oak and hickory. When we were out here doing the site work, we found a snapping turtle 3 feet long. It was the biggest turtle I’ve ever seen in Wake County.” The total cost of the conservation project came to $825,830, paid for mostly with Wake County open space bond money and Raleigh’s upper Neuse River clean water fund. The Liles family sold the land for roughly $100,000 less than its appraised value – a bargain, Wake commissioners said – hoping that it could be saved. The conservancy now owns it, and Wake County holds an easement keeping the land from being developed or cleared. …
  • “Peanut market tight, warehouse space shouldn’t be an issue in 2017,” Southeast Farm Press: There is no oversupply of U.S. peanuts. Despite what was otherwise believed earlier in 2016, numbers now show the U.S. peanut market is tight. At this time, USDA says the 2016 peanut crop will come in around 3.15 million tons, but that projection is likely too high, said Bob Parker, president and CEO of the National Peanut Board, in a phone interview Dec. 20. Parker, who has been following the industry for four decades, feels an optimistic production for the 2016 crop, which saw adverse, hot, dry weather in primary growing regions, might be 2.9 million tons with chances of it being as low as 2.8 million tons. As of Dec. 19, the Federal-State Inspection Service, which inspects all peanuts produced in the U.S., had inspected 2,742,777 tons of peanuts with fewer and fewer tons being inspected daily because there is not many more 2016 peanuts coming in as the year closes. Strong domestic use and record exports are eating well into the U.S. peanut production. With 2016 production a more-realistic 2.8 million to 2.9 million tons, at best the industry will carry in to the 2017 marketing year, which starts Aug. 1, about a 784,000-ton surplus, which shellers need to keep plants shelling for the three months following as they wait for the bulk of the 2017 production to arrive at warehouse doors in October. A 784,000-ton carryover from one production season to another isn’t an oversupply; it is a tight supply, and Parker said peanut farmers need to know this. And at current shelling capacity, the carryover is right at the three-month supply needed to keep shellers running. …
  • “School to help local farmers,” Sampson Independent: The roots of farming run deep in Sampson County, and with more than 1,000 farmers locally, assistance in helping local farms thrive is important. Sampson Community College, in conjunction with James Sprunt Community College, the Institute for Environmental Farming Systems and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agency, have teamed together to present the first ever Southeastern N.C. Farm School to help address the growing concerns many farmers have. In Sampson County, according to the Cooperative Extension office, the average farmer is 56 years old. Those same statistics show that nearly half of the county is currently farmed and that over $1.36 billion of Sampson’s income can be attributed to that of agriculture or agribusiness. “The facts prove instantly that agriculture is a huge part of the fabric of the county and North Carolina,” a press release states. “With each New Year and agricultural growth, a great need has been identified to assist new farmers, or part-time farmers learn how to be prosperous in what can be a very competitive and aggressive agriculture economy.” According to Amanda Bradshaw, director of the Small Business Center at Sampson Community College, the Southeastern NC Farm School will help address the growing concerns shared by many farmers in an effort to build a continued effort of agriculture sustainability in Sampson and Duplin counties. …
  • “Former plant site now part of state forest,” Smoky Mountain News: More than 30 years after the first piece of property was donated toward the creation of DuPont State Recreational Forest, the final acres have been added to complete the land donation from the DuPont company. The newly donated 476-acre property, commonly known as the “doughnut hole” was the site of a DuPont plant from 1956 until 2002. The plant was demolished in 2006, and since 2013 the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and the N.C. National Guard — among other agencies — have been working with DuPont to accomplish the donation. Planning is underway to determine how the 476 acres might be used. Possibilities include parking, hunting and a shorter route to Bridal Veil Falls, as well as partnerships with the N.C. National Guard to provide office space and low-impact training. Public access could still be a few years away, however. The N.C. Forest Service must complete a long-range plan that meshes with DuPont Forest’s master plan and accounts for any sensitive environmental and natural areas. …
  • “Southern Farm Show designed to help farmers navigate 2017,” Southeast Farm Press: The Southern Farm Show set for the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh is the place to be Feb. 1-3 for farmers and others who want to see the latest in farm equipment, supplies and services. With more than 400 exhibiting companies, the Southern Farm Show is the largest agricultural exposition in the Carolinas and Virginia. Admission and parking is free. Show hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 1 – Friday, Feb. 3. “Farmers are coming off a very difficult 2016 due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew and low commodity prices. Efficiency will be all the more important in 2017. The Southern Farm Show is designed to give farmers the tools they need to navigate the year ahead,” said David Zimmerman, president and show manager. Many new products will be introduced at the 2017 Southern Farm Show. The show occupies all seven buildings on the fairgrounds with additional heated temporary structures and outdoor exhibits as well. “The Southern Farm Show is where farmers from across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia come to get new ideas. The chance to learn, compare notes and talk shop with others is what the show is all about,” Zimmerman says. …
  • “EPA rejects request to delay pesticide safety rule,” Agri-Pulse: EPA’s farmworker protection rule will go into effect Jan. 2 as scheduled, the agency said today. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) petitioned EPA last week to delay implementation by a year. EPA said it would respond officially to the petition in the new year. The groups said EPA had failed to provide state lead agencies, or SLA’s, with needed training materials and guidance, and had not properly alerted Congress to the presence of the “designated representative” provision in the rule. That provision allows farmworkers to choose a third party to receive pesticide use records from a farm. Farm groups and their members are worried that anti-pesticide groups could gain access to the records and “make it seem as if (the farmers) are doing something illegal,” said Paul Schlegel, director of environment and energy policy at AFBF. Dudley Hoskins, public policy counsel at NASDA, said that “the materials and resources that states need to facilitate implementation and do outreach just aren’t there.” The rule includes a host of new requirements to protect the nation’s 2 million farmworkers, including annual training (instead of every five years) for the workers themselves; mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides; and new no-entry “application exclusion zones” of up to 100 feet to protect workers from spray drift. At its annual meeting in September, NASDA approved an “action item” urging EPA to delay implementation until the 43 states that have authority to implement pesticide laws have adequate resources to do so. The petition, AFBF’s Schlegel said, was basically a “last-ditch effort to get any sort of relief.” …
  • “NC-Grown Sweet Potatoes Huge Success in International Markets,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Few North Carolina-grown products have achieved international success like the sweet potato. North Carolina grows the most sweet potatoes of any state in the country, and Michelle Wang of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s International Marketing Division talks about some of the countries that have sweet potatoes from the Tar Heel State: “We started exporting sweet potatoes into Europe, and we’re seeing a good success in the UK and we’re seeing a good amount going into France, we see a lot of sweet potatoes going into Poland and Germany. Now, as we learn that each market is a little different as far as getting familiar with our products and accept our products, so we are continuing to explore the market that is maybe lower to recognize and accept our products. Those markets are Poland and Scandinavia, and markets like that, and we are trying to enter Italy, where we are trying to promote those products, as well.” Right now, most of the exports are fresh product, but Wang says processed sweet potatoes are starting to gain some recognition. …
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