News Roundup: Dec. 31-Jan. 6

By on January 6, 2017

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 FSA Director to Leave January 20th,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) For just over three years, the North Carolina Farm Service Agency has had the most dynamic and involved director in my almost 10 years at Southern Farm Network, and on January 20th, we’ll be saying goodbye to Bob Etheridge. Today, we visit with Bob about his three years at FSA: “Well, Rhonda, I appreciate that. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, I’ve had the great privilege of holding a lot of jobs in my lifetime, and this one that’s been a lot of fun because you get to work with not only the people that till the soil, process the food and do the financing for those on the farm, but also just a multitude of people that I’ve had the privilege all through my life, and I’ve seen a lot of change in just the three years and one month that I’ve been here.” In spite of the current economic slump agriculture is in, Etheridge says he’s still optimistic: “You know as I came here, a little over three years ago now, one of the things that we were committed to is outreach, reaching out, telling the good story about what farmers do, how hard they work. Yet, in those three years we’ve seen dramatic changes take place on the farm. Farm commodity prices have dropped dramatically. Truthfully, net cash income is down roughly 36% since 2012, looks like it may drop again this year, and in North Carolina it’s been compounded by two years of too much water in the fall, and drought in the summer down east, and in the west we’ve had drought and fires in the west. I’m still optimistic, I think people that till the soil are just wonderful folks.” …
  • “Education trumps regulation in drift management,” Southeast Farm Press: Education trumps regulation when it comes to managing the new auxin-based herbicide technology. Most regulations won’t fully go away, but farmers remain hopeful the new Trump administration will loosen the regulatory grip of the Environmental Protection Agency, making it easier to use the herbicides needed to manage tough weeds. Stanley Culpepper, professor of crop science at the University of Georgia and Extension weed specialist, emphasizes education can be used to prevent further regulations. He successfully led training in Georgia, where more than 1,880 farmers in 2015 and 2016 learned how to better use pesticides and new auxin technologies. “In one year, the amount of drift cases that we had reduced 48 percent without any regulation whatsoever. There is no government agency that can implement any regulatory plan that will reduce pesticide drift by 48 percent. If you do not preempt that regulation, that regulation in many ways can be problematic and limit your toolbox,” Culpepper said at a November lecture at North Carolina State University. …
  • “Business Spotlight: Hog farm operation a family affair,” Fayetteville Observer: Bill Warren says of buying his farm, ‘A widow wanted to sell and through the good Lord it just worked out.’ How many hog houses do you own and what are they like? “The first four houses are Warren and Warren Farms. They are mine and my dad’s. Each house holds 735 animals. The other farm, the five houses, hold 620 head. They are a little smaller. They are natural ventilated, where the curtains on the side go up and down and let air in to circulate. The newer houses are tunnel ventilation. So they have fans that pull it through. It’s a more modern technology, especially in the summertime you get a real benefit from that because you’re moving air across them versus the older farm. It’s just a better environment for the animals.” What are you doing here with your waste? “What we have spraying is lagoon water from the waste of the animals. In the back of the houses is an above ground lagoon, which is basically a septic tank. We are using that to fertilize the grass. We plant rye grass in the winter. As rye comes up we fertilize with the hog waste to grow the grass for the Angus, cattle and calves. We just got through calving. We do all of our calving in the fall. What you see here is a total recycling. We use everything to grow grass.” …
  • “Here’s a list of major changes to Agricultural Worker Protection rules,” Southeast Farm Press: EPA’s new Agricultural Worker Protection Standard rules went into effect Jan. 2, marking major revisions to how the agency expects farmers and farmworkers to handle pesticides and recordkeeping. The major revisions to EPA Agricultural Worker Protection rules include: Annual mandatory training to inform farmworkers on the required protections afforded to them. Currently, training is only once every 5 years. Expanded training includes instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics. First-time ever minimum age requirement: Children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides. …
  • “Sonny Perdue said to be Trump’s lead pick for Agriculture secretary,” Jacksonville Daily News: Sonny Perdue III, the former governor of Georgia, is president-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate to be his U.S. secretary of agriculture, according to a person familiar with the matter. Perdue, 70, would succeed secretary Tom Vilsack. Perdue met with Trump on Nov. 30 and told reporters they talked about agricultural commodities traded domestically and internationally. While Perdue is the front-runner, the decision isn’t final, the person said. Trump rode to his election victory partly on strong support from voters in rural areas clamoring for an economic turnaround. Farm incomes are expected to fall for a third successive year while debt levels have climbed. …
  • “Daily Ag Summary: Marked Improvement in North Carolina Drought Conditions,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) A soggy New Year’s weekend and early week left its mark on North Carolina’s drought conditions as reported in the latest drought monitor released by the Drought Mitigation Center on Thursday for conditions through Tuesday morning. The state’s abnormally dry conditions improved from just over 62% last week to just under 43% this week, moderate drought conditions improved from 33.33% to just under 27%, and severe drought conditions improved slightly from 12.66% to 12.41%. The area of extreme drought improved from 4.45% down to 1.57%, and exception drought remains at zero. The area of the most marked improvement is in the Piedmont, with dry conditions pulling back to the west, with the exception of the row of counties along the Virginia border. The Coastal Plain is drought free. …
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