News Roundup: Jan. 7-13

By on January 13, 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 nears finalizing rules regarding the growing of hemp,” WNCN: (Video) North Carolina is weeks away from finalizing rules regarding the growing of hemp. Pat McCrory and agriculture commissioner Steve Troxler appointed an industrial hemp commission in the fall. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is planning a pilot program to research the plant. “Our role on the commission is to help develop a set of rules that can be used to help growers and universities determine if this is really a crop that North Carolina can grow and grow profitably,” chairman Tom Melton said. “If they can, they can sell it, and it can be a great new crop for North Carolina. We don’t know that yet. Nobody really knows,” he said. “We’re just trying to set up some rules so farmers can try growing it legally, the universities can do a little research on it and find out if it’s something we want to expand.” …
  • “Inside Agriculture: NC Ag Commissioner Opens 28th Annual NC Commodities Conference,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) North Carolina’s Ag Commissioner, Steve Troxler opened the 28th Annual North Carolina Commodities Conference in Durham on Thursday to the largest crowd in attendance at this conference, upwards of 800 people. Troxler’s message on Thursday was essentially don’t lose hope.
  • “Sanderson Farms plant begins production in St. Pauls,” Fayetteville Observer: Sanderson Farms has started production at its new $155 million chicken processing plant and wastewater treatment facility in Robeson County. The plant, which the Laurel, Mississippi-based poultry processor built for the food service industry, opened Tuesday. Employees started receiving their training last month. “We pushed it back a day because of the weather,” said Pic Billingsley, the company’s director of development and engineering. “We started officially in earnest on Tuesday.” …
  • “Record $16 million to save WNC farms, streams,” Asheville Citizen-Times: It’s funny how the best farmland in Western North Carolina always seems to be right in the path of a housing or business development. Well, maybe it’s not so curious. Like the saying goes – location, location, location. And locations for the best farmland are the rich, fertile bottomlands along river valleys. Because of its rare, flat terrain in the mountains, and usually adjacent to roads, bottomlands also make the best location for building construction. So the decades-old conflict continues, with a loss of nearly 700 farms in WNC between 2007 and 2012, totaling some 15,000 acres, threatening the region’s food security and water quality. But an unprecedented award of $8 million of federal funding for farmland conservation to Blue Ridge Forever, an Asheville-based coalition of 10 local land trusts, is expected to make large strides to stop the hemorrhaging of farmland from the mountains. …
  • “Interactive: Food Deserts and Farmers Markets,” NC Health News: In late January, legislators met for the first time to discuss issues surrounding North Carolinian’s access to fresh, healthy food. The House Committee on Food Desert Zones, formed to study the issue during the legislative interim, heard several presentations about the intersection of farmers’ markets and the existence of so-called food deserts. Food deserts are those areas where people have to travel long distances to reach stores where they can buy healthy food at reasonable prices. According to Ruth Petersen of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, a number of programs – such as the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps pregnant women and mothers of young children get access to healthy food – coordinate to increase access to nutritious food. But she described a pilot program where families were given a once-a-year $24 voucher for farmers’ markets, and many of the vouchers went unused. …
  • “How one company eliminated food waste: The ‘landfill can no longer be an option,’ Jacksonville Daily News: Those carrot tops you’ve lopped off are not garbage. Your snapped-off green-bean stems are not scraps. They are what Thomas McQuillan, sustainability director for Baldor, a specialty foods and produce distributor, calls sparcs – “scraps” spelled backward and pronounced like “sparks.” And sparcs, despite popular assumption, are often just as edible as the rest of the fruit or vegetable. “The narrative around food that we don’t traditionally eat is all negative,” said McQuillan, whether it is the recently in vogue “ugly” produce or the yuck-inducing name “trash cooking.” “Instead of calling this trim or byproduct, let’s come up with a name for it.” …
  • “Our View: Pork producer gets climate-change realities,” Fayetteville Observer: This is why politicians won’t succeed in preventing action against climate change. It’s why alternative energy is being embraced, even as some of our state and national leaders try to make it fail. Smithfield Foods officials said last month that they plan to cut the company’s carbon emissions by 25 percent in the next eight years. They’ll do it in all areas of their vast supply chain, from feed to processing plants like the one in Tar Heel. The company is the biggest pork provider in the country. It plans to begin trapping methane gases on its farms and using them to produce electricity – some of which will be sold to public utilities, thus creating a new profit stream. The company also will cut energy use at its facilities and cut emissions from its large transportation fleet. …
  • “Starved Soil Kills Yield Potential,” Farm Journal: You’re always pushing for better yields, and all the pieces finally fell together in 2016. Record or near-record yields across the country not only topped off grain bins but also depleted soil nutrients. As you plan for your 2017 crop, it’s important to replenish soil nutrients so yield isn’t held back from reaching its potential. In 2016, the national corn yield beat previous records by about 4 bu. at 175.3 bu. per acre and soybeans yielded a record 52.5 bu. per acre. At the national average yield, a 500-acre corn farmer pulled 39.44 tons of nitrogen, 16.22 tons of phosphorus and 11.83 tons of potassium out of the soil—not including leeching or other nutrient losses. “The availability of nutrients changes during the year due to biological, chemical and physical properties,” says Leslie Glover, USDA soil scientist. “Using the same nutrient program [year over year] is like going to the doctor and getting the exact same medication without getting any examination to determine the current state.” North Carolina corn, soybean and cotton farmer Curtis Furr is taking the high yields into account for his next crop. In 2016, he saw a 20% increase in corn yields and a 25% increase in soybean yields. “With that extra 20 bu. of corn, I’ll need to put something on [double crop] wheat possibly,” he says. Carefully consider the impact big yielding crops has on phosphorus and potassium levels in fields. While nitrogen might typically be the first nutrient you think about when it comes to high yields, it’s important to consider other nutrient needs as well. …
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