News Roundup: Feb. 11-17

By on February 17, 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.

  • “Warning bells issued for nematodes in Carolinas,” Southeast Farm Press: Both Clemson University and North Carolina State University are issuing warning bells for nematodes in the Carolinas. The nematode issue was front in center at both Clemson’s corn and soybean production meeting in Dillon, S.C., Feb. 8 and at N.C. State’s Road Show production meeting the following day in Plymouth, N.C. A concern in both states is the Southern root knot nematode and the soybean cyst nematode. Both John Mueller, Clemson Extension plant pathologist and director of the Edisto Research and Education Center, and Lindsey Thiessen, N.C. State Extension entomology and plant pathology specialist, said variety selection is job one for nematode control. Both specialists encouraged farmers to turn to soybean varieties that offer nematode resistance. “We need to do a really good job of choosing varieties, and you need to identify the highest probability problems that you have, whether it’s a fungal disease or a nematode,” said Mueller at the Clemson meeting. “For soybeans, you need to find the variety that is resistant to the nematode species that you think you have such as root knot nematode resistant or soybean cyst nematode to be successful.” N.C. State’s Thiessen echoed Mueller’s advice, emphasizing host resistance as the best defense against soybean cyst nematode because it is the cheapest thing farmers can do. “Pick a variety that has resistance to soybean cyst,” she said at the Plymouth meeting. Mueller and Thiessen expect root knot nematodes to be a bigger pest this year and in the future. The challenge is there are many different species of root knot nematodes with Thiessen pointing to at least five known species in North Carolina. …
  • “The 2017 Local Farming Season is Getting Underway,” WHKP Radio: Henderson county apple grower Kenny Barnwell told WHKP News “I am concerned about having adequate labor every year.” Barnwell spoke with WHKP News about two major issues facing local agriculture—unpredictable and possibly devastating spring weather, and having adequate farm labor. How the Trump administration will handle the immigration issue and un-documented workers, mostly from Mexico, who plant, care for, and then harvest every local crop from berries to apples remains unclear. And growers are always concerned about ICE, or the Immigration Customs Enforcement people, swooping in on their fields and sending their labor back across the border. Vegetable grower Kirby Johnson, who grows here in the summer and in Florida in the winter, says concern over labor is why he cut back last years, and will be cutting back some this year, on the total acres he’s farming. Weather is the other big issue facing local growers. Kenny Barnwell, who grows both apples and peaches, says if the temperatures get too warm and the young apples begin to “bud” too soon, a late season frost or freeze can kill an entire crop. Normally, says Barnwell, local apple trees will begin to bloom by the first of April and will be in full bloom sometime in the first two weeks of April. A value of $40 million was placed on Henderson County’s apple crop last years…which was described as “…not a full crop, but a good crop.” …
  • “New drought report says recovery has been overstated for WNC,” WLOS: In fall 2016, the drought monitor was covered in light and dark red, indicating extreme and exceptional drought conditions. Now, the monitor shows only four Western North Carolina counties left in the severe category. A new drought report from the National Weather Service mentions those higher-end categories were too hastily assigned, and our drought improvement is not as drastic as it appears. An excerpt reads, “In early December, a reassessment of impacts across the region and a comparison to the worst drought in recent record (2007-2009) suggested that the expansion to D3 and D4 occurred too quickly this autumn.” D3 is the category for extreme drought, D4 for exceptional. The report emphasizes how groundwater, streams and reservoirs still desperately need more water going into the upcoming growing season, when demand for water goes back up. …
  • “Survey shows major support to lift cap on craft beer distribution,” Carolina Journal: North Carolinians have an insatiable taste for craft beers, and they have little tolerance for lawmakers who want to tamper with how they get their stouts and IPAs. A survey of North Carolina voters bears that out. Brewers around the state, some 180 of them, simply want what’s fair. One goal of craftfreedom.org — a campaign by brewers to even the proverbial playing field with wholesalers — is, at least for now, eliminating a state law requiring brewers to procure a distributor once their beer output reaches 25,000 barrels. The survey of 800 likely voters, prepared for Craft Freedom by Strategic Partners Solutions and overseen by Republican political consultant Paul Shumaker, finds the more voters learn about the impact of the production cap on North Carolina breweries, support for the production cap nearly completely vanishes. That goes for people who voted for President Trump or his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “When the voters who favor the production cap learn that producers lose their brand and marketing rights,” says the survey, “support for the cap diminishes to 1.6 percent” — two Republicans, three unaffiliated voters and eight Democrats from the 800 voters surveyed. Voters want the General Assembly to enact regulatory changes to help the microbrewery industry grow in North Carolina, the survey says. “Removing the production cap is not an issue about alcohol or beer — it is an issue about fairness and free-market principles. It is an issue overwhelming supported by Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters.” …
  • “Daily Ag Summary: Abnormally Dry Conditions Expand in North Carolina,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Abnormally dry conditions re-appeared in a big way this week as reported in the Drought Monitor released by the Drought Mitigation Center for conditions through Tuesday morning. Just over 70% of the state is now reporting abnormally dry conditions, compared to just over 27% the previous week. Other categories of drought remained the same. The area of abnormally dry conditions encompasses all of North Carolina’s Piedmont region from the Virginia border to Columbus and Brunswick Counties. The area around and just north of the city of Charlotte, as well as the Coastal Plain remain drought free. The data reported does not include the widespread rain on Wednesday. …
  • “Farm Bill Discussions Underway,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Farm conditions are not yet ripe for a 1980s-style farm ‘bust,’ but ag economists told a House Agriculture pre-farm bill hearing income and debt continue to deteriorate and changes may be needed in the next farm bill to prevent a crisis. Holes in the 2014 farm safety net for dairy and cotton and predatory trade practices by China, were just some of the urgent problems highlighted by farm economists and lawmakers. USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson spoke on farm income: “Farm income is expected to remain relatively flat in 2017. Credit availability continues to tighten, but continued resilience in the farm sector is expected. Reversing the direction of the last two years, we do expect to see net cash income to rise slightly from 2016, but however as you mentioned, net farm income, a broader measure is forecast to fall slightly.” Assistant Vice-President at the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Nathan Kauffman, on the scope of the down economy, says: “A farm crisis on the scale of the 1980’s still does not appear immanent, as farm loan delinquency rates remain low, and credit availability generally remains strong. But, if farm income remains persistently low, if farm land values continues to decline, and if debt continues to rise, all of which have been trends in recent years, it is possible that key indicators of financial stress, such as debt to asset ratios could rise to levels similar to the 1980’s over a longer time horizon.” …
  • “Fisheries commission approves petition to limit near-shore shrimping,” Wilmington Star-News: The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Thursday approved a petition for rulemaking that could ultimately limit how shrimpers operate up and down the North Carolina coast in an effort to save the young fish captured in their bycatch. At the close of the four-hour hearing at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, the commission voted to approve the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s petition 5-3, with one member abstaining. The board was cleanly split, with each of the three commercial fishing industry representatives voting against the proposal, which could ultimately limit shrimping to three days on the Intracoastal Waterway and other estuaries and four days on the ocean up to 3 miles out, among other proposals. Federation officials explained earlier in the meeting the proposed rules are designed to protect the juvenile croaker, spot and weakfish that depend on the estuaries and near-shore waters to mature from being caught up in shrimp trawlers’ bycatch. “We contend that these larger and older juveniles which lose protection once they leave the confines of that nursery habitat and are large enough to have survived the extraordinary mortality rate of the nursery areas should be afforded additional protection to allow them to grow, mature and, most importantly, spawn,” said Louis Daniel, a former director of N.C.’s Division of Marine Fisheries who helped prepare the Wildlife Federation’s report. …
  • “You’re about to see a big change to the sell-by dates on food,” The Washington Post: The majority of Americans have no clear idea what “sell by” labels are trying to tell them. But after 40 years of letting us guess, the grocery industry has made moves to clear up the confusion. On Wednesday, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two largest trade groups for the grocery industry, announced that they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what product date labels mean. Where manufacturers now use any of 10 separate label phrases, ranging from “expires on” to “better if used by,” they’ll now be encouraged to use only two: “Use By” and “Best if Used By.” The former is a safety designation, meant to indicate when perishable foods are no longer good. “Best if Used By” is a quality descriptor — a subjective guess of when the manufacturer thinks the product should be consumed for peak flavor. …
  • “Should NC’s constitution limit eminent domain? House votes to back amendment,” The News & Observer: The N.C. House voted 104-9 Thursday morning to back a proposed constitutional amendment limiting government’s use of eminent domain to seize private property. The bill now heads to the Senate, and if it passes, voters would decide during the November 2018 election if they want to amend the state’s constitution. The amendment would ban eminent domain in cases where government seizes property only to sell it to a private developer, by requiring that all property seized be for “public use.” Those uses could include utility infrastructure, roads and government facilities. The amendment would also give property owners who sue over eminent domain an opportunity to have a jury – instead of a judge – determine how much money they’re owed for the property. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville, said the bill is needed in response to a U.S. Supreme Court case that allowed an expanded use of eminent domain for what’s termed “public purpose” or “public benefit” projects – but are often situations in which government takes private property only to sell it to a real-estate developer. “The Supreme Court said that the states were free to restrict eminent domain more than that, and that’s precisely what we’re doing here,” McGrady said. “We’re putting it in the constitution so we don’t have the same morphing that has occurred in other places.” …
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