News Roundup: Feb. 24-March 3

By on March 3, 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.

  • “Getting in on the ground floor,” Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald: The application process is now underway across the state for acceptance into a pilot program to grow industrial hemp for research in North Carolina. The state legislature has approved industrial hemp as a crop in the North Carolina, under a closely monitored program. There is no deadline to apply for the program, which is open to farmers who can show evidence of income from a farming operation. “The N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission has worked diligently and quickly to establish temporary rules before the 2017 planting season,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “There has been considerable interest in this program, and we expect a good number of farmers to apply for licenses.” Meanwhile, an information session, hosted by the Bertie County Cooperative Extension Service, for local landowners interested in the program will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 8 at the Windsor Community Building at 201 South Queen Street. Topics being discussed include production, rules, regulations and application process and potential markets in the area. The meeting is free but those planning to attend are asked to register by calling the Extension office at 252-794-5317. …
  • “NC Farmers, Industry Officials Call For Improvements To Worker Programs,” WUNC: (Audio) North Carolina has a choice to make: either import workers, or import food, according to to North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, who led a delegation of farmers and industry insiders to meet with the state’s congressional Republicans in Washington last week. The group met with U.S. Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr; and Representatives Ted Budd, George Holding, Mark Meadows and David Rouzer. Farmers and industry leaders asked officials to advocate for a streamlined guest-worker program, as well as a pathway to legal status for undocumented farm workers with work experience. “We try to hire American workers that want to work,” he said. “There’s just aren’t enough American workers that want to do those jobs.” Wooten said farmers understand the importance of border security, but they say there needs to be a path toward legalization for experienced, yet undocumented, ag workers. He said that’s because many have been on American farms for years and have valuable institutional knowledge. Wooten said the country’s existing H-2A visa program is expensive. That’s the program that offers temporary work visas for foreign agricultural workers on a seasonal basis. Farmers cover fees and transportation for workers, and there’s a limit to how many visas are issued. …
  • “County Extension, local farmers celebrate agriculture at annual awards banquet,” Jacksonville Daily News: A husband and wife team were inducted into the Onslow County Agricultural Hall of Fame for the first time in its history Thursday night. The announcement was made at an annual Onslow County Cooperative Extension awards banquet, designed to celebrate local farmers’ achievements in the past year. Awards presented at the banquet include cooperators awards, yield contest, a service to agriculture award, and two awards through the organization’s horticulture agent, Lisa Rayburn. More than 80 farmers and their wives gathered around tables decorated with mason jars holding bouquets of flowers, along with burlap table runners and small jars of canned honey. The tables embodied the vision of a farmer’s dinner table complete with a meat and potatoes dinner. The annual event is important not only to the farmers, but to the county, Peggie Garner, county extension director, said. “It gives us the opportunity to recognize and say thank you to our farmers,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know agriculture is one of the top economic indicators for our county.” …
  • “Owings retires after more than 30 years in county agriculture,” Hendersonville Times-News: One word continually comes up when growers and agriculture professionals talk of the more than 30 years of service Henderson County Extension Director Marvin Owings has given to the area: dedication. Whether he was working to prepare for the annual state fair exhibit, revitalizing programs at the Cooperative Extension, organizing events for growers or tending to experimental apple varieties, growers have seen Owings give himself to his work over the years, sometimes pulling 14- or 16-hour days. Owings, 67, culminated a long career with his last day in the office Wednesday, bringing to a close more than three decades of helping the county’s farmers and advancing Henderson County agriculture. The path that led him to a life in agriculture started early, taking root on trips as a boy and growing into an interest that led him to degrees from Clemson University and eventually to Extension jobs in South Carolina and finally Henderson County in 1985. …
  • “AgTech Accelerator’s first deal: $10M in fungicide startup,” WRAL: Boragen, a startup that has developed a platform for creation of new fungicide options, is the first company to receive an investment from the recently launched AgTech Accelerator in RTP. The Accelerator also is providing the startup with its first CEO who happens to be the Accelerator’s CEO. “Boragen is a tremendous first investment,” said John Dombrosky, the AgTech Accelerator CEO, in the announcement. John Dombrosky “Boragen’s differentiated platforms will meet a global need for new fungicide options that will help farmers protect against resistance, while upholding standard stewardship practices of rotating chemistries with different modes of action. This investment also powerfully demonstrates the flexibility of the AgTech Accelerator model. When we see a really exciting technology, such as Boragen’s, our individual investors are able to bring additional capital into the deal, immediately increasing the speed and scope of milestones and plans.” The company received $10 million in a Series A financing, the Accelerator, which raised some $20 million itself and launched last year, announced Thursday. …
  • “White House ag policy advisor wins praise,” The Packer: Winning endorsement from produce industry leaders, the White House has appointed Ray Starling as special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance. Starling was one of several individuals appointed to the White House National Economic Council in late February. He was previously chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., according to a news release. Starling also served as Sen. Tillis’ chief counsel and then-speaker Tillis’ general counsel and senior agriculture advisor in the North Carolina General Assembly, according to the release. Starling is familiar with the Food Safety Modernization Act and served on a food safety task force in North Carolina, said Jim Gorny, vice president for food safety and technology for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association. “He is well familiar with FSMA and all the issues of implementation,” Gorny said. The fact that North Carolina is an agriculturally diverse state with a wide variety of high value specialty crops gives Starling good knowledge of the fresh produce industry, Gorny said. …
  • “Burlesons: Southeast High Cotton Award winner,” Southeast Farm Press: Ronnie Burleson and his family were the first farmers to bring cotton back to Stanly County, N.C., in 1991. In the 26 years since, cotton production has grown significantly in that part of the state. The Burlesons’ success and achievements with the crop have grown as well. “We knew cotton would grow around here, because my dad and other people grew it here before I was born,” Ronniie says. “But the boll weevil put them out of business because they couldn’t control it. The Boll Weevil Eradication program started in North Carolina in 1987, and by 1991 the boll weevil was pretty much gone.” With the challenges of the boll weevil out of the way, and depressed grain prices at the time, Burleson and his family were looking to crops that would work to fill the gap. “Cotton happened to be at better prices, so we decided to jump in and give it a whirl,” he says. That was in 1991. “My dad (Thurman Burleson) was still alive, and he was supportive. He saw us grow our first crop before he died that winter.” The Burlesons have grown cotton every year since then, and they plan to stay with the crop. Today, Ronnie farms with his son, Andrew, brother Dennis, and Dennis’ son, Aaron. The Burlesons are known for their commitment to soil conservation, adapting the latest technology, and going the extra mile to produce a high yielding, high quality cotton crop. Their success with cotton and their commitment to the industry has earned Ronnie and Andrew Burleson the Farm Press/Cotton Foundation 2017 High Cotton Award for the Southeast states. …
  • “Warm weather endangers strawberry and peach crops,” The News & Observer: Simeon Ogburn woke up at 3 a.m. Monday to do something he seldom does this time of year: protect his strawberries from frost. In most years, frost in late February would not pose a threat to strawberries because they would not have bloomed yet. But unseasonably warm weather this year means most berries are 3 to 3 1/2 weeks ahead of schedule. That makes protecting the open blooms and green fruit from frost essential to ensure there will be plump, red berries this spring, said Ogburn, who owns Ogburn Berries and Produce in Willow Spring, east of Fuquay-Varina. “The plants are just reacting to the weather,” said Ogburn, who ran overhead irrigation to protect his 2 acres of berries from sub-freezing temperatures. “This is the first season we’ve had in awhile that has been this warm, but it’s not the craziest thing in the world.” January was 5.6 degrees warmer than is average, and February has been about 8.5 degrees warmer, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Moneypenny. Counting Tuesday, there have been 13 days when the high temperature exceeded 70 degrees in February, a month when the average high temperatures are in the 50s. March will begin Wednesday with temperatures approaching 80. Strawberry farmers across the region have experienced the same worries as Ogburn, said Don Nicholson, a regional agronomist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, and the threat from cold weather isn’t passed. Forecasters expect lows to dip near or below freezing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. …
  • “Food Lion to invest $178 million in remodeling its Triad market stores,” Winston-Salem Journal: In Forsyth County, Food Lion is remodeling 10 stores in Winston-Salem, three in Kernersville, two in Clemmons and one each in Walkertown (above), Lewisville, Pfafftown and Rural Hall. Food Lion announced Monday that it is remodeling 93 stores in the Triad this year, investing $178 million in the project. Meg Ham, the president of Food Lion, said that the company is proud to have been a part of the Triad area since 1968 and is excited about bringing its newest format to this market. “We look forward to making significant investments in our stores, our customers, our associates and our communities to offer a new grocery shopping experience,” Ham said. “We want to ensure our customers can easily find fresh, quality products to nourish their families at affordable prices every day, delivered with caring, friendly service every time they shop.” Features of the remodeled stores will include a design focused on helping the stores be easier to navigate and shop so that customers can get in and out of the store quickly; and an expanded variety and assortment of products aimed at being relevant to customers in each store and the marketplace, such as more local products, natural and organic selections and healthier snack options. …
  • “For farms, agritourism makes ends meet,” Charlotte Observer: ‘I want to see the Guinea pig,” Mason asked. “No, Mason, it’s a mini pig, not a Guinea pig,” explained his mother. Mason, a 5-year-old boy, and his parents, were spending the night at our Farm House Inn and wanted to snuggle with Tazzy, our mini porch pig. Miles Smith Farm is a working pig and cattle farm and most of our income comes from selling meat. No matter how hard we work, our sales don’t quite cover farm operations. With a $30,000 yearly hay bill, $12,000 annual electric bill, plus taxes, mortgage, heat and more, we often wonder how we can pay our bills. How do we manage? We brought back a tradition that is just as old as farming: agritourism. Many think that agritourism is a new thing; it’s not. …
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