News Roundup: March 4-10

By on March 10, 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.

  • “Best wheat crop ever or the one you wish never happened,” Southeast Farm Press: Thanks to a La Nina weather pattern, Ron Heiniger believes North Carolina could well harvest its best wheat crop ever this year. “I think we’ve got as good a yield potential as I’ve ever seen in wheat. We could go either way. We could have one of the best crops we’ve ever seen or if we get that late freeze we could get one of the crops that we wish we hadn’t seen. Looking at the potential and where we need to go, I need you to go forward planning for that best crop we’ve ever seen,” Heiniger said at the Northeast Ag Expo 2017 Small Grain Field Day Feb. 23 at White Hat Seed Farm in Hertford. In addition to the cooperative weather this year, Heiniger, North Carolina State University Extension cropping system specialist, credited North Carolina farmers for the potential to produce the best wheat crop ever: “You’re the best at what you do,” he proclaimed. As he spoke in late February, the North Carolina wheat crop was off to a good start. Due to La Nina, Heiniger believes the next three months will be warmer than normal with just enough rainfall to keep the wheat crop moving along, By June, he expects a cooler weather pattern with more frequent rainfall with fairly wet conditions by the end of July. “Wheat is made in March and April,” Heiniger said. “March is when that wheat crop grows off from jointing rapidly. You set the stage for a good wheat crop because that’s a crop that sustains as many tillers as possible, puts on the biggest head as possible and gives you the chance for better yield potential.” …
  • “Poultry Manure Outweighs Hog Waste, Report Finds,” North Carolina Health News: In a surprising conclusion, a new report finds North Carolina poultry farms generate far more nutrients in manure than do hog farms. The report, produced by the state Department of Environmental Quality, concludes poultry growers produced 56.6 million pounds of nitrogen and 79.8 million pounds of phosphorus in 2014. That amount is three times the nitrogen and six times the phosphorus produced statewide by swine operations in the same year, the DEQ estimates. Nitrogen and phosphorus are valuable fertilizers when well managed, but they become pollutants when they seap or wash into groundwater, streams or rivers. But the extent to which that may be happening in North Carolina cannot be determined, the report stresses. That’s because the state Department of Environmental Quality does not monitor waste disposal at the vast majority of poultry farms across the state. Poultry farms in North Carolina that raise more than 30,000 birds and produce dry litter are “deemed” permitted when it comes to manure disposal, as long as they follow rules that forbid over-applying the waste to farmland, among other things. “[That] adds significant uncertainty to assessment of the loading contribution of poultry to the state’s nutrient-impaired water bodies,” says the report. It was presented Wednesday to the water quality committee of the state Environmental Management Commission by Heather Patt, a DEQ river basin water quality planner. …
  • Bird flu found in Tennessee chicken flock on Tyson-contracted farm,” MSN: A strain of bird flu has been detected in a chicken breeder flock on a Tennessee farm contracted to U.S. food giant Tyson Foods Inc, and the 73,500 birds will be culled to stop the virus from entering the food system, government and company officials said on Sunday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this represented the first confirmed case of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry in the United States this year. It is the first time HPAI has been found in Tennessee, the state government said. Tyson, the biggest chicken meat producer in the United States, said in a statement it was working with Tennessee and federal officials to contain the virus by euthanizing the birds on the contract farm. …
  • “The Produce Box celebrates 10th anniversary,” Winston-Salem Journal: The Produce Box is celebrating 10 years of delivering farm-fresh produce to thousands of homes across North Carolina. Courtney Tellefsen, 48, started the business in Raleigh in 2007 as an alternative to shopping at farmers markets or joining a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. Now the Produce Box has 12,000 subscribers who bought more than 2 million pounds of produce last year from more than 70 North Carolina farmers. In 2007, The Produce Box started with deliveries from one farm to about 25 friends in Tellefsen’s neighborhood. Tellefsen was a stay-at-home mom with two young children. “I bought Michael Pollan’s book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma.’ I was reading that and saying I really don’t know where my food is coming from.” …
  • “Sankofa Farms Plants Seeds of Empowerment for Black Youth in Durham,” Indy Week: Kamal Bell remembers what it’s like to grow up in a food desert in Durham. In the nineties, he lived on the northeast side with his parents and older brother, in a mostly black neighborhood near Southern High School. He remembers after-school car rides to Whole Foods, around the corner from Immaculata Catholic School, where he was a student. Bell’s father, an herbalist, frequently made the twenty-minute trip from their house for fresh herbs. Bell, who now lives in East Durham, still treks to the same Whole Foods when he needs groceries. The round trip takes thirty minutes, but he says it’s one of the few places with quality produce. “In Durham, the allocation of resources typically does not accommodate all individuals fairly,” Bell says. A 2011 report by the Durham County Health Department showed that about seventeen percent of Durham—or approximately forty-three thousand people—was food insecure. By the USDA’s definition, it means that they don’t have access to “nutritionally adequate foods” to lead “active, healthy lives.” Additionally, the same report showed that sixty-three percent of those who live in northeast Durham, where Bell grew up, are affected by food deserts, or “low-income areas where a substantial number or share of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.” Fifteen years later, Bell sees the obvious trajectory in the statistics: the plight of his community hasn’t significantly abated. Last spring Bell started Sankofa Farms, a tuition-free, nine-week summer academy where low-income youths learn the value of food and farming. …
  • “Food’s future is meatless, largest meat processing CEO says,” News & Observer: Tyson Foods Inc. CEO Tom Hayes recognizes his company’s top product may not be the star of America’s food future. Hayes, who leads the largest American meat processing company, said Tyson must adapt if it wants to have a place on American tables. He said statistics show that worldwide protein consumption is growing, but meat is being outpaced. “It’s not just hot in the U.S.; it’s hot everywhere. People want protein, so whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it,” Hayes told Fox Business. “Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction.” Meat alternatives are expected to be worth $5.17 billion by 2020, according to a report released in 2015. The industry was worth an estimated $3.8 billion that year. The 2016 Global Food and Drink trends report found that not only vegetarians are seeking out meatless meat. …
  • “Cold snap causes sleepless nights for Cape Fear region farmers, but little damage to crops,” Fayetteville Observer: Temperatures dropped below freezing for three straight nights, threatening young crops across the region. Efforts to minimize damage appear to have paid off, experts say. At farms in the Cape Fear region over the weekend, a combination of warm water, long hours and a few fast prayers appear to have thwarted a potentially damaging freeze that could otherwise have withered early crops. Temperatures in the low to upper 20s kept farmers and gardeners scrambling to protect tender growth. Plants that had been tricked into blossoming early by the warmest February in decades were suddenly shocked as night-time conditions dropped closer to early March. “This has been a wild month,” said Nancy Olsen of the Bladen County Cooperative Extension Service. “It was so warm for so long, then we had temperatures dropping to 29 in the blueberry patches. …
  • “Young Farmer of the Year award presented to Four Oaks’ Batten,” Greenville Daily Reflector: Brandon Batten, a sixth-generation farmer in the Johnston County town of Four Oaks, has been named the recipient of the 2017 Tobacco Farm Life Museum Innovative Young Farmer of the Year award by the Farm Credit Associations of North Carolina. Batten is a partner in his family’s business, Triple B Farms Inc., producing flue-cured tobacco, corn, soybeans, wheat and Bermuda hay on 600 acres, along with 40 head of Angus-mix beef cattle. He is a 2008 North Carolina State University graduate, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biological and agricultural engineering. He also completed his master’s degree in agricultural engineering in 2010 at NC State. …
  • “French apples could be boon to local industry,” Hendersonville Times-News: When St. Paul Mountain Vineyards first wanted to grow French vinifera, or grape vines, in Henderson County, most thought it was likely doomed for failure. But today, the Hendersonville winery boasts gold-medal winning wines from its locally grown French vinifera. And now, owner Alan Ward is hoping to recreate that success with cider, bringing in French and European cider apple varieties to make delicious artisan hard cider and boost the local apple industry with a new, high-value product. Ward and former Henderson County Extension Director Marvin Owings will be in the Normandy region of France until March 12, touring growing operations and nurseries and making orders for French apple varieties grown specifically for cider making. Owings has leased land to start his own nursery operation near St. Paul Mountain Vineyards, and wants to help determine which root stocks will work best to raise the varieties, which are susceptible to fire blight, a bacterial disease that can cause extensive damage. …
  • “North Carolina starts test program for growing hemp, the useful cousin of marijuana,” The Virginian-Pilot: The field where corn grew last year could be covered this summer in plants that look a lot like marijuana. North Carolina is calling for farmers to grow industrial hemp as part of a statewide test. The plant, a nonintoxicating cousin of marijuana, can be used to produce many products such as cloth and oils that might open new markets for farmers struggling with low prices on conventional crops. “There has been a tremendous amount of interest in growing hemp,” said Sandy Stewart, director of the Research Station for the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Resources. Industrial hemp is in the same genus – cannabis – as marijuana and their plants look identical, Stewart said. The federal government outlawed cannabis in the 1930s. Roughly 30 nations, including Canada and most of Europe, grow hemp for industrial use. American farmers and others lobbied for what could be a profitable crop here. Congress passed a law in 2014 to allow test projects for hemp farming. North Carolina followed the next year with a law to allow a test program, and Virginia did the same last year. This plant is different from marijuana. Industrial hemp contains three-tenths of a percent or less of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. That is not enough to have any narcotic effect, Stewart said. Marijuana contains an average of 10 percent. …

 

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