News Roundup: April 1-7

By on April 7, 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.

  • “Hog waste bill speeds through NC House,” WRAL: Speed legislating is pretty common each legislative session in the weeks leading up to crossover, the date by which, in most cases, a bill must pass one or the other chamber of the General Assembly to remain viable for the remainder of the two-year session. However, a controversial bill that would intervene in pending lawsuits against the world’s largest pork producer may have broken some speed records as it zoomed through the House on Thursday, leaving many lawmakers scratching their heads. House Bill 476 would limit the damages that a court could award to a property owner who claims nuisance damage by a nearby agricultural or forestry operation to no more than the actual market value of that property. While the bill doesn’t specifically name any company or operation, discussions in a House Judiciary committee Wednesday made it apparent that a pending federal case against Smithfield Foods is at least one target of the bill, which would be applicable to pending litigation, an unusual step for lawmakers to take. …
  • “New poll shows bipartisan support for land and water conservation across North Carolina,” Mountain Xpress: A poll commissioned by Land for Tomorrow shows that North Carolinians from Manteo to Murphy support land and water conservation. Seventy-three percent of those polled said they would support funding at the $100 million level for the state’s three publicly funded conservation trust funds. The poll was released today as part of Land for Tomorrow’s annual lobby day at the North Carolina General Assembly. … North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler said the funding is particularly important to agriculture. “We appreciate the General Assembly’s efforts to increase funding for the state’s conservation trust funds,” said Troxler. “We look forward to working with them and other partners to maximize our opportunity to conserve family farms to secure our long-term food supply. In addition, the conservation of farms and forests around military bases and training areas helps ensure that our nation’s armed forces can accomplish their mission.” …
  • “Exclusive: New State Report Finds ‘A Lot More’ Poultry Waste Than Officials Realized,” WFDD:  (Audio) The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has issued a new report that takes a closer look at poultry farming in the state. Officials say they had no idea how much waste is coming from the industry, and that it’s a lot more than they anticipated, topping cattle and swine combined. The agency says the report is also the first attempt to identify where these operations are located, and it acknowledges that the state doesn’t have a handle on the growth of the industry. The Yadkin River Basin in Western North Carolina is located deep in poultry country. The best way to see just how many poultry houses there are is by air. It’s hard to miss the brand new, glistening rooftops of farm construction, surrounded by fresh, orange soil. “We are seeing smaller, older facilities going out of service and existing facilities expanding, so the big farms are getting even bigger,” says Will Scott with the Yadkin Riverkeeper, who is touring the area to study the growth of the industry in the basin. “The areas of intensive poultry production have shifted. That’s likely related to changes in where large processing plants are located,” says Heather Patt, who authored the report. “The Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin has the highest poultry population in the state, with an estimated 60 million birds in 2014.” …
  • “Nearly Half Of NC Still Faces Drought Conditions,” WUNC: North Carolina’s drought conditions are getting better, but nearly half of the state is still in a severe or moderate drought. The Department of Environmental Quality says the mountains and the Piedmont are still significantly dry. DEQ says there was less precipitation this winter than anticipated. That’s usually a replenishing season for rivers and reservoirs. But the weather this spring has already started to reverse that trend, according to DEQ spokeswoman Marla Sink. “Just in the last week, we’ve seen significant precipitation fall in the mountains and the Piedmont, and that is just welcome,” Sink said. Sink said conditions are still better than they were six months ago, when the drought helped contribute to more than a dozen wildfires. …
  • “DEA Blocking The Path for NC Industrial Hemp Production,” Spectrum News: (Video) The Drug Enforcement Agency sent a letter to Founder’s Hemp, the only food-grade hemp processing plant in the state, saying it is illegal to transport or sell hemp seeds and products across state lines. Founder’s Hemp and the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission are tempted to sue the agency, but they say they are concerned about putting their farmers at risk.
  • “Apple Country Cider Jam showcases industry,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The best of North Carolina’s hard cider, coupled with award-winning bluegrass music, will be on tap April 22 in downtown Hendersonville. The inaugural Apple Country Cider Jam showcases eight hard cideries, two producers of nonalcoholic cider and two local wineries. The music lineup is headlined by noted bluegrass band Balsam Range, winner of 10 awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Henderson County is a fitting place to celebrate the state’s burgeoning cider industry. The county produces 85 percent of the state’s apples, and also leads the way in hard cider production. …
  • “Tobacco purchasing should be based on value, not price,” Southeast Farm Press: Price alone should not be the prevailing factor in purchasing leaf, said Clay Strickland of Salemburg, N.C., at the annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. “Value should be the key determination,” said Strickland, a flue-cured grower who is current president of TGANC. “And value should be defined by the high standards and compliance guarantees that (characterize) U.S. leaf.” But instead, there seems to be a new trend in the industry, he said. It seems to encourage “value of tobacco based on a criterion that doesn’t have anything to do with leaf characteristics that describe its utility function as the key ingredient in a cigarette.” …
  • “Could NC buy out more hog farms after Matthew’s floods?” Wilmington Star-News: A farm buyout program implemented by the state after 1999′s Hurricane Floyd is widely credited with helping limit Hurricane Matthew’s impact on the pork industry, and a similar proposal is now on the table. After Floyd killed 21,474 swine, flooded 55 waste lagoons and caused lagoon breaches at six farms, the state used $18.7 million in Clean Water Management Trust Fund grants to purchase conservation easements on 43 farms in 100-year flood plains. Matthew resulted in the deaths of 2,800 swine, 14 flooded lagoons and one farm with a partial breach, according to the N.C. Pork Council. “We applaud the success of the previous voluntary buyout program, and we think everyone agrees that it was a successful initiative,” said Andy Curliss, the pork council’s CEO. “If there are discussions about another voluntary buyout program, we want to play a productive role in those.” …
  • “Strawberry season comes early this year,” Washington Daily News: There’s nothing like springtime — warmer weather, fragrant blooms and juicy strawberries. Strawberry season came early this year, thanks to unusually warm temperatures starting in February. Early spring frosts often spell disaster for tender blooms, but the warmer weather worked in favor of the berries, according to Southside Farms owner Shawn Harding. “By the time the cold weather got here in March, these were already green berries, so we were able to save the berries that were on there,” Harding said. “It’s a little easier to protect a berry than a Øower, so that was a positive from having a warm February.” …
  • “Popcorn blowing up for one Johnston farmer,” The News & Observer: Different corn kernels have different destinies. Many ears wind up back on the farm, feeding livestock, but most think of the sweet variety, slathered in butter, tasting of the summer sun. Fourth-generation Johnston County farmer Jason Barbour of Four Oaks knows feed corn and sweet corn, but last year, he added popcorn, falling into a production contract while out shopping one night. He planted eight acres of popcorn, one of the few Johnston County farmers to deal with the crop. His buyer is Popcorn Haven in Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield, the contract reminiscent of farming a few decades back, when the buying cycle had a tight local center. “My wife and I had been going to the Carolina Pottery UPS box to send something off, and another farmer I knew came up to me and said to go see the popcorn man,” Barbour said. “(That farmer) doesn’t grow corn and said the store wanted to buy its popcorn from a North Carolina farmer.” The popcorn guy is Robert Miller, who runs the Popcorn Haven shop. Miller had been buying his kernels from Sysco and other large food-distribution companies, but he had been on the lookout for North Carolina popcorn for local appeal. Barbour said he didn’t have much experience in popcorn but was willing to give it a shot. “I didn’t know anything about popcorn; I know dent corn and sweet corn,” he said. “I had never grown no popcorn, but I’ll try anything one time, so I figured we’ll see how it goes. And it kind of worked out.” …
Print Friendly