News Roundup: April 29 – May 5

By on May 5, 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.

  • “Pork industry favors incentives for river protection,” The News & Observer: Keeping pollution out of North Carolina’s rivers by paying farmers to shut down their hog farms in flood plains is something the pork industry has said it would support. On Thursday, the N.C. Pork Council announced its board of directors has voted unanimously to support re-establishing a voluntary easement conservation program run by the state. North Carolina has purchased easements for 42 hog farms and closed 103 lagoons since 2000, according to the council. Those easements cannot be used as feed lots, for animal waste-management systems or to spray liquid fertilizer. Some agricultural uses, such as growing row crops or planting trees, can be used in the easements. The council says it has been in discussions since last fall with state agriculture officials about ways to pay for the program. Between 15 and 20 hog farms have been identified for potential easements. “We are continually looking for ways to help proactively protect our state’s waterways, especially during hurricanes and other severe weather events,” Andy Curliss, CEO of the Pork Council, said in a statement. “The pork industry supports efforts to re-establish a voluntary conservation program involving hog farms located in flood-prone areas and we will continue to work with the N.C. Department of Agriculture to encourage funding for this program.” …
  • “The Chop Shop Butchery nurtures dry-aged meat,” Asheville Citizen-Times: On a huge stainless steel table in a chilled room at The Chop Shop Butchery is a slab of meat. The ribs of a steer curve gently toward the ceiling, stippled slightly with dark mold. Near the leg, the muscle sports a delicate layer of green fuzz. And that’s just how the butcher shop wants it. The Chop Shop gets half a steer a week from Apple Brandy Beef in Wilkesboro, where it’s pasture-raised and finished on locally grown corn. Then, it’s finished for three weeks in a slaughterhouse two miles from the farm in a cooled, humidity-controlled room that allows enzymes on the meat to flourish. “The life in that room, the bio in that room is cool,” said Chop Shop butcher PJ Jackson. During dry-aging, enzymes break down meat fibers, tenderizing beef while increasing its density. Meanwhile, mold forms on the exterior of the meat and the flavor ripens, like cheese. Natural water loss further concentrates the meat’s flavor, but also reduces its weight. So does the trimming of the bloomy surface of the meat. Cuts are displayed and sold without that mold-ripened exterior. …
  • “Wicked Weed beer sale marks flashpoint in brewery turf wars,” Fayetteville Observer: Within hours of announcing its sale to the maker of Budweiser, North Carolina’s beloved Wicked Weed beer lost its voting rights in a craft beer guild, was booted from collaborations with two independent breweries and exiled from at least a handful of stores and restaurants. The deal announced Wednesday represents the latest front in the battle between macro- and micro-brewers as behemoths such as Anheuser-Busch Inbev acquire independent brewers to harness the craft segment’s fast growth. Wicked Weed will be one of a dozen brands in Anheuser Busch’s unit called The High End, which includes Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado and Goose Island Brewery in Illinois. “Our consumers are very, very passionate consumers,” said Walt Dickinson, who co-founded Wicked Weed in 2012. “They feel passionate about the brand. I’m respectful of their feelings. It’s going to be our job going forward to win them back and show them that we’re the exact same people.” …
  • “NC wins competitive Department of Defense grant with unique partnership,” North State Journal: North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler was joined by military leaders and state lawmakers in Raleigh Tuesday to announce the state as the sole winner of a competition for millions of federal dollars for the combined purposes of conservation and protection of military bases from issues of encroachment. “When you marry forestry, agriculture and the military together, and we can use agricultural and forestry land to protect these military bases, that’s as good as it gets,” said Troxler at the celebratory event. “I think we all know that there’s been encroachment around our military bases. This means they can’t train like they want to or as much as they want to.” North Carolina beat nine states for a competitive grant of $9.2 million administered by the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, which supports initiatives and collaboration across the U.S. Department of Defense to preserve land uses near military installations that conserve natural landscapes in support of military readiness. …
  • “Organic Tobacco: Better Ways to Get Off to a Good Start,” NC State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Interest in organic tobacco farming has been growing in recent years, and at NC State University, researchers are taking the guessing game out of one of the most important steps in production: how best to fertilize seedlings. Seedlings are usually grown in greenhouses in trays that float in water, but some growers were having problems producing organic seedlings healthy enough to transplant into fields, explained Dr. Matthew Vann, an NC State Extension tobacco specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. To develop recommendations for growers, Vann and master’s student Hunter Mason conducted two studies. One involved aerating the float beds with fish-tank pumps, and the other tested seven different fertilizer protocols.
  • “Farmers assess water damage to corn crops,” Washington Daily News: Last week’s heavy rainfall proved to be a headache for local corn growers. In some areas of eastern North Carolina, as much as 9 inches of rain fell from April 23-25, and flooding from heavy rainfall is still affecting areas near the Tar and Neuse rivers and Contentnea Creek, as the waterways exceed the flood stage. Many areas have reported the worst flooding seen since Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Low-lying areas in Beaufort County also experienced flooding, but the Pamlico River did not exceed its flood stage at 4 feet, peaking at just above 2 feet, according to data from the National Weather Service in Newport. …
  • “Ninja Cow Farm plans first Open Barn Day Saturday,” WRAL: Ninja Cow Farm … yep! that’s what it’s called … will host its first open farm day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 6.
    Ninja Cow Farm is a fairly new, small, 84-acre family farm located just outside of Garner. They are the closest large animal farm to downtown Raleigh – just 15 minutes from the heart of downtown, owner Dan Moore tells me. Here’s more about the farm from Moore: “We raise grass fed, grass finished (an important distinction) cows, and heritage and rare breed hogs. We utilize no commercial feed in our operation, instead relying on produce we glean from various sources as our primary food stock for our pigs. Our produce recycling/upcycling efforts now divert approximately 7 million pounds of produce from the landfill each year. In addition, we recycle 250,000 pounds of cardboard, 24 truck loads of pallets, and 12 truck loads of plastic totes per year.” The farm sells products directly to the consumer and a few restaurants. In addition to beef and pork, the farm also aggregates products from 11 other small family farms and sells those products in their small store, giving each of the partner farms equal billing. “We are beyond a family farming operation,” Moore tells me. “We actually have five families directly involved in our operation, not counting our employees. We are a true community effort, all working together.”
  • “Video: Capital Tonight May 2: Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler,” Spectrum News: On Capital Tonight: Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler talks about his recent trip to the White House with Tim Boyum. Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti gives us an update from the Council of State and more on Jones Street. Our Insiders Chad Adams and Jessica Holmes take a look at the latest approval numbers for Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly.
  • “French varieties on horizon,” Hendersonville Times-News: A new tasting room for hard apple cider is coming to Henderson County, with Appalachian Ridge Artisan Ciders set to open its new tasting facility on Chestnut Gap Road in a refurbished 1940s-era barn. The tasting room is set for a soft opening in June, according to owner Alan Ward, also of St. Paul Mountain Vineyards. It will feature a back porch that looks out on acres of apple trees and a small stream that is being returned to its natural state. But that’s not the only new addition for Appalachian Ridge, as Ward is partnering with former Henderson County Cooperative Extension Director Marvin Owings, now with the private Yellow Jacket Nursery. They are working to plant hundreds of cider-specific French apple varieties on 9 acres behind the tasting room. They recently received USDA approval to establish a “quarantine” site, or section of orchard set apart from the main orchard, to bring the varieties back to Henderson County after making trips to the Normandy region of France to tour cideries, growing operations and nurseries, and to make orders for the apple varieties that have been grown there specifically for cider for centuries. …
  • “Heavy rains deal blow to Wilson farmers,” Greenville Daily Reflector: Last week’s heavy rains have caused major concerns for growers of tobacco, corn and sweet potatoes in Wilson County. Norman Harrell, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson, said growers will be having to spend more money and time dealing with flooded fields. “What we’re going to have are places around the ends of the field and low spots or bottoms in the field that tobacco is going to drown,” Harrell said. “The farmer is going to have to make decisions whether to disc and cut out parts of those places or try and reset.” Harrell said growers also have some concerns with fertilizer that has been put out. …
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