News Roundup

News Roundup: May 6-12

By on May 12, 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.

  • “New farmers face dwindling land, soaring prices in Triangle,” The News & Observer: Thomas Saile of Raleigh hopes to own a farm one day. Saile has spent time in an incubator farm program and worked on organic farms. He has become active in community gardens and has a garden on a friend’s plot of land. But in looking for his own property, Saile, 33, has run into one of the biggest hurdles facing new farmers: the cost and availability of farmland. In the fast-growing Triangle, farmland is often lost to development and the price of the arable land that remains has skyrocketed, putting it out of reach of young farmers. So Saile decided to lease a half-acre on Good Hope Farm, a cultivator farm off Morrisville Carpenter Road in Cary, where he will grow heirloom tomatoes, peppers, salad mixes, potatoes and squash starting this season. Cultivator farms give young farmers affordable access to the land and tools they need to get started. “I could find affordable land, but it would be in the mountains on the side of a hill somewhere,” Saile said laughing. To ease the challenges faced by would-be farmers like Saile, local conservation and agricultural groups are joining forces to preserve farmland in the Triangle and boost the region’s agricultural industry. …
  • “Agribusiness in Bethel promises growth, healthy food options,” Greenville Daily Reflector: The fruits of an effort to make sustainably grown food more accessible and affordable are ready to bloom in northern Pitt County. The Coalition for Healthier Eating has completed renovations of a vacant fertilizer plant in Bethel to operate its long-awaited Community Food Hub, a facility that will clean and process and distribute meats and vegetables grown using low-chemical, healthy sustainable methods by farmers and producers throughout the region. It will begin online and onsite sales June 1. “It feels like a mother who has finally gone into labor and will finally be able to hold her newborn baby,” Maxine White, the coalition’s executive director and the hub’s plant manager, said at the Railroad Street facility last week. …
  • “Pick up a bucket or two of sweetness,” Fayetteville Observer: As a third-generation farmer, Kevin Riddle says that too many sweets can make him sap the energy needed for the next day’s heaping helping of chores. But even he can’t resist a few things. “I will jump on something every now and then,″ Riddle, 27, said. Take the pound cakes both his grandmothers are adept at making. Or his mother Jackie Riddle’s homemade strawberry ice cream. “When she made that I told her I’d take a spoonful or two,″ he said. “Nah, she hooked me up with a couple of big scoops. And I ate every bit.″ And though the weather has been a challenge for North Carolina strawberry farmers, that didn’t stop Riddle Farms Produce from supplying bucket after bucket of the ruby-red treasures for home cooks and for just plain eating straight from the field. Riddle Farms is in their first year of commercial strawberry farming, but benefited from the guidance of longtime family friend Clifton McNeill Jr. Riddle Farms operates out of McNeill Farms on Chicken Foot Road, where the McNeill family operated their strawberry business for 25 years. …
  • “AI and machine learning now on farms and growing fast,” Southeast Farm Press: Artificial intelligence is still in its infancy in agriculture, but the technology is being used through such tools as drones, sensors and hyperspectral cameras. Speakers at a forum on artificial intelligence in agriculture held April 26 at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park see great potential for both artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase yields, fight pests and battle drought. They say the technology is needed because 60 percent more food will be needed to feed a world population that is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. “We cannot increase the amount of land; that is fixed. What we can do is try to improve per hectare yield by using less water while still increasing yields. We are getting there by using a lot of this technology,” said Ranga Raju Vatsavai, associate professor of computer science at North Carolina State University. Vatsavai said technology is in the works to use artificial intelligence to schedule irrigation to both conserve water and provide moisture to plants at the right place and right time. “Right now we are not there, but we are getting there,” he said. Huge advances in computer technology and computing power is already benefiting agriculture, he said. For example, Vatsavai is using a super computer the size of credit card attached to a drone that provides on-demand, near real-time event monitoring. The credit-card sized computer has a staggering teraflop of computing power yet only requires 15 watts of power consumption. “I can put this small super computing device on board a small drone and as the drone is flying, I can analyze the data and identify if there is any stress in the field,” Vatsavai said. …
  • “NC hog farms win legal protections; Senate overrides Cooper’s veto,” The News & Observer: North Carolina’s hog farms won an extra measure of protection from lawsuits Thursday, after the state Senate overrode a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, who had sought to preserve the right of property owners to sue farmers over quality-of-life issues.
    The state Senate narrowly defeated Cooper’s veto, a day after the House took the same step. The Senate vote was 30 to 18, mostly along party lines, in a procedure that requires support from three-fifths of lawmakers present. The vote was similar Wednesday in the House, with 74 voting to override the governor’s veto, and 40 voting to support the governor.
    The new law limits the amount of money people can collect in lawsuits against hog farms for odors, headaches, flies and other aggravations. Critics have said the law limits financial recovery to the point that such lawsuits are not likely to be filed in the future. …
  • “N.C. said it still needs $929 million in aid for Hurricane Matthew. It got $6.1 million,” Washington Post: The rain is done, and the flood is long over. The rest of the country moved on months ago, but North Carolina is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Matthew. Hundreds of families remain displaced, and critical infrastructure sits damaged. Its unmet need is enormous, the governor says, and they aren’t getting the money. In a soon-to-be-announced disaster relief allocation from the federal government, Gov. Roy Cooper expects to get just 0.7 percent of what he and North Carolina lawmakers in Congress say the state still needs to get back on its feet. In October, Hurricane Matthew raked up the Southeast coast and battered Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. These states aren’t unfamiliar with tropical storms or the damage they inflict, but Matthew was different. The hurricane’s wind and storm surge were strong, but that wasn’t what did North Carolina in. …
  • “Farmers use pigs to remove stumps, clear pasture,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: Uwharrie Farm is cleaning up overgrown acreage using an innovative source — pigs. Larry and Judy McPherson applied for a Rural Agriculture Reinvestment Fund (RAFI) grant in order to remove stumps from six acres of their 120-acre farm on Waynick Meadow Road west of Asheboro. A couple of years ago, they harvested trees from the site and now need to remove the stumps and other unwanted growth. Enter five specially-selected pigs for the job. The Berkshire and Duroc breeds are considered naturals for rooting out stumps without the need for chemicals and, hence, protecting the environment. The approach is considered innovative and sustainable, thus making it eligible for the $8,000 RAFU grant to install fencing around the acreage and also to turn an old greenhouse into an animal shelter. The fencing is to keep predators out, Larry stressed. He added that they have a couple of donkeys to scare off coyotes. In 1987, the McPhersons purchased the farm where Judy grew up, initially raising contract poultry. When the company they contracted from demanded upgrades, the McPhersons decided instead to get into organic vegetable production. They became one of the first community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in North Carolina. That term just means they sell their goods directly to consumers, mostly at farmers markets. Uwharrie Farm became a well-known and viable CSA known for organic vegetables. But in 2013, Larry had heart surgery and the couple decided it was time to get out of the labor-intensive gardens and to raise animals. They now have pasture-raised cattle, goats and chickens. …
  • “Grant to protect base training area,” Goldsboro News-Argus: The Air Force will use a $3.4 million federal grant to protect more than 4,500 acres of high-priority land necessary to maintain training airspace for the Dare County Bombing Range — the primary training range for F-15E aircraft crews at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. It will do so through a voluntary program placing conservation easements on crop and forest land under the military training route approaching the Dare County Bombing Range. North Carolina topped nine other states in the competition to win the $9.2 million federal grant to protect land from development while maintaining agricultural, forestry and military uses. The Marine Corps will use the other $5.8 million to establish an easement and to support the creation of habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker on more than 12,100 acres of state-owned land. This will free up Marine Corps lands for training. Agriculture and agribusiness comprise North Carolina’s largest industry, with an annual economic impact of $84 billion. The military is second at $66 billion. The funding, announced Tuesday in Raleigh, was awarded through a biennial competition known as the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Challenge, which is operated by the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program. …
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