News Roundup

News Roundup: June 24-30

By on June 30, 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.

  • “Sweet potatoes have been a very sweet deal indeed for North Carolina farmers,” Southeast Produce Weekly: When Congress passed the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act in October 2004, some North Carolina farmers were deeply worried. The Tobacco Transition Payment Program was put in place in February 2005 and provided payments to tobacco quote holders and producers through 2014. So North Carolina growers knew they had to find something else to go in the ground if they wanted to stay in business. Some of them already had a foothold on a new future without even knowing it. Sweet potatoes have been a part of North Carolina cuisine and culture for ages. But as the rest of the world began to catch on about the good news about sweet potatoes as a superfood, consumption and demand began to rise — and they haven’t stopped yet. …
  • “North Carolina lawmakers fund food manufacturing center developed by N.C. State and Kannapolis researchers,” Triangle Business Journal: Kannapolis, a city once marred by the shuttering of textile mills, is set to become a leader of the emerging food manufacturing sector thanks to a $5 million budget provision and the research of the agricultural program at North Carolina State University. The budget, approved Wednesday after the General Assembly overrode Gov. Cooper’s veto, provides $4.4 million to equip the Food Processing Innovation Center. The center will be housed at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, and will also receive $700,000 in recurring funds for leasing costs. N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are taking the helm in the creation of the center — set to open in 2018. It’s a fitting project for a city that became the national poster child of the decline of manufacturing. The North Carolina Research Center is housed at the former site of Pillowtex Corp. textile mill, which made headlines in 2003 when it closed down and laid off 4,3000 residents — the largest single-day layoff in North Carolina. The North Carolina Research Center, a private-public hub for nutrition and food science research, took the place of the old mill, and now has 21 community, university and corporate partners that employ around 1,000 in the area. Seven university campuses, including UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, Duke University and North Carolina Central University, house research hubs on the campus. Mark Spitzer, vice president of operations for Castle & Cook North Carolina, the center’s developer, said this makes the site uniquely suited for a collaborative effort. “We can engage this broad array of folks that are focused on healthy living through nutrition and exercise in supporting the innovation to find new opportunities for foodstuffs,” he said. …
  • “NC legislature moves to stifle farmworkers unions,” The News & Observer: It may get harder for farmworkers in the state to win job benefits negotiated by unions. A measure making its way through the legislature would prevent farms from transferring workers’ dues directly to unions or labor organizations. The would also prohibit farmers from settling workers’ lawsuits by agreeing to union contracts. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the only farmworker union in the state, said it is the measure’s target. Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County farmer, said the measure is not aimed at FLOC. Dixon worked to attach the provisions prohibiting dues collection and contracts to the Farm Act, a bill the House passed Wednesday. Dixon’s amendment passed 73-42. The House made some other changes to the Farm Act that the Senate voted to reject Wednesday night. House an Senate negotiators will meet to work out the differences. Dixon said the NC Farm Bureau and other farm organizations requested the limits on unions. Farmers are under undue pressure to collect union dues and sign union contracts, Dixon said. “That’s something that I’m hearing,” he said. …
  • “NCSU graduate opens potato chip store to feed the hungry,” WRAL: Carolina Kettle, a brand-new kettle-cooked potato chip store, is now open in Raleigh, and its owner and mission couldn’t be more inspiring. Agriculture and business student Josh Monahan started his own company, 1-in-6 Snacks, when he was a junior at North Carolina State University. Now less than a month after graduation, the young entrepreneur has opened a retail snack store to sell his products. Josh and his younger sister and business partner, Jacey, have spent the past year promoting the brand and getting the chips into 200 stores, including Harris Teeter, Lowe’s Foods, Fresh Market and local shops like A Southern Season. The two have been working hard this month to prepare their Carolina Kettle retail base, a new building located at 5205 Hillsborough St. (across the from the state fairgrounds). The business will hold a grand opening celebration Thursday.
  • “Market expansion a boon for local food,” Greenville Reflector: More square footage, a fresh coat of paint and new vendors are generating a lot of excitement at the Leroy James Farmers Market. The market’s new addition officially opened Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 5,000-square-foot expansion brings the market’s total space to 11,500 square feet, said Pitt County Engineer Tim Corley. The new structure has 16 bays and space for at least 20 vendors, said market manager La Rita Johnson. The current structure houses about 14 vendors.
    The majority of those spots will be filled with vendors who previously had to set up under a market tent or their own tents in the parking lot.
    However, a few vendors will remain outside because they use deep fryers. Also, more vendors are joining the market. This past week alone five vendors signed up. …
  • “Pollinators without borders,” Hendersonville Times-News: “It helps to tickle the toes,” says Kate Lis as she holds up a milkweed plant and works to loosen up its compact root system fresh out of the plastic planting container. It is a hot, clear day in June and a group of students are gathered around Lis, an AmeriCorps Project Conserve stewardship associate at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, taking note of the planting process. They eagerly grab their own plants, “tickle the toes”, dig a shallow hole in the soil and plant the small, green, leafy plant in the two pollinator garden beds that Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) has installed at Isaac Dickson Elementary School in Asheville. CMLC, a nonprofit that permanently conserves, cares for and connects people to the natural wonders of western North Carolina, is working with schools and organizations to plant pollinator gardens in our local community. Monarchs and other pollinators are true heroes of our ecosystem. Butterflies, birds, bees, bats and other animals play a significant role in the production of more than 150 food crops in our country — from almonds, apples and alfalfa to melons, plums and squash. We have pollinators to thank for every three bites of food. They also provide a means for our native plants to reproduce and thrive. Fanslow is optimistic about the ability to make a positive impact. “How people manage their backyards can make a world of difference for pollinators, and by adding milkweed next to the patio we can join in helping preserve the 3,000-mile migration of monarch butterflies for our kids.” …
  • “Spring Hope firm bets on hemp,” Rocky Mount Telegram: A Spring Hope hemp plant is continuing its efforts to make hemp the next cash crop for local farmers. Industrial Hemp Manufacturing on N.C. 581 in Spring Hope, a subsidiary of Hemp Inc, recently announced its farming associates, who are licensed by the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission, have secured 150 pounds or more of cannabidol (CBD) rich seeds that have been planted over the past couple weekends. Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp Inc., said the 150-plus pounds of seeds equate to more than 550 acres to go along with the 17 acres of high-CBD clones being planted in North Carolina, which will be one of the largest CBD hemp growers in the United States. Cannabidiol is part of the cannabis plant that has significant medical benefits. David Schmitt, chief operating officer of Hemp Inc., said CBD has the potential to treat a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, PTSD, epilepsy, neurological disorders and other ailments. …
  • “2018 farm bill: The things they want changed or not messed with,” Southeast Farm Press: The first 2018 in the field farm bill listening session by the House Agriculture Committee was in Gainesville, Fla., June 24, where the committee heard publically what needs changing, but most importantly, what doesn’t need messing with in the next bill. To the backdrop of multiple years of suppressed prices for traditional farm bill commodities and farm incomes cut in half across much of the U.S. farm landscape, opening the session “Conversations in the Field,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, from Texas, made a few points to the gathering: The next farm bill will come with harder choices to make and will have fewer resources in which to fund it than the 2014 legislation. There will not be the direct payments, which were done away with in the last bill. So, they will not be able to harvest that money back into the system again. He and the committee are driven to get next farm bill done on time. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, 2018. The decisions that need to get made for September 2018 will not get any easier in October of 2018. “We’re just going to have to go ahead and make them. We hope to get it done on time, right, wrong or indifferent, to let you know what you have to live with the next five years: the producers, bankers, creditors, equipment dealers.” …
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