News Roundup: July 8-14

By on July 14, 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.

  • “Wayne E. Bailey at the top of its game with Petitelings,” The Produce News: Always at the top of his game, George Wooten, president of Wayne E. Bailey in Chadbourn, NC, continues to live up to his reputation as an innovator in the sweet potato industry. At the 2016 PMA Foodservice Conference and Expo, the company introduced its new trademarked name, Petitelings, for its sweet potato fingerling potatoes. Wooten explained, “Petitelings are perfect for foodservice operators because they offer consistency in size, and they save in labor. Because the young sweet potato skins are so tender, they are totally edible. And they are high in sugar so they deliver great flavor. “We’ve been promoting fingerling sweet potatoes for long time and so we have production down to a science,” he added. The company will once again feature the Petitelings at its booth, No. 1107, at this year’s PMA Foodservice Conference and Expo on July 28-30 in Monterey, CA. Although the company has offered fingerling-sized sweet potatoes for several years, branding the item has helped it with product identity and has boosted sales. …
  • “Tobacco takes a pounding from tomato spotted wilt,” Southeast Farm Press: Any hopes that the U.S. tobacco crop might escape serious damage from tomato spotted wilt were dashed at the end of May and in early June when substantial infestations broke out in Georgia and the Carolinas. Jerry Breland of the Walterboro area of South Carolina was one of the farmers reeling from the intensity of the hit his flue-cured had taken from the disease. He talked to Southeast Farm Press on June 9. “I have never seen it this bad,” he said. “There are places around me that have 60 to 70 percent of the plants infected.” The damage was almost entirely on the early-planted part of his crop, and he had hopes his later plantings would be spared. There was also hope the uninfected plants in infected fields might be able to compensate to some degree for yield loss, by taking advantage of unused fertilizer and also getting more sunlight. “But sometimes you see seven or eight plants in a row that have died,” said Breland. “It is hard to see how the remaining plants could compensate for that.” … In New Bern, N.C., an Extension tobacco agent said infestations had not started a downward trend as of June 6. “It appears that earlier transplanted fields have the highest incidence with a range of 20 percent to 40 percent,” said Mike Carroll of Craven County. “It appears that just about every tobacco farmer has at least one farm with infestations within the higher range.” But the overall rate was about 18 percent in that area, which is part of North Carolina’s Coastal Plain. …
  • “Eastern NC Farmers Excited About Prospects for This Year’s Crops,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) After something of a rough start, Carolina crops are enjoying one of the better growing seasons producers have had to work with in many years, and are excited about the prospects. Rod Gurganus, Director of Beaufort County Extension says the same is true for down east crops: “The last three growing seasons have been challenging for us here in the east. We’ve had timely rains, and in a few instances too much that’s caused us to replant back during the planting season, we had to replant some corn. But, the challenge has been cotton, we had a time getting the cotton crop planted. But, for the most part, we’ve had really nice growing conditions for all of our crops this year, and everything looks really good right now.” You mentioned difficulty getting crops in the ground back in April, some of your corn was replanted, and a lot of your cotton had to be replanted. So, you’re not as close to the finish line in some instances as you’d like to be this time of year. “No, we’re not. Our corn crop right now really has a wide range of maturities. As you’re riding down the roads in Beaufort County, we’ve got corn that was planted on time, when guys really like to get rolling, and it’s starting to dent, so it’s advanced along. And we’ve got corn that’s just starting to tassle and put silks out. So, we have a wide range of maturity, and the crops that were replanted once, and in some cases twice, we have some that went in in the middle of May, and so we’ve got some late corn out there, and we’ve been successful with that in the past, and right now that corn crop looks really good, too. We’re going to have to wait and see what happens weather-wise on that later planted corn, but right now it looks really good.” …
  • “Society of St. Andrews gleans to feed the less fortunate,” Charlotte Observer: Corn squeaks as volunteers from the Society of St. Andrews twist the corn from the stalks at Barbee Farms in Concord on Tuesday morning. The Society of St. Andrews is the United States’ largest gleaning organization, said Jean Siers, the group’s Charlotte-area coordinator. Gleaning is the process of clearing out leftover produce after the harvest to give to the poor. “It just makes common sense that the food that would go to waste would go to the people who could use it and need it,” Siers said. The group of volunteers on Tuesday gleaned over 3,000 pounds of corn that will be distributed to different hunger agencies by volunteer truck drivers, Siers said. She said the Society of St. Andrews is always looking for more farmers to participate and more volunteers to help gather the produce. “This is a real treat for people to be able to get fresh corn from the field,” Siers said. “It’s a great way to experience where your food comes from and see where it can go into the community.” Siers said volunteers come to the farm early in the morning and glean for about two hours because most of the people gleaning are not used to arduous labor in the heat. …
  • “How Duke and NC State may play a role in what and how we eat,” The News & Observer: Duke University announced a new center Monday to work on global food policy solutions with $5.9 million in grants. The World Food Policy Center will be based at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. The new push will be funded by $5 million from the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment, $600,000 from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and $300,000 from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. The center will promote collaboration across different food research areas such as malnutrition, obesity, agriculture, climate change and safety issues related to contamination or bioterrorism. The center’s reach will be both global and local. It will create a world food policy idea bank that will serve as a network for people to brainstorm. It will also focus its efforts on Durham, examining policies around food access, hunger and food waste in a city that has become known as a restaurant mecca. Duke plans to work with the city and county to try to create a model food system city, which might include a focus on child nutrition. Kelly Brownell, dean of the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy, said there are players at Duke and outside Duke who could be involved in the new center. “UNC has a world class school of public health with a number of outstanding people who study nutrition,” he said. “N.C. State has a very fine school of agriculture with many people interested in food policy. There are other resources in the Triangle area that make us probably unique in the country in having so much expertise in small geographic area around issues of food and food policy.” Beyond the universities, RTI International and agribusinesses such as Bayer and Syngenta could be collaborators. Brownell said he envisions the center as a way to bridge different areas of research. …
  • “I-Team: Sky’s the limit for NC’s budding hemp industry,” WTVD: (Video) The plant is green and proponents of the industry think it has sky-high potential for North Carolina’s economy. “We don’t know the yield,” farm owner Mann Mullen tells the ABC11 I-Team. “But we do know we’re going to give it everything possible.” Mullen, a fifth-generation tobacco farmer in Franklin County, is planting a new seed for success: hemp, the cousin of marijuana minus the THC. Mullen’s company, Mullen View Farms, is one of 75 farms in North Carolina that recently earned state approval to test the crop’s viability. “We hope to generate the cash to stay on the family farm,” Mullen said. “It’s hard to stay on the family farm if you look at the prices of soybeans, the prices of corn, the price of wheat. It’s almost impossible to grow and make a profit large enough to feed your family.” Mullen recruited his cousin, Johnny Vollmer, to help harvest the hemp seed on nearly 150 acres. Vollmer, who is starting his own merchandise company called “Johnny Hempseed,” explained hemp could be used in several different industries. “With fiber you can go in multiple directions,” Vollmer told the ABC11 I-Team. “You can go in the car industry to replace fiber glass in the car panels. You can go to the textile industry to create fabric, you can go into the rope industry.” …
  • “Are immigrants taking farm jobs from US citizens? In NC, farmers say no.” The News & Observer: Every April, about 30 immigrants board a bus in Mexico and travel nearly 2,000 miles to Jackie Thompson’s farm in Rolesville, where they harvest roughly 600,000 pounds of tobacco. It’s an agreement that can help everyone involved: Immigrants need money to provide for their families, and Thompson needs help to run his 900-acre farm. Every year he sells tobacco, 18,000 pounds of soybeans, 25 bushels of wheat and 10,000 bushels of cucumbers to tobacco companies and commercial food producers. About 80,000 farmworkers – primarily Latino migrants and immigrants as well as U.S. natives – toil on farms in North Carolina, where agriculture still plays a major role, according to the N.C. Farm Bureau. Advocacy groups put that number closer to 150,000. Roughly half are undocumented immigrants, although many have been living in North Carolina for decades, according to the bureau. About 25 percent come to work in the U.S. temporarily through the federal H-2A visa program. Only one-fourth of the state’s farmworkers, a mix of immigrants and U.S. nationals, live in North Carolina permanently. They are an invisible workforce that props up North Carolina’s $84 billion agriculture industry. “Foreign labor is what provides jobs for U.S. citizens and North Carolina residents working in the agricultural industry,” said Sen. Thom Tillis. “It is hard to overestimate what agriculture means to our state.” President Donald Trump, who promises to tighten immigration rules, has said immigrants are taking too many jobs from U.S. natives. But some North Carolina farmers say they can’t find enough locals to work in their fields, where the hours are long and the sun is unrelenting, so they must rely on foreign labor. Without immigrants, Thompson couldn’t run his farm. “There’s no doubt in my mind,” Thompson, 66, said. “The U.S. complains with our mouths full. They want to eat it, but they don’t want to pick it.” …
  • “Peach lovers can expect good offering of late-variety fruit,” Caldwell Journal: Peach lovers across the state can expect to find plenty of peaches for homemade ice cream, cobblers or just eating fresh. While a late freeze affected many orchards across the state, growers from the mountains to the coast are reporting a good crop of late variety freestone peaches. “It all depends on where the orchard is located,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Some orchards were hit harder by the late freeze, while others right down the road remained unaffected. Still, there should be plenty of peaches available throughout the state.” Some early variety clingstones will be available, but they will not be as plentiful as the mid- to late-season freestone varieties. Many consumers enjoy freestones for the ease in which the flesh of the peach separates from the seed, making these varieties easy to enjoy as a snack. Freestone varieties are expected to be available until late August. …
  • “4-H Farm to Table class considers life as farmers,” Hickory Record: Ten-year-old Aden Becker doesn’t hesitate to say he wants to be a farmer when he grows up. In fact, he’s very specific about why he wants to farm. “It’s to stop the G mode (genetically modified) plants from being planted and give people fresh plants to live a healthier life,” Becker said. This idea of providing healthy food to the local community was one he shared with the nearly dozen other kids taking part in the 4-H Farm to Table summer fun class this week. They visited the farm of Carrol Heavner off Blackburn Bridge Road to learn about growing sweet potatoes and then learned different ways to cook them. Aden Becker was amazed at the hands-on method Heavner used to cultivate his potatoes and the amount of work behind a day on the farm. It didn’t scare him away from wanting to run his own farm one day. This was the point of view NC Cooperative Extension agriculture agent and the camp coordinator April Vigardt was hoping the youth in the camp would have after their visit to Heavner’s farm. “We’re showing them how you obtain local foods and how you decide what you need to make a meal you can get locally,” Vigardt said. “They seem to be pretty aware of that point of this week. Some of the kids have gardens at home. We’re going to talk a little more about the importance of buying local as well.” …
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