News Roundup: July 15-21

By on July 21, 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.

  • “In Orange County, a millennial farm boy follows in his father’s footsteps.” Durham Herald-Sun: “Hello?” Jonah Sykes said, answering his cellphone on Wednesday. “Yeah. mmhm, yeah. I’d like to talk. It sounds good, yeah. But I’ll have to call you back. Our tractor is on fire.” Jonah Sykes, 22, is an anomaly. He grew up on his father Jeff Sykes’ farm on Vernon Road and has decided to spend his life on that farm, to take it over and run it after his father retires. These days, North Carolinian farming children rarely become farrmers as adults. “People are different in this day and time. Farming is a hard job and there are so many things out there that are pulling the people away from the farm,” Jeff Sykes said. “You can make more money. You are not seven days a week. There is a different work ethic.” Like his son, Jeff Sykes thought he wouldn’t stick around his own father’s farm and, well, spend his life the way his own old man had. “I remember getting up and milking with my dad. Of course, things were a lot less — things were more manual — things were less automated,” Jeff Sykes said. “Of course as I grew, I said I wasn’t going to work at the farm. I didn’t want to work on the farm. I was going to do something else.” But, cows are Jeff Sykes’ passion. He went to “vet-tech school,” after which he was hired as the herdsman for the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “I started to think, if I’m milking cows here, why don’t I just go home and milk cows?” Jeff Sykes said. “I’m the one who didn’t want to stay here and now I’m the only one that’s here.” …
  • “Cows on parade: Heifers and handlers get in formation at Guilford dairy show,” Greensboro News & Record: Skylar was serene. Coco swung her head a bit at first, but eventually calmed down. Frizzle performed fantastically. And Mooana was simply not in the mood. The cows — all of them young and female — hoofed and mooed their way through the Greensboro District Junior Dairy Show Thursday, each led around the barn by a child or teenage handler during the two-day competition’s showmanship event. That competition required participants to lead the heifers with a halter and get them to stand in certain positions, each designed to showcase their “favorable dairy qualities” for judges. Some kids had been showing for years. Others, like 11-year-old Nadya Smith, were working with a heifer for the first time, part of a partnership between the Guilford County Cooperative Extension and N.C. A&T’s dairy farming unit. Smith was one of six kids from Erwin Montessori School chosen to work with cows from A&T, learning the basics of dairy husbandry from a cast of interns and volunteers. One of her teachers had recommended her for the program, Nadya said, and she’d been working with the black-and-white Skylar. …
  • “Produce states get $30 million to help FDA enforce new rule,” Food Safety News: Forty-three states and territories are getting a total of $30.9 million from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help the federal agency implement the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. “Congress envisioned the states and FDA working together as an integrated food safety system when it passed FSMA,” said Barbara P. Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) when she announced the funding on Wednesday. She praised FDA for providing the additional money for the states. “Safe food is a quintessential American value,” Glenn said in the announcement. “Congress’ commitment to fund FDA and FDA pointing the funds to the states is an important milestone. We appreciate the continued advancements on collaboration that these commitments afford.” The FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule was adopted in November 2015. It establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fresh fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The nation’s largest growers have to comply with certain aspects of the rule beginning in January 2018. Smaller producers get additional time to comply. FDA awarded $21.8 million in 2016 to 42 states to help implement the produce rule. The FSMA marks the first time Congress has extended FDA’s regulatory authority to certain farms. The funding has allowed FDA to work through state departments of agriculture in at least 39 states to implement the rule. …
  • “Local growers among few with peaches,” Wilkesboro Journal-Patriot: A three-day freeze in March devastated peaches in South Carolina and Georgia this year, but the Brushy Mountains have a bountiful crop of this signature Southern fruit. Unusually warm winter weather left local peaches at least two weeks ahead of schedule this summer—and set up peaches in the Deep South for heavy damage in March. “I’ve got the most peaches I’ve had since 2012,” said orchardist Gray Faw of the Brushy Mountain community. “It’s the earliest peach crop I’ve ever seen.” The harvest is well underway locally and most local growers report strong wholesale and retail sales, with prices up due to an overall short supply of peaches on the East Coast. Local peach growers are supplying new wholesale customers this year due to peach losses elsewhere. Peaches are also being harvested in eastern North Carolina, but reports from the N.C. Department of Agriculture indicate peach growers in Wilkes and Alexander counties fared better. Local orchardists expected severe damage to peaches and possibly apples when temperatures dropped into the teens and low 20s the second weekend in March. Many peach trees, but not apples trees, were blooming locally. Parts of the Brushies received at least an inch of snow on March 12. Snow can insulate and protect fruit trees, but not when it gathers on flower petals and freezes. The bountiful peach crop on the Brushies this year resulted largely from the trees being unusually heavily laden with blossoms. Only about a tenth of the buds need to survive to produce a full crop. …
  • “Producers That Sprayed for Stink Bugs Glad They Did,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Yesterday, we had a crop progress report from NCDA regional agronomist, in central North Carolina, Don Nicholson on tobacco and early corn. Today, Nicholson fills us in on later planted corn, soybeans and other central North Carolina crops: “Had some stink bug issues, much like two years ago, stink bugs were extremely prevalent in fields, people started picking wheat and they migrated from the wheat into corn. Had a few growers to spray for stink bugs because we had real problems two years ago, and some last year. But, they were well above thresholds in a lot of corn fields I was in. folks, they had good yield potential, and they felt the need to protect that potential. Had one grower say that he did not hit one field with insecticide, and felt like he’d left 40 bu/a yield potential on the table because he didn’t spray that one field.” Don, what else do we need to talk about? “Everything’s looking pretty good. We’ve got a good looking peanut crop started, they’re started pegging. Actually saw some blooms in cotton, finally getting enough heat and rain to go along with it to get the crop moving, it had kind of set still. We were just a little cooler than normal, and the rain kept everything under wraps, but cotton is moving, starting to flower. Soybeans, most everybody’s had good conditions to get things started, get a good stand. The wheat crop, even after everything it went through, ended up being a pretty good wheat crop, probably the best yields over a field was about 90 bu/a, maybe a little more, anywhere from 50-90 bu/a over the board. Everything is not great, but it’s not bad, either folks have some good potential right now. Just need to keep the rains coming and keep plugging along.” …
  • “Dicamba problem hit the fan but hasn’t splattered everywhere — yet,” Southeast Farm Press: As spring planting gave way to summer weed management, what was feared might happen in some locations happened: In-season dicamba-related problems drew regulatory attention and ire. By mid-July, dicamba complaints had spread in Missouri and Tennessee, but Arkansas was the hotbed with more than 600 registered complaints filed to the state’s department of agriculture, an unfortunately scaled-up repeat of the problem that took place in the region last year. It appeared the problem was moving into Indiana, Ohio and Illinois as seasonal spraying spread north. Can there really be no dicabama-related problems in the Southeast this year? There are few-to-no official complaints, but anecdotally there have been some problems, but nothing rising to the level seen in Missouri, Arkansas or Tennessee at this time. Southeast growers appear to be handling in-season dicamba applications properly or privately handling problems, or opting not to use them. Knowing how things have turned out this season, I remember six months back Rick Keigwin, now the acting director of programs for EPA’s Pesticide Program office, speaking to a packed room at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference in Savannah. Keigwin swings a big stick at EPA, and he reminded those growers in the room that the dicamba registrations have two pertinent time restrictions: Both Monsanto’s and BASF’s registrations automatically expire in November 2018 unless EPA takes action to renew them. “And what we’re going to be looking at over the next two years is, ‘Are the off-sight drift incidents continuing? To what degree are they continuing? Are they getting worse or are they getting better? Is the magnitude increasing?’” Keigwin said at the time. “And if we determine that that frequency of drift events is unacceptable, they (the registrations) go away.” If the registrations for new dicamba formulation are renewed in November 2018, they will automatically expire three years later. At that time, EPA again will look at drift incidents and also at where things stand with resistance issues. The registrations go away if things are not acceptable. The bottom line: If EPA doesn’t take action on either deadline for the dicamba registrations, the registrations go away. “So, we all have to be partners to make sure these products are used the right way so that we don’t have the types of things that happened in the Mid-South (in 2016),” Keigwin said that Friday morning six months ago. …
  • “Bullish on ag tech, Alexandria creating R&D ‘mega campus’ in RTP,” WRAL: Already a major landlord in the Research Triangle Park, California-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities is developing a unique multi-tenant research and development campus in the Research Triangle Park to drive North Carolina’s global leadership in agricultural biotechnology. The campus, called the Alexandria Center for AgTech – RTP, is located at 3054 East Cornwallis Road on the former site of Syngenta, which consolidated its operations at a new campus elsewhere in the Park. Through an affiliate, Alexandria acquired the 20-acre Syngenta site with five buildings and greenhouses for $8.75 million, according to tax records. Rendering shows proposed entryway to Alexandria Center for AgTech â�� RTP.The first phase of the project is to redevelop the site into 175,000 rentable square feet of office, laboratory and greenhouse facilities and a “highly curated amenities center designed to foster innovation, drive productivity and enhance collaboration,” Alexandria said in a news release. Amenities will include a conference and event space, a fitness and wellness center, a “healthy restaurant concept,” open green space and an on-site garden. The campus already has two initial tenants: AgTech Accelerator Corp., an Alexandria-sponsored incubator that discovers, develops, funds and manages new ag tech companies, and Boragen, an Accelerator-backed company that is developing next-generation fungicides for plant agriculture. Other companies are lined up to move into the campus, along with “a laundry list of people who have expressed interest, so we’re pretty optimistic,” said Joel Marcus, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Alexandria Real Estate Equities and chairman and founder of AgTech Accelerator Corp.
  • “Reynolds’ independence in tobacco ends after 142 years,” Greensboro News & Record: Virgil and Lucy Goode came to Winston-Salem on Wednesday to witness the end of one tobacco industry era and the dawning of another. The Goodes are investors in Reynolds American. They are set to join legacy Reynolds shareholders on Tuesday in owning 19 percent of British American Tobacco when BAT’s purchase of the Winston-Salem tobacco company is expected to be completed. BAT would become the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco manufacturer. Virgil Goode is a retired Republican U.S. House member from Virginia, and Lucy has a long family history with Reynolds and the industry. Her grandfather and brother-in-law worked at Reynolds, her nephew works for Reynolds, a brother works for ITG Brands in Greensboro and her parents also worked in the industry. …
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