News Roundup: Aug. 26 – Sept. 1

By on September 1, 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.

  • “Wet summer prolonging harvests for local growers,” Elizabeth City Daily Advance: It may not go down as Pasquotank County’s wettest summer ever, but this summer’s deluges of rain, including one just Wednesday, will make it one for local farmers to long remember — and not in a good way. As of Thursday, the rain gauge at Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City showed 17.52 inches of rainfall since June 1 — 2.38 inches above normal for what’s usually the warmest period of the year. Overall for the year, 34.49 inches of rain has fallen thus far — 2.18 inches above normal for only eight months into the year. That much rainfall this time of year has caused several problems for local growers, according to Al Wood, agriculture agent for the Pasquotank Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and a row-crop expert. One key problem, Wood said, is that the deluges of rain made farm fields too soft for farm equipment to plant soybeans. When conditions were finally dry enough to plant, the hard rains that followed caused the upper part of the soil to harden to a crust, creating a suffocating effect on the soybean seeds, he said. “Just like us, they have to have air to live,” Wood said. Compounding the problem of too much rain are poor drainage conditions. According to Wood, Pasquotank’s table-top flat terrain lacks enough slight upslopes to prompt drainage. At the same time, there are dips in the inner parts of farm fields. That combination leads to standing water. “That’s where they (farmers in Pasquotank) get in trouble,” he said. …
  • “Officials gather grain from first industrial hemp test plots in WNC,” WLOS: What might be a big step for small farming just happened in the mountains — a harvest of industrial hemp. N.C. State extension researchers worked at their facility in Waynesville on Friday, using a combine to gather grain from the first test plots. Industrial hemp can be used in many applications, from fiber to medicine and to food. “I think all of us enjoy having agriculture in our region. Being able to produce local food is important, and, if we we could add a new high-value crop like industrial hemp to the mix, it’s all the better,” N.C. State’s Dr. Jeanine Davis said. Researchers said yields on the first test plots are exceeding expectations in terms of grain and fiber. This is part of the state’s pilot program, testing the viability of industrial hemp in North Carolina.
  • “After back-to-back disasters, Sugg family hopes cotton makes this year,” Southeast Farm Press: Thomas Sugg loved cotton and wanted to grow the crop on his farm near Snow Hill in North Carolina’s Greene County. In the late 1980s, a handful of farmers in the area began trying their hands at growing cotton, a crop that had lost favor in the Coastal Plain due to the boll weevil and better returns for other crops. Thanks to the boll weevil eradication program, cotton, which had been a big crop in Greene County in the 1940s and 1950s, made a return starting in 1987. This piqued Sugg’s interest and in 1991. He jumped in, producing his first crop, a crop that he has grown ever since and plans to stay with in the years to come. “Back then, I talked to my dad and my brother and said ‘Let’s grow some cotton,’” Sugg explains. “Up until then, we always grew corn, soybeans and tobacco, but I really wanted to try cotton. They said ‘Let’s go ahead and give it a try,'” It’s a decision that Sugg doesn’t regret one bit. “Cotton still gives us the best opportunity to make a yield, and to make a crop, compared to corn or soybeans in our area. We stuck with it and kept on going,” Sugg says. The Suggs target their cotton varieties to different soil types on a field-to-field basis, determining where each variety fits best. “With prices the way they are, we really need to place a variety where it will perform best. We have to have yield to overcome low prices,” Sugg says. Unfortunately, wet weather at harvest pretty much devastated the Sugg’s cotton crop both in 2015 and last year. “For the last couple of years, we planted varieties that offered great yield potential, but we never got a true fix on what the yield could be because the crop was annihilated by storms,” he says. Needless to say, the family is hoping for dry, cooperative weather at harvest this year. So far the Sugg’s cotton crop looks excellent with the potential for banner yields. “Our strategy is to do the best possible job that we can do in the field. We always say we have to keep ourselves in a position to win. We give it everything we can and do the best that we can,” Sugg says. …
  • “Childress Vineyards kicks off Wine and Grape Month,” Lexington Dispatch: Thirteen wineries from across the state and several wine enthusiasts gathered Tuesday in Childress Vineyards’ pavilion to witness Gov. Roy Cooper sign an executive proclamation declaring September as North Carolina Wine and Grape Month. Cooper became the fourth governor to sign the proclamation, according to Mark Friszolowski, Childress’ winemaker. Tuesday’s gathering — hosted by Childress and NC Wine Guys — was the first time an official event has been held to kick off Wine and Grape Month. Friszolowski said Childress volunteered to host the inaugural celebration because the vineyard is centrally located in the state, and they are a supporter of North Carolina wine. “We’ve never done anything with the proclamation,” Friszolowski said. “So we thought to take it to the next step because we’re in Davidson County and Winston-Salem. We’re kind of the gateway to the wine industry — left and right and east and west.” … According to a fact sheet distributed at the event, North Carolina is home to almost 200 wineries. There are more than 525 individually owned vineyards on 2,300 acres. The state produces 1.1 million cases per year, which ranks 11th in the country. Wine has an impact of $1.97 billion on the state’s economy and supports more than 10,000 jobs. …
  • “Apple Festival president talks traditions, celebration,” Hendersonville Times-News: Lee Henderson-Hill has made the North Carolina Apple Festival a tradition with her family since moving here in the 1990s. After being involved with the festival for nearly two decades, Henderson-Hill has taken the reins as president this year. Henderson-Hill spoke recently with the Times-News about the traditions she admires about the festival and her role as president. What is your earliest memory of the Apple Festival? My family moved here in 1996, and we have attended the festival each year. My daughter participated in the festival when she was younger, even dressing up like an apple and riding her bicycle, and she was Apple Ambassador in 2005. For us, the festival is a wonderful sense of community and a reflection of the support locally for farmers. What festival tradition are you looking forward to the most? Trying out all of the great products and sampling all of the different apples. I love seeing the new ways people are bringing apples to markets. …
  • “Food Hub Opens For Farmers, Produce Buyers,” The (Southern Pines) Pilot: An agricultural harvest of a different sort has borne fruit in Ellerbe: In September, the Sandhills AGInnovation Center (SAIC) will begin operations. More commonly described as a regional food hub, the center will function as an essential link in the logistical chain between local farmers and commercial buyers. “The genesis of it — the whole idea — is because so many of our farmers have lost their tobacco subsidies, and they are faced with difficult choices. Do they continue farming or not? Do they lease their farms to solar farms or not? And what are the alternatives?” said Susan Kelly, Richmond County’s extension director. “The food hub will help them aggregate larger scale produce production and get it distributed. It eliminates one step in the process, and the bulk distribution means our farmers get to keep more money in their pockets.” The objective of the AGInnovation Center is to help farms transition from growing tobacco to fruit and vegetable production, and distribute those crops to profitable local and statewide markets. It is primarily funded through a $500,000 Golden LEAF Foundation grant secured through a partnership among Moore County Partners in Progress, the Richmond and Moore County Centers of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, and Richmond and Moore County governments. The location of the center was carefully selected for efficiency. The SAIC is in Richmond County, at the intersection of N.C. 73 and N.C. 220, but close enough to Moore County’s western border and two major highways to make it easily accessible for truck traffic. The 16,000-square-foot building offers different spaces where local produce can be collected, stored, processed, distributed and then marketed. A secondary construction phase will add classrooms. …
  • “Perdue goes home to listen to its ag and rural needs,” Southeast Farm Press: Trade, regulation and labor were the issues most discussed as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture convened a listening session for the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue arrived in Tifton, Ga., Aug. 25 on the heels of what was billed as his “Back to our Roots” tour, where he visited Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana farm bureau organizations to gather information for the next farm bill discussions and to listen, he said, to real agriculturists talk about their needs, confidences and what they recommend to help their communities better thrive. “We are going around the country to listen and learn and promote agriculture; to really listen about the combination of agriculture and rural prosperity. How can we adequately provide for our small communities who depend on a thriving agricultural economy?” Perdue said. “Back to Our Roots tour allowed us to listen directly to the people who know and live the policies we make every day, and how the federal government can be sometimes a help but many times an impediment to rural and agricultural prosperity.” Rural communities are economically struggling, but opportunities to improve conditions can be leveraged. “The economic recovery experienced by the suburban parts of our country has yet to be fully recognized by the 46 million of us who call rural America our home,” he said. …
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