News Roundup: Sept. 23-29

By on September 29, 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.

  • “North Carolina farmers handled dicamba well, but can improve,” Southeast Farm Press: Only 14 official dicamba drift complaints were filed with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture this year. “There were some cowboys that did what they wanted to when they wanted to. I think they were the exception. Most of our growers seemed to be trying just as hard as they could to do things right,” said Alan York, North Carolina State University William Neal Reynolds Professor of Crop Science, during the Blackland Cotton Field Day at Southland Farms in Belhaven, N.C. Sept. 21. While there were only 14 official complaints filed with NCDA, York notes that the actual dicamba drift incidences are probably higher. “We really don’t know how many drift incidents there have been. You guys aren’t talking a lot about it. We figure there are at least 10 times more than those 14 complaints,” he said. “You’re trying to resolve it between yourselves, and that’s good as long as everybody comes through and honors their part of the deal.” Of the 14 official NCDA complaints, eight were tobacco cases, five were soybean cases and one was a peanut case. York noted that tobacco is highly sensitive to dicamba. No official complaints were filed by commercial vegetable growers and no complaints were filed by homeowners. York estimates that roughly 300,000 acres of ground were treated with dicamba in North Carolina this year. He points out that some of those 300,000 acres were treated more than once, which means total treated acres could be 400,000 acres. He said just 14 official drift complaints out of 400,000 treated is not bad, but there is room to improve on that next year. …
  • “Daily Ag Summary: North Carolina’s Drought Conditions Static,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) In the latest drought monitor released by the Drought Mitigation Center on Thursday, North Carolina’s abnormally dry conditions remained fairly stable. Last week 15.64% of the state was in abnormally dry conditions, this week that number increased slightly to 15.73%. The area of abnormally dry conditions consists of the western Piedmont region, from the Virginia border to Anson and Union Counties to the south. The Coastal Plain and the mountain region remain drought free. …
  • “Keeping Children Safe on the Farm,” North Carolina Health News: Farms can be great places for kids: There are cool animals and lots of space to run around. Farms can also be dangerous for kids: Every day, an average of 33 children are injured in agricultural-related incidents across the United States. And about every three days, one child dies in a farm-related event, according to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. The leading causes of death for youth on farms are machinery incidents, tractor and ATV accidents, and drowning. There are more than 2 million farms in the U.S., with around 1 million youth living on those farms. About half of those kids also work on the farm. Additionally, every year about 270,000 youth living off the farm are hired to do agricultural work. There has also been a rise in agricultural tourism and about 24 million children visit farms each year. Despite the risks, experts say it’s good and healthy for youth to work and live on a farm. There is lots of room for kids to play. They develop a passion and respect for the land. There tends to be a strong work bond with family on the farm. Farms teach kids about the life and death cycle. They can be good places to instill a work ethic and teach responsibility. And farm kids have “awesome pets,” said Marsha Salzwedel, youth agricultural safety specialist with National Farm Medicine Center at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. …
  • “Meat conference in Winston-Salem focuses on sustainable practices,” Winston-Salem Journal: The NC Choices Carolina Meat Conference is holding its annual conference downtown at the Millennium Center. The conference draws about 300 farmers, meat processors, chefs and others interested in meat production in North Carolina. The conference is organized as part of NC Choices, an initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. The Center for Environmental Farming Systems is a partnership of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and North Carolina State University. The NC Choices initiative is designed to promote sustainable food systems throughout the state. It assists farmers and others with educational programs, networking and technical assistance. The conference, which began Monday and concludes Tuesday afternoon, offers a variety of seminars and workshops. More than 40 speakers and 20 sessions have been covering such topics as pasture-raising of livestock, pork butchery, dry curing, marketing, and tax and business strategies. …
  • “Sampson County hosts Sweet Potato Field Day,” Sampson Independent: After grabbing a sweet potato, Amber Tsirnikas used a laser scanner to evaluate its shape and size characteristics. “Basically what my scanner does is get a 360-degree view of each potato and create an object file on the computer,” said Tsirnikas, a graduate research assistant. Next, she takes measurements from the file such as diameter, volume and curvature. With assistance from her professor, Micheal Boyette, she introduced the digital image system to many people for North Carolina Sweet Potato Field Day at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Clinton. “I think it’s great that we can all come together and collaborate and see what ideas, new discoveries and technologies are out there,” she said about sweet potato research. During the event, farmers and growers were able to learn about research at the station. Professors from North Carolina State University talked about how their research and goals to improve sweet potato production. Reid Evans, assistant director of the N.C. Agricultural Research Service, was one of many contributors. Some of the sweet potato topics during the day-long event focused on nutrition, pest management field studies and production. “Sweet potatoes have been a real success story for us,” Evans said. “There’s been a lot of things going on.” Some of that progress includes the crop being exported overseas and continued growth in the state. Dr. Alexander M. “Sandy” Stewart, director of the Research Stations in North Carolina, said the field day was a great opportunity for farmers to see the work of university professors. “The research stations are such unique places and great places where you can test so many things,” Stewart said. “We can look at technology here before a farmer has to invest in it. It’s a program packed with a lot of really good information.” …
  • “North Carolina grape & wine business is booming,” WLOS: A recent study says North Carolina’s wine and grape industry continues to grow, posting a 15 percent increase since the last study was conducted two years ago. The total economic impact of the industry now is $1.97 billion. “When you establish a vineyard in a community, you are physically and financially setting down roots in that community for the long haul,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Growth in the state’s wine industry represents long-term economic growth for rural North Carolina.” The study was commissioned by the N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council and conducted by Frank, Rimerman + Co. using data from 2016. The firm also conducted the council’s 2009, 2013 and 2015 economic impact studies. The most significant change in the reports is the increase in wine production. Since 2013, North Carolina wineries have produced 96 percent more cases of wine, from 569,000 nine-liter cases to 1,115,000 cases. …
  • “USDA’s temporary food safety administrators are in demand,” Food Safety News: If Carmen Rottenberg and Paul Kiecker are feeling just a bit like Lucy and Charlie Brown, it’s understandable. During the first month of holding down USDA’s top two food safety jobs on an acting basis, Rottenberg and Kiecker have taken 19 meetings with people outside the federal government. By taking on the jobs of USDA’s acting deputy undersecretary for food safety and administrator of Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Rottenberg and Kiecker, respectively, attracted a line as long as Lucy had when she put our her shingle. Rottenberg and Kiecker were both named to succeed longtime FSIS boss Al Almanza, who was acting deputy undersecretary for food safety and FSIS administrator. He retired on July 31 after three decades at FSIS to take over food safety at meat producer JBS USA. Rottenberg, who took her first meeting as acting deputy undersecretary for food safety on Aug. 11, with Oscar Garrison, vice president for food safety and regulatory affairs, with United Egg Producers and the United Egg Association. Eggs in the Netherlands was the topic, which was likely about the recall over chemical use in Dutch henhouses. Rottenberg and Kiecker joined forces for five meetings on Aug. 16 and 17. Their first was with Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy for the Consumer Federation of America. James Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council was up next. The discussion involved scheduling “challenges” involving Iraq’s audit of the U.S. … USDA’s new catfish inspection program was the subject of the last four meetings in the month, on Aug. 30 and 31. One was with staff from Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and another was with North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. …
  • “Some like them hot, but this farmer prefers to turn the heat down on his peppers,” The News & Observer: Farmer Doug Jones has been burned before, over and over again, all in the name of love and science. For years, Jones has bred and developed varieties of peppers, some hot, some sweet, some orange, some red, some even the rich glossy brown of dark chocolate. The why couldn’t be simpler. “I really love peppers, OK,” Jones said. “You’ve got to like what you’re working with. “I eat way more raw peppers than cooked peppers,” Jones said. “Snacks, on sandwiches, out of your hand like an apple.” With peppers, it’s usually all about the heat, the cult of spice seeking out the next hottest thing and taking it down. Some people climb mountains, some eat hot peppers. Some likely do both. But Jones, a scientific-minded farmer, isn’t into that. He’s much more into the gentler side of peppers, seeing them as the epitome of good and good for you. Therefore, he values quantity over agony. Chasing the flavor and fruity backbone of habaneros, but hating to endure the heat, Jones has worked to develop varieties that tone down the spice but keep their flavor. He eventually found it in the habanero’s Caribbean cousin, the Tobago pepper. “For years I had to suffer the heat,” Jones said. “Habaneros are one of the hottest peppers in the world. And then I discovered that in the Caribbean, closely related that have little to no heat and all kinds of flavor. … The Tobago is a close cousin of habanero, but one percent of the heat.” …
  • “Long Growing Season Produces Best in Show,” Greenville Daily Reflector: Away from the bright lights and sounds of the midway, rows of green, red, purple and brown reflect the heritage of the Pitt County American Legion Agricultural Fair. Since its launch 98 years ago, the annual field crops and horticulture exhibit and competition has anchored the fair’s commitment to promoting the community’s agricultural roots. The adult and youth divisions in this year’s fair each have more than 65 categories of fruits and vegetables they can enter including separate categories for the best and largest pumpkins and watermelons. The field crop department has competitions for tobacco, corn, cotton and small grains, including oats, wheat and rye. …
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