News Roundup

News Roundup: Oct. 28 – Nov. 3

By on November 3, 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.

  • “Road to recovery: WNC addresses food waste with a regional summit,” Mountain Xpress: That bundle of lettuce from the tailgate market was bright green and tempting when you lovingly transferred it from the canvas shopping bag to the refrigerator crisper drawer a few days ago. But now, forgotten and squashed unceremoniously into a corner beneath a hefty cabbage, it’s not looking quite so fetching. In Asheville, many folks might feed these limp greens to their backyard chickens or deposit them in their compost bin. Others might dump the once nutritious produce directly into the garbage where it would ultimately languish in the local landfill, transforming into methane. Either way, that food isn’t being eaten, and in North Carolina, where more than 16 percent of residents are food-insecure, recovery or reuse of potentially wasted edibles is a pressing concern. The issue grabbed the national spotlight in 2015 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency announced a goal to reduce food loss and waste in the U.S. by 50 percent by the year 2030. And on Oct. 20, Western North Carolina made official inroads toward addressing the problem when the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council collaborated with the city of Asheville’s Office of Sustainability and other local organizations and businesses to host the inaugural Regional Food Waste Summit at Warren Wilson College. …
  • “The fight against creepy wine: local winemakers, merchants push back against plonk,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Picture this oh-so-Asheville altercation: A woman at a certain popular grocery store reaches for the conventional broccoli, only to be shamed by a stranger who urges her to buy organic.  “Broccoli is on the Dirty Dozen list,” sniffs the stranger, who then wheels away a cart laden with bottles of that store’s well-known $3 wine. That happened to the wife of Andy Hale, a wine expert who works at Metro Wines on Charlotte Street.
    “I thought, ‘you have no idea, your cart is full of creepy chemicals,'” Hale said. There’s a notion among many that any wine is good for you, and the cheaper the bottle the better.
  • “Looking to a sweet trend in foodservice,” The Packer: Sweet potato fries — often prepared from frozen products — are finding a place on more restaurant menus, but what about fresh sweet potatoes? “Fries are great, don’t get me wrong. I love them,” said Jeff Thomas, director of marketing for Scott Farms International, Lucama, N.C. “But there are so many other dishes showing up on menus that contain sweet potatoes. I think the sweet potato, as a whole, is gaining traction in foodservice.” When executive chef and restaurant owner Jason Smith hosted a dinner for growers and media during the summer in Raleigh, N.C., one ingredient popped up in course after course, Thomas said. …
  • “How a Greensboro produce company wins $93 million in government contracts,” Greensboro News & Record: Martin Dones dodges a forklift loaded with red-netted bags of golden New York state onions as nearby workers unload boxes of fragrant herbs from California. His company’s bright, flavorful products are enough to turn the most committed meat-eater into a vegan.
    The people who run this loading dock are bundled up against the perpetual 45-degree chill of the refrigerated warehouse, where produce from around the nation and the world moves through hour by hour as the burly Dones, the corporate director of operations for Foster-Caviness, keeps an eye on the 24-hour operation that keeps some of your favorite chain restaurants stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Foster-Caviness is a 115-year-old produce company that is now so adept at using technology for quick delivery that its 60 trucks serve five national restaurant chains throughout the Carolinas. And this fall the company was awarded $93.7 million worth of federal contracts dispersed for five years to supply the state’s five military bases and scores of schools with fresh fruits and vegetables. …
  • “First 60 Days for the Launch Director of NCSU’s Plant Sciences Initiative,” Southern Farm Network: Stephen Briggs is just about 60 days on the job as the launch director of the NC State College of Ag and Life Sciences Plant Sciences Initiative. Briggs explains his role in the PSI project: “My role here as launch director, is to get those parties working together, as well as to understand the challenges that are coming and get some research projects designed around there. Also, to get a building built here on the Centennial Campus at NC State that will house all of this collaboration efforts. “We do have some projects underway here where researchers are working together, either faculty working with private industry, or faculty working here together on some of those grand challenges that are going to absolutely be game changers in the face of agriculture as we move forward.”
    Now, it’s been said that your position is a timed position, if you will. You expect to be in place three to five years.
    “Yes. Three to four to five years will be the timeframe, and that’s my job to lay the groundwork to pave the way for the Plant Sciences Initiative to be a sustaining program long after I leave. So, part of my job is to get that framework laid, and towards the end of my tenure here, I will select a true executive director that will run this center.”
    Let’s talk about what you’re working on first. …
  • “BOB ETHERIDGE: Trump, GOP budget cuts threaten N.C. farmers and seniors,” WRAL: When it comes to our national and state priorities, it’s been said that a budget is a moral document. A budget is a statement of public commitments and considerations for its people. After taking a look at President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year, I have to question this administration’s commitments to many of the voters who supported his candidacy, especially North Carolina’s farmers, rural residents and retirees.
    Let’s start with agriculture. Farming has been a staple of North Carolina’s existence since before it became a state in 1789. Through the years, our state’s agricultural products have reached every corner of the nation. Through helpful coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolina farmers have survived through droughts, natural disasters and financial and environmental risks. Our state consistently ranks as one of the top five producers of sweet potatoes, pork, poultry, tobacco and eggs. It doesn’t stop there. North Carolina’s farmers produce and sell cotton, soybeans, peanuts, nursery products, aquaculture products, biofuels and more. Our state feeds the nation and our food exports can be found around the world. …
  • “What will NC be like in 2050?,” Morganton News-Herald: Most people engage to some degree in trying to predict the future. It can be for fun, such as predicting who will win the World Series or the next ACC championship. Or it can be serious, like when businesses attempt to forecast next year’s sales so they know how much product to make and workers to hire, and when our state leaders project future tax revenues so they know how much money will be available for programs and state workers’ pay. Over the last couple of years I’ve engaged in some predicting of my own. Specifically, I’ve tried to forecast what North Carolina will be like in 2050. I’ve told people I chose 2050 for two reasons. First – and seriously – 2050 is far enough away to give us time to react to expected trends and changes. Second – and less seriously – in 2050 I will be 99 years old, so if I’m criticized for getting predictions wrong, I either won’t be around to hear them or I won’t care! The forecasts for our state have just been published in my new book, North Carolina beyond the Connected Age: the Tar Heel State in 2050, published by The University of North Carolina Press. The title refers to my 2008 book, North Carolina in the Connected Age, in which I described the impacts from the state’s shift out of our traditional economy of tobacco, textiles and furniture to the new economy of technology, medicine, finance, vehicle parts and food processing. The new book looks at likely shifts in upcoming decades.
  • “Marion meat plant closes near Thanksgiving, threatening poultry business,” Asheville Citizen-Times: The turkeys on the hill at Hickory Nut Gap Farm have long surpassed the girth of the nearby pumpkins. But to get them ready for the Thanksgiving table, farmer Jamie Ager will have to go “old school” this year, pulling his sons out of class for a day to help with the harvest. That’s because Asheville’s closest small poultry-processing facility has closed, leaving farmers in six states scrambling to fill holiday orders, with the nearest U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved slaughterhouses in Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas and Alabama. Some farmers say that, as a result, the future of local poultry may be in jeopardy. Cool Hand Meats, which provided Animal Welfare Act-approved and USDA-inspected slaughter and processing services from the Foothills Pilot Plant facility in Marion, shut its doors last month for lack of capital, according to owner Amanda Carter. “Farmers need to demand more money out of the customers if they’re going to make this extremely unique, high-welfare product work,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter if we hug the chicken if we can’t reduce the brutality throughout the supply chain.” …
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