News Roundup: Nov. 23-Dec. 1

By on December 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.

  • “A Sweet Potato Tale,” UNC-TV: (Video) Find out how North Carolina became a sweet potato-producing powerhouse. Producer Frank Graff follows sweet potatoes from farms in North Carolina to restaurants in Europe.
  • “Agriculture has a convincing story to tell about biotechnology,” Southeast Farm Press: In today’s world of fake news, one of the greatest myths is that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, cause cancer, autism, allergies, gluten intolerance and other illnesses. Science and extensive research make it perfectly clear: GMOs are safe. The Council for Biotechnology Information points out that GMOs have not caused or contributed to a single death in the 20-plus years they have been on the market. In the spring of 2016, the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine released results from an extensive study concluding “no substantial evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered crops and conventionally bred crops.” …
  • “Richmond County farmers count,” Richmond County Daily Journal: Richmond County ranks 25th in North Carolina counties in total value of agricultural products sold. How do I know this? Because in 2012, our farmers completed a survey called the USDA Census of Agriculture. This valuable information is available to anyone at the click of a button and so much more, such as the fact that we have 277 farmers in Richmond County. We can also learn how our local agricultural industry stacks up against other counties across the state and the nation. Next month it will once again be Census time! At N.C. Cooperative Extension-Richmond County Center we look forward to receiving the data from the new census every five years to learn about the changes that have occurred in our county, such as the farm production expenses and the amount of acreage devoted to the different crops and livestock. In fact, the census is very important to agriculture because it provides information that is needed for planning and decision making by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many programs that benefit all types of farmers, consumers, transportation, rural development and industries affected by agriculture have their origin in USDA programs and the Farm Bill.
    The census also gives farmers a voice, telling their story of how they provide food, fuel, fiber and feed to the world. According to the USDA, “The census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every state, county, or county equivalent in the nation. By participating in the census, you help show the value and importance of U.S. Agriculture.”
  • “The Absentee Gardeners: NC Christmas trees grown by hand, protected by science,” Kokomo Perspective (Indiana): I’ll start with a disclosure: We are real Christmas tree people. I understand the arguments for fake trees, but I don’t want a hunk of plastic in the middle of our family memories. “Unbox the tree” isn’t as much fun as “go find the perfect tree.” For the past two decades, our family has gone to the same place the week after Thanksgiving to get our tree. I’m so focused on the fun that I hadn’t given much thought to what goes into producing these trees. Some facts from the NC Christmas Tree Growers Association: North Carolina is the No. 2 producer of trees in the nation and Ashe county produces more trees than any other single county in the country. NC trees are sold along the East Coast, out into the Midwest, and internationally with trees going to South America and Europe.
    While over a dozen species are commercially grown, our native Fraser fir is the top-selling tree. A Fraser fir cut in November can hold its needles until February, making it popular with buyers.
    It takes 7-10 years to produce a Christmas tree, and the work is done by hand. That last item caught my eye. The 5-7 million Christmas trees harvested annually in our state are grown by hand. Growers typically purchase 2- to 3-year-old seedlings, plant them by hand, shear and shape the trees by hand each year, and manage their fields to ensure weeds don’t overtake the young trees. Decades ago that weed management was done by applying chemicals, but since 1994 in NC there’s been a steady reduction in the pesticides applied — saving tree growers time, money and helping the environment. …
  • “Bringing home the bacon: four generations of farmers thrive in Bladen County,” The Bladen Journal: In what might be considered the outskirts of civilization, near the intersection of Rosindale Road and Lisbon Road, where it might be missed if one isn’t looking carefully, is Charlie Monroe Road. A paved but unlined lane that dead-ends — at least for the average vehicle — after 1.5 miles, the road is where you’ll find Christine and Hilton Monroe Sr. and the array of farm animals that live near them. A third-generation farmer, Monroe along with his wife raises hogs for Smithfield Foods. At any given time, their 66-acre farm is home to 2,000 swine — what he calls a “small operation.” …
  • “Is there a Christmas tree shortage in Western North Carolina? Growers say yes,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Amid a nationwide shortage of Christmas trees attributed to the economic recession of the late 2000s, several Western North Carolina tree farms are reporting price increases up to 10 percent this year. “There were a lot of tree growers that went out of business (during the recession),” Dee Clark, owner of C&G Nursery in Newland, said Tuesday. “That leads to an overall shortage across the industry. “So, with demand exceeding supply, that’s going to lead to price increases.” Clark, a third-generation tree grower, said the shortage in supply, as well as increases in the business’ input cost, will impact tree prices this year. His findings are consistent with a report by the National Christmas Tree Association, which found that prices are expected to increase this year as demand for the festive holiday centerpieces trump the existing supply. The association said the Great Recession, a four-year period of economic decline starting in 2008, drove down demand for holiday trees. That resulted in farmers planting fewer trees during the era, meaning there now are fewer full-grown trees available. It is expected to be a nationwide shortage, but the impact looms large in North Carolina, second only to Oregon as an exporter of trees each year.
  • “Get in the holiday spirit with NC spirits,” Wilmington Star News: No need to look past our state’s borders for wine, liquor and beer to give this holiday season. Holiday spirits may be made more buoyant with moderate amounts of holiday spirits – in the form of beer, wine and liquor. The exchange of bottles for holiday parties, hostess offerings and office gifts is a tradition this time of year. But when deciding which varieties to buy, North Carolina products may not be at the top of the list. Perhaps they should be, though. Many locals are familiar with Wilmington’s craft beer boom. But it’s happening in other areas of the state, too, and regional breweries are producing some high-quality ales and lagers. The latest version of that trend is the proliferation of craft distilleries. And, even wine lovers might not know that the state has five AVAs, or American Viticultural Areas, which have distinctive climates, soil and elevations for growing wine grapes. If you’d like to give a taste of home, here are some helpful tips from experts. …
  • “Lethal octopus encounter prods call for farmers to prepare now for 2018,” Southeast Farm Press: Some say ignorance is bliss, but this is certainly not true. Ignorance can easily lead to poor decisions that can have devastating results. Though information is available, those who need it most may not find it and thus miss important opportunities. Because losses to diseases, nematodes and other pests were a threat to all growers in 2017, it’s not too early to prepare for next season. Even with harvest still underway in a few fields, important signs are already available to help in the decision process for best-management options in 2018….
  • “Poultry by the numbers,” Sampson Independent: By most estimates at this time, North Carolina is the number one state for all poultry combined because of our strong turkey presence. We are fourth in broiler production and eighth in egg production. Duplin County produced the highest number of broilers in the state in 2015 with 69,000,000 head. Union County led layer production in 2015 with 1,350,000 head. Sampson County led turkey production in 2015 with 7,850,000 turkeys. Wayne County ranked third for N.C. counties in 2014 for turkeys raised with 3,500,000 head. …
  • “I-Team: Farmers still high on hemp after first-year struggles,” WTVD: Many hemp farms in North Carolina experienced crop failures in their first full season, but farmers and state officials remain high on the potential of this budding industry. We’re excited about the learning experience, and we’re still ahead of the curve,” Mann Mullen, owner of Mullenview Farms in Bunn, told ABC11. “I’ve never completely failed at anything. I don’t consider this a complete failure.” …
  • “GOOD FINISH TO THE 2017 TOBACCO CROP,” Southern Farm Network: This has been an interesting tobacco season, the growing season got off to a shaky start with the weather, but growers in general seem to be fairly pleased with the way the season turned out. NC State Extension Economist, Dr. Blake Brown: “Yeah, I think that’s right. I think for the most part, of course there’s always some exceptions out there, but for the most part it turned out to be a pretty decent year for growers, they had pretty good yields and pretty good quality. Above average year, maybe.” Contracts going into the 2017 growing season were acceptable, shall we say, growers weren’t unhappy with them. “That’s right, we were in a pretty good situation. Obviously, I think producers would like for contracts to come out earlier than they do so they know exactly what they have to plan for for the next year.” In 2016 we had some reduction in contracts offered. Did we see the same thing this year? “No, I think things were pretty stable this year, there may have been some out there, there’s always some changes, but nothing like what we saw in 2016, I don’t think.” And what are you hearing for 2018? “Well, what I’m hearing is that global stocks of flavor-style flue cured tobacco are not real high, that they’re fairly low. We had a fairly normal size crop in Brazil this year, but I do hear that they’re having a lot of rain here at the end of the season. …
  • “Report: Food and agriculture drive one-fifth of nation’s economy,” Southeast Farm Press: More than one-fifth – 20.4% – of the nation’s economy is linked, either directly or indirectly, to the food and agriculture sectors, according to a recent study commissioned by the Corn Refiners Association. The study also found that more than one-fourth of all American jobs – 28% – are similarly connected. Twenty-two food and agriculture organizations commissioned this research, available at http://www.feedingtheeconomy.com/. Among the findings …
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