News Roundup: April 21 – 27

By on April 27, 2018

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.

  • Jury awards hog farm neighbors $50 million,” The News & Observer: A North Carolina jury awarded $50 million to neighbors of a 15,000-hog farm in Eastern North Carolina in a case being closely watched across the country by environmentalists and the hog farm industry. The verdict, revealed late Thursday after a jury deliberated less than two days, is the first to come in a series of federal lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown/Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. In this case decided in a federal courtroom in Raleigh, 10 neighbors contended that industrial-scale hog operations have known for decades that the open-air sewage pits on their properties were the source of noxious, sickening and overwhelming odors. The stench was so thick, the neighbors argued, that it was impossible to get it out of their clothes. …
  • “Local teams compete in Envirothon; three teams advance to state competition,” The Mountaineer: Five years ago, the Area 1 Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts welcomed 39 teams to the competition known as the Area 1 Envirothon held at the Mountain Research Station. This year, the number swelled to almost 300 students, a total of 58 teams. What exactly is Envirothon, and what is its attraction to middle and high school students, inspiring so many to increase the amount of time they already spend studying and taking tests? Envirothon is the largest high school environmental competition in the nation, sponsored by soil and water conservation districts. First begun in Pennsylvania in 1978, it spread across the nation with North Carolina’s first Envirothon held 27 years ago. Envirothon revolves around five subject areas: aquatics, forestry, wildlife, soils/land use and current environmental issues. Teams made up of five students, along with their advisor (usually a teacher) prepare for months in advance. Then during the actual event, teams rotate among five stations to hear presentations by natural resource experts on each subject. …
  • “Greenhouse grant helping Stantonsburg pepper farm expand,” Greenville Daily Reflector: Two Wilson County farmers are pushing the envelope when it comes to pepper production. Walker Shelton and Thomas Webb, owners of Planters Produce Co. in Stantonsburg, are the recipients of an N.C. AgVentures grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The grants are administered by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Shelton and Webb are 2011 graduates of Beddingfield High School. …
  • “Hurdles to Testing Food for GenX,” North Carolina Health News: The science must catch up with the desire by some to test food for GenX and other industrial chemicals from a Chemours plant. Will Cain drove the carcass of a dead calf from Cumberland County to a state lab in Raleigh early this month hoping someone, someday can tell him if chemical pollution harmed it. Cain raises beef cattle on multiple plots north of the sprawling Chemours chemical factory property south of Fayetteville, including land about two miles away. Like some farmers nearby, he wonders if recently detected chemical pollution from the plant in air, soil or water threatens his livestock or other food raised nearby. “The consumer has the right to know,” said Cain, who sells cattle to feedlots in corn-rich states such as Kansas to fatten them up before they are slaughtered and their meat readied for market. Let’s be clear: Aside from a GenX chemical found in one sample of local honey, there is no publicly known evidence that industrial pollution released by Chemours or DuPont, the previous owner, has tainted foods raised nearby.
    State officials are still assessing whether testing is needed in the vicinity of company’s 2,150 acres. Developing a means to conduct meaningful tests of food, they stress, would be a complex task that will take time. …
  • “ATVs are leading injury source for youth on farm,” Southeast Farm Press: Researchers at the National Farm Medicine Center are building and testing rural health informatics tools to enhance the collection and dissemination of publicly available injury case data from news reports as there is no central repository of agricultural injury data, and federal childhood ag injury surveillance has ended.  Bryan Weichelt, Ph.D., National Farm Medicine Center, and Serap Gorucu, Ph.D., of Penn State University, highlighted data collection and its safety implications in their article, “Supplemental surveillance: a review of 2015 and 2016 agricultural injury data from news reports on AgInjuryNews.org,” available at http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2018/02/16/injuryprev-2017-042671. At the heart of the research is http://www.aginjurynews.org/, the largest publicly-available dataset of its kind, built by the National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wis. “We continue to see new and innovative uses of this growing dataset by many audiences beyond academia including insurers, lenders, manufacturers, and other agribusiness interested in the success and longevity of ag operations,” said Weichelt, principal investigator of the AgInjuryNews initiative.  The review of news reports revealed: Tractors were the most common injury source (fatal and non-fatal) across all age groups, 32% of the 1,345 victims.
    The leading injury source among the 225 youth victims (ages 0-17) was all-terrain vehicles (33%).
  • “Plan now for better tomatoes this summer,” Winston-Salem Journal: Q: I want to have better luck with growing tomatoes this year. What advice can you give me? Answer: The lovely summer tomato, what could be better sliced thickly and served up on a sandwich or as a side? You are wise to begin planning now for better tomatoes. There are good cultural practices you can use in your garden that will prolong the life of your tomatoes into the summer. The first step is to carefully consider choosing varieties, also referred to as cultivars, which have resistance to disease. Many of our preferred tomato cultivars that we plant in our gardens are heirloom varieties that are very susceptible to disease and often die by late July. Randy Gardner, a tomato breeder and professor emeritus at the N.C. State University Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center has developed tomato cultivars with disease resistance to late blight, Fusarium wilt race 3, and tomato spotted wilt virus. The breeding program, currently led by Dilip R. Panthee, Ph.D. Is also breeding for horticultural traits including earliness, large fruit size, firmness, color, flavor, smoothness, crack resistance, shelf life and high temperature fruit set. Combinations of quality features and disease resistance are sought in a variety of types (large-fruited, Roma, cherry, grape) and in red and yellow fruit colors in the breeding program. ….
  • “Strawberry season is here. Here’s where you can pick your own.” The News & Observer: While the cold weather has delayed strawberry picking season a few weeks this year, pick-your-own farms are getting ready to open for the public in late April. Despite the cold, “It’s gonna be a good year,” said Dexter Hill, marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. “Growers have withstood the cold weather in March,” Hill said. Hal Gurley, the owner and operator of the Collard Patch, a pick your own farm in Wake County, said he is hoping to open between April 20 and 25. Karma Lee is the owner of Buckwheat Farm, which is celebrating its 20th year of strawberry picking. Cool nights have slowed down the crop, Lee said. “If it continues to stay warm at night, like in the upper 40s and 50s, that will help move the crop along pretty quickly,” Lee said. Buckwheat Farm opened for picking April 18 but advised that pickers call before coming, saying that hours may vary depending on when the berries ripen. The farm is planning a number of events and activities to celebrate its milestone anniversary, including jam and jelly giveaways. On some strawberry picking weekends, weather permitting, Buckwheat Farm will also offer pulled pork BBQ, hot dogs and chicken wings.
  • “Tariffs to protect jobs drive up prices in North Carolina,” Fayetteville Observer: The ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China is poised to drive up the operating costs for North Carolina farmers. If it goes unresolved, the dispute could drive down the sale prices for their crops. Elsewhere in the economy, home builders are paying more for lumber, in part because of recently enacted tariffs on Canadian timber. Imported clothes washing machines cost more. And a Cumberland County solar energy company anticipates the solar business will slow down in the next few years. These are some of the effects from tariffs the United States has enacted on imported goods since President Trump took office. The president said the tariffs are needed to protect American manufacturing and production jobs in the steel, aluminum, lumber, solar panel and clothes washer industries.
    The tariffs range from 10 percent to 50 percent. …
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