News Roundup: April 5 – 10

By on May 11, 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.

  • “STUDY: U.S. FARMLAND SHRINKING,” Southern Farm Network: A report from American Farmland Trust released Wednesday finds that between 1992 and 2012, almost 31 million acres of farmland were lost, equal to all the farmland in Iowa. The “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland” report shows the loss of farmland “is serious” and “will accelerate” unless action is taken. The report found that of the 31 million acres lost in that time, 11 million of those acres were among the best farmland in the nation. The data found that 62 percent of all development between 1992 and 2012 occurred on farmland, and expanding urban areas accounted for 59 percent of the loss. An AFT spokesperson says action is needed now “because the lost farmland is irretrievable.” The organization further states that allowing large-scale farmland loss to continue “imperils our ability to feed our growing population” and challenges the nation’s economic prosperity.
  • “A jury awarded hog farm neighbors $50 million. A judge reduced the award dramatically.” The News & Observer: A little more than a week after a jury handed down a landmark verdict to neighbors of a hog farm in Eastern North Carolina, the federal judge who presided over the trial reduced the damage sentence from more than $50 million to $3.25 million. The ruling, entered by U.S. District Judge Earl Britt, comes in the first of a series of hog farm nuisance lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. Murphy-Brown attorneys asked Britt to lower the jury award last week, arguing that under a 1995 state law, punitive damage awards should be capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater. …
  • “CHINA STEPS UP PORK INSPECTIONS, SLOWING IMPORTS,”Southern Farm Network: China is stepping up inspections of pork imports from the United States. Ports are opening and inspecting every cargo that arrives, instead of inspections carried out only “randomly” as in the past. Some trade experts see the move, along with other similar actions by China, as a warning to the United States in response to U.S. demands made last week. An agriculture analyst at China Policy, a Beijing-based consultancy, told Reuters that increased checks on U.S. products are “not terribly surprising,” adding that when trade tensions are high, “China will enforce every possible regulation on its books.” The inspections mean delays at Chinese ports with U.S. pork now sitting in port for up to two weeks, instead of a few days. The move to increase inspections follows a 25 percent additional tariff China has placed on U.S. pork and other goods stemming from trade disputes with the United States. …
  • “PERDUE HOSTS FOOD WASTE ROUNDTABLE,” Southern Farm Network: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hosted a food waste roundtable Tuesday which is expected to be the first of many events regarding food waste. The roundtable at the Department of Agriculture included Representatives Chellie Pingree of Maine and David Young of Iowa, along with food industry leaders and others. Secretary Perdue says the nation’s “agricultural abundance should be used to nourish those in need, not fill the trash.” While food loss and waste eats up nearly 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S., millions of Americans need access to affordable food, according to USDA. The federal agency says consumers are responsible for most food loss and waste in the U.S., racking up almost 90 billion pounds annually, or 20 percent of the U.S. food supply. The retail sector is responsible for about ten percent, totaling 43 billion pounds. …
  • “Hemp in the hopper: Bill could legalize fiber crop,” Wilson Times: A Nash County kenaf grower said more farmers need to start growing hemp to bring more money to North Carolina farms.
    Tony Finch grew 200 acres of the fiber-rich crop in 2017 an will be planting about the same amount this year. “We need a lot more folks growing it to build the industry,” Finch said recently.”We need more farmers involved so we can get more money into these farms. One guy can’t grow it all.” Finch was the primary supplier for Industrial Hemp Manufacuring, LLC, of Spring Hope. David Schmitt, chief operating officer of the hemp processing facility, that passage of a new hemp legalization bill introduced April 20 in Congress would result in exponential growth of the hemp industry. “The industry would grow tremendously almost immediately,” Schmitt said. “We need the hemp laws to be administered by the individual states’ departments of agriculture, so the industry could double, triple, quadruple overnight if that happened.” Senate leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has introduced HR 3530, which would disassociate hemp from cannabis. “Right now, that’s not the case,” Schmitt said. “Hemp is classified as cannabis and obviously cannabis is a Schedule I (drug), which is ludicrous.” …
  • “Program aids farmworker health, safety,” Greenville Daily Reflector: As a child, Roberto Rosales remembers his family traveling along the migrant stream up the East Coast harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons and sweet potatoes. Rosales, 27, is the new farmworker health and safety educator for Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe counties. His office is at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County. “My parents are from Mexico,” Rosales said. “They moved here in the mid-’80s and my dad worked in agriculture harvesting throughout the East Coast. So they’d go up and down the East Coast following the crops, and then just do it all over again the following year.”
  • “More NC Farmers Opting Out Of Organic Strawberry Business,” WUNC: North Carolinians are finding fewer local producers who offer organic strawberries in 2018. Many North Carolina farmers have opted out of the organic strawberry business, saying conventional berries are hard enough to grow. They have a long growing season and are very vulnerable to weather and temperature changes. Add to that, restrictions on pesticides and herbicides, and many farmers say it’s just too risky to grow organic strawberries. But that risk is paying off for some this season. Eli Humiston, owner of Sweetwater Springs Organic Farm in Roxoboro, said just in the last month, they put on probably six inches of growth, and sprouted berries all over the place. “They’re turning red, and I’m harvesting every two days,” Humiston said. “It’s just a really fulfilling thing to get out there and see this great fruit growing, and take it and bring it out to people to enjoy.” Humiston said he’s selling out at his CSA and local farmers’ markets. Debbie Roos, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Chatham County, specializes in organic produce. She said even conventional strawberries are “finicky,” with a long growing season and extreme vulnerability to weather and temperature changes. …
  • “Former A&T student uses land to teach inner-city kids about farming,” Greensboro News & Record: (Video) Farming definitely wasn’t in the plans. Kamal Bell, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science and a Master of Science in agriculture education, both from N.C. A&T, had no clue about farming when he entered college. The Durham native started out wanting a career in veterinary medicine. His path changed one night while reading Elijah Muhammad’s “Message to the Black Man in America.” “As I’m reading the book and went to class the next day, I started thinking about how my major at the time, which was lab animal science, could help me help my people,” Bell said. “I came to the conclusion that moment it couldn’t. So I literally went that day and changed my major from lab animal science to animal industry, which teaches you more about how to manage animal production.” Bell, an earth and environment middle school teacher with Durham Public Schools, started Sankofa Farms about two years ago. He chose the name for the farm after hearing a recorded lecture from Pan-Africanist Amos Wilson who encouraged blacks to get back to their African roots. Sankofa, from the Akan people of Ghana, means learning from the past, which ensures a strong future. …
  • “North Carolina AgVentures grants strengthen farm families,” Southeast Farm Press: The grants are designed to strengthen agriculturally dependent families and communities. At a century-old farm in Stokes County, a grower plans to make chips from tomatoes that otherwise would be wasted. A couple from Kenly will build an animal barn to expand the livestock operation that’s part of their agritourism business. And a Mount Olive father-daughter team are turning an old tobacco greenhouse into a microgreens operation. These and 24 other projects were recently announced as winners of 2018 North Carolina AgVentures cost-share grants. The grants are designed to strengthen agriculturally dependent families and communities, and they are awarded to farm operators who have innovative plans to diversify, expand, or implement new production, marketing or distribution strategies.By supporting creativeness on the farm and keeping that farming opportunity moving forward, we see a trickle-down effect. NC State Extension administers the grant program with funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.. Farmers in 18 counties – Duplin, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Greene, Guilford, Harnett, Johnston, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Pitt, Rockingham, Sampson, Stokes, Surry, Wayne, Wilson and Yadkin – were eligible to apply for grants up to $10,000 each. In addition to awarding grants to individual farms, N.C. AgVentures also awarded three community grants for collaborative projects benefiting three or more farms. …
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