News Roundup: June 23-29

By on June 29, 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.

  • “Group rallies in support of agriculture in NC,” WRAL: Hundreds of supporters for agriculture and farming gathered in front of the legislature building Monday to show their support for the North Carolina agricultural industry, but the rally didn’t work as Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the Farm Act bill Monday night. Farmers said the bill would would have protected their farms from an unnecessary lawsuit and they rallied to show their support for the lawmakers in an effort to get their bills passed. Cooper on Monday night said nuisance laws allow families to enjoy their homes without fearing for their health and safety. “While agriculture is vial to North Carolina’s economy, so property rights are vital to people’s homes and other businesses,” Cooper said. “Our laws must balance the needs of businesses veruss property rights. Giving one industry special treatment at the expense of its neighbors is unfair.” …
  • “Contrasting Narratives in Hog Farm Bill Fight,” North Carolina Health News: Events in Raleigh Monday unspooled competing narratives on the effects of hog farming in eastern North Carolina. Supporters and opponents of a bill that would limit agricultural nuisance lawsuits made their case to legislators and to Gov. Roy Cooper Monday. People on opposing sides of the increasingly hostile dispute over hog farm lawsuits urged Gov. Roy Cooper to choose sides in Raleigh on Monday. Supporters and opponents each came to the state capital to sound off on the recently passed 2018 state farm bill, a measure that would further curtail neighbors’ ability to sue over farm nuisances such as odors and other environmental stressors that some say taint the places where they live. Despite opposition that included members of their own party, Republican legislators introduced and won passage of the nuisance language in the farm bill earlier this month. They said it was required to fend off more lawsuits such as the 26 cases filed against Murphy-Brown LLC, the hog-farming division of Smithfield Foods. The company lost the first of the suits in federal court in April. Opponents of the bill on both sides of the aisle argued that it is possible to support agriculture without eroding property rights, one of the oldest and most fundamental rights protected by law. It was a day of contrasts. …
  • “Perdue says Trump will protect farmers,” Southeast Farm Press: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote this opinion column that appeared in the June 25, 2018, issue of USA Today. Below are excerpts from the commentary.  In 2011, a group of Chinese nationals dug up genetically engineered seeds from an Iowa corn field and planned to steal and send them back to China, so they could be reverse engineered. Those seeds, the result of years of research and millions of dollars of American investment, now stand as one of countless pieces of evidence in the case against China for intellectual property theft and unfair trade practices. American producers have benefited from the policies of the Trump administration, including historic tax reforms and reduced regulations. And farmers know that 20 cents of every dollar of their income relies on trade, which is why they are watching the situation with China closely. The simple truth is that when trading partners break the rules, there must be consequences.
  • “Local farmers will feel impact of tariffs, but how much?” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: In today’s new normal of roller coaster announcements on trade tariffs, a lot of the focus has been on the impact of tariffs on farmers. Agriculture is big business in North Carolina and in Randolph County. Randolph County has almost 1,500 farms with a combined value of over $751 million. Agriculture generated almost $273 million in revenue for the county in 2014, according to information provided by N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Randolph County agent John Wall. Earlier this year, the concern was about what a trade war with China might do to U.S. farming interests. That concern has boiled to top of mind consideration again with competing announcements in recent days of new rounds of tariffs to be imposed by the U.S. on Chinese goods and by the Chinese on U.S. goods. The discussion has evolved to include worry over what the outcome will be as Canada, Mexico and the European Union impose wide-ranging tariffs on U.S. goods in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to exact a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from those countries. Agricultural products are key targets by foreign governments. How will it hit local farmers? Soybean futures have been front and center as a possible target for foreign tariffs. In North Carolina and particularly in Randolph County, local extension agent John Wall said there will probably not be a direct impact from soybean tariffs.
    “Most of our soybeans go to feed our dairy cows,” he said. “We’re not like Mississippi, where roughly 80 percent of their soybeans go to exports.”
  • “‘It’s a job, a local job.’ Will chicken plant help Siler City bounce back?” News & Observer: The hope of landing well-paying employment brought job seekers to the Siler City campus of Central Carolina Community College for a job fair this week. Having that job nearby made it even more appealing. When the Townsend Inc. chicken processing plant closed in 2011 and wiped out out more than 1,000 factory jobs, Siler City suffered and so did the workers. The last seven years have been tough for Brittany Comer’s family. She had many family members laid off when the plant closed. When they found new jobs, most were more than an hour away. Some went north to Greensboro on U.S. 421, others took the southbound exit heading to Sanford.
  • “Camp offers insights into farm life,”  Rocky Mount Telegram: The 4-H A Day On The Farm summer camp gave kids the opportunity to visit an interactive farm where they got the chance to learn about agriculture and farm animals. The kids got to get up close with horses, pigs, chickens, bunnies, cows and goats as well as ride horses, make old-fashioned toys such as a wooden raft or corn-husk doll, go on a hay ride and make their own ice cream. “The purpose of the camp is getting kids back in touch with their roots,” said Director Kristi Grove. “We want them to know about the processes and hard work that goes into producing their food and just really get them back in touch with nature.” …
  • “NC protects pork producers against nuisance complaints,” Hendersonville Times: North Carolina lawmakers are making it harder for neighbors of agribusinesses to file complaints about smells and other nuisances. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the wide-ranging farm bill, which contains language sought by pork producers after numerous lawsuits. The Senate overrode the veto on Tuesday; the House did so on Wednesday. Smithfield Foods was hit recently with a nearly $51 million verdict — cut to about $3 million because of state limits on punitive damages. The new law all but blocks lawsuits against farm operations in the future. Fellow Democrats and several Republicans complained the measure would give the hog industry an unfair advantage and deny private-property rights to North Carolina residents living with the odors. Republicans accused outside forces of trying to put hog farmers out of business.
  • “NC working to control invasive plant species,” CBS 17 News: The state is working to control a dangerous, invasive plant that’s making its way across the country. A pest alert has been issued to warn people about the situation. The giant hogweed has sap that can create horrible injuries for those who come into contact with it. “What’s dangerous about it is the sap can get on your skin and cause blisters when it reacts with the sun. If you would to get this sap in your eyes, it’ll cause blindness,” said Dr. Bridget Lassiter, a weed specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. One of the problems with the hogweed is that it looks a lot like other plants like elderberry, which is very common in Wake County and other areas. It can also be mistaken for Queen Anne’s lace as well as cow parsnip. …
  • “SPW On RFD-TV: Fresh Potato Time In North Carolina,” (video) Southeast Produce Weekly:
    North Carolina doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a potato-growing state, but for six weeks in summer, they have the only fresh potatoes around. That’s especially important for the 4th of July. We went to the annual North Carolina Potato Association meeting in Elizabeth City recently and talked to everyone from potato growers to potato buyers and Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler about North Carolina’s unique potato season. North Carolina produces more than 3 million pounds of potatoes annually on 16,000 acres in a deal that runs fast and furious between now and the end of July.
  • “A farmer wants to curb his deer problem and use the meat. For now, the city says no,” Asheville Citizen-Times: An issue that plagued Biltmore Forest nearly two decades ago has reared its antlered head for a city farm owner. Steven Beltram, a farmer who owns the certified organic Balsam Gardens within Asheville city limits, approached City Council last month for help in solving a deer problem he said is threatening his business. “One of the challenges we face in growing this local food is a heavy deer population on our farm, and we’re obligated under federal law to make every effort to exclude wildlife from our production area for food-safety reasons,” Beltram told council members. The proposed solution: urban archery, performed by the local nonprofit Backyard Bow Pro, with the fresh meat going to hungry locals. But the firing of weapons within city limits, except to protect personal property, is prohibited by City Code Sec. 11-7-Discharge of firearms or weapons. …
  • “ENC farmers happy with Farm Bill,” Jacksonville Daily News: Those with agriculture interests breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday when the N.C. Farm Act became law. The passage of the N.C. Farm Act, titled Senate Bill 711, wasn’t rubber stamped by elected officials in Raleigh. On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the legislation citing in part that “while agriculture is vital to North Carolina’s economy….so are property rights that are vital to people’s homes and businesses.”
    With Cooper’s signature barely dry, the Senate overrode the governor’s veto Tuesday, June 26, in a vote of 37 to 9. The next day the N.C. House followed the Senate’s lead and voted 74 to 45 in favor of the bill. In a statement posted to his Facebook Page, Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican representing Onslow and Jones counties, wrote: “I was happy to stand with North Carolina’s family farmers today and vote to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the N.C. Farm Act.”
    Local farmer Andy Weston watched the passage of the bill closely. He, his wife and employees lobbied legislators prior to the vote. Cooper’s veto didn’t surprise Weston. …
  • “North Carolina’s newest cash crop is illegal for most farmers to grow,” Charlotte Observer, also in the News & Observer: North Carolina farmers take chances whenever they try to grow something new, but no crop poses the kind of uncertainties that surround industrial hemp. Hemp is used in thousands of products, from parachutes to energy drinks and a growing number of supplements and remedies containing CBD oil. But the plant is also a cousin of marijuana, which makes almost everything about it harder for growers, from getting loans to buying seed to selling the crop at the end of the season. Among the added worries: The level of the compound that gives you a high when you smoke marijuana, THC, might inch up a fraction of a percent in your hemp plants, making them a drug under federal law no more legal to possess or sell than cocaine or heroin. …
Print Friendly