News Roundup: Nov. 11-16

By on November 16, 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.
  • “Amid salmonella outbreak, experts say NC turkeys are safe to eat this Thanksgiving,” WRAL: With one week to go before Thanksgiving, many are wondering if turkey is safe to eat.  The concerns come as the result of a widespread salmonella outbreak that has resulted in at least one death and more than 100 illnesses. The investigation into the salmonella outbreak has been ongoing for about a year. In North Carolina, poultry products, including turkey, are a more than $34 billion per year industry. The salmonella outbreak, linked to raw turkey products, could have an impact on the country’s second leading agricultural industry, especially as the holidays approach. “This is just an opportunity for consumers to be aware,” Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon said. Reardon is in charge of keeping track of the state’s poultry industry. He says the state’s poultry products are safe despite area farms recovering from recent storms, like Hurricane Florence.
  • “High Country Fraser fir makes its way to Washington,” Watauga Democrat: Christmas tree grower Larry Smith has capped off a year of accolades and media attention with a trip to the White House and his presentation of the tree that will be displayed in the Blue Room this holiday season. The tree was selected on Sept. 24 during a media event that brought White House staff, as well as state and National Christmas Tree Association officials, to Smith’s Newland farm. The gaggle of television crews was an unusual sight in a town of about 700 people. Interested in getting a tree selected for display in our nation’s capital? One need only win the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual contest, which Smith accomplished to receive the high honor. The tree was cut and began its journey to the White House on Wednesday, Nov. 14, during another event primarily attended by media members. Cameras surrounded the tree and its transport-truck-in-waiting as the Fraser fir was quickly felled by a chainsaw. The super-sized tree had to be tied before being lifted onto the truck. …
  • “North Carolina Farmers Are Opportunity Makers,” Farm Journal: “I used to farm where those houses are,” says Frank Howey as he cruises by a perfectly-manicured landscape of high-dollar mini-mansions. “I also used to farm where that golf course is and those tennis courts over there.”  While the glittering skyscrapers of downtown Charlotte, N.C., can’t be seen from Frank’s rolling fields, they cast an ever-looming shadow on his operation—and future goals. When he bought his first piece of land in the mid-80s, Charlotte’s city limits were 25 miles away. Now the city’s reach is just 12 miles away. “Union County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina and the rest of the country,” Frank says. “This has been a curse and a blessing.” …
  • “CHINA: TESTS SHOWS FEED NOT CONTAMINATED WITH ASF,” Southern Farm Network: Tests show African Swine Fever in China is not linked animal feed, according to a Chinese pork firm. Reuters reports the test came after recent reports that suspected ASF was linked to animal feed produced by a Chinese company. Raw materials and finished products of animal feed were collected and tested last week. Contaminated feed is feared to be a contributor in China’s widespread outbreak of ASF, which reportedly has resulted in the deaths of 200,000 pigs since early August. China has previously blamed the outbreak on food scraps, often fed to backyard pigs. Last month, China confirmed 62 percent of the first 21 outbreaks were related to the feeding of kitchen waste. Regulations require that kitchen waste is heated before being fed to pigs, but experts say that step is often skipped. The practice has since been banned.
  • “NC spent $11M-plus to compost dead poultry post-Florence,” WRAL: Taxpayers spent at least $11 million to dispose of poultry killed by the flooding after Hurricane Florence, state agriculture officials said Tuesday. And that’s way below budget. Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration initially estimated the cost of these mass livestock disposals at $20 million. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler put the total cost between $11 million and $13 million, primarily for sawdust, during a presentation to state legislators. That’s what it took to dispose of more than 4 million dead birds left on farms after the storm, he said. The sawdust is mixed in with the carcasses, and the state was lucky to find supplies in North and South Carolina, Troxler said. Without the South Carolina sawdust in particular, “this could have been held up for a long, long time,” he said. Rep. Jimmy Dixon, who co-chaired the committee that heard Troxler’s report, called the figure “astonishing.” He asked whether the state could stockpile sawdust or pre-bid the job to cut costs the next time eastern North Carolina sees heavy flooding. …
  • “65 percent chance farm bill passes this year,” Southeast FarmPress: The odds of Congress passing a farm bill in the lame duck session may be better than many expect, as high as 65 percent, according to one speaker at the Southern Crop Production Association annual meeting, Nov. 13 in Asheville, N.C. Jay Vroom, recently retired president and CEO of CropLife America, puts farm bill passage at that high level, saying that most of the baseline issues have been all but resolved — crop insurance, CRP and funding for research…
  • “Mixed reactions greet FDA’s plan to ban menthol cigarettes and many e-cig flavors; tighter regulations excessive, some say,” Winston-Salem Journal: The Food and Drug Administration’s recommended ban on traditional menthol cigarettes and major reduction in electronic-cigarette flavors drew very mixed responses on Thursday. Menthol styles, which are mint-flavored, have proven controversial for decades because they are considered a smoother way to smoke traditional cigarettes, and because manufacturers have been accused of specifically marketing them to minority consumers. Tobacco manufacturers and some anti-smoking advocacy groups consider the regulatory steps excessive and not backed by scientific research.
    However, they want to continue to be part of the regulatory process, citing their recent willingness to support Congress establishing a national minimum age of 21 for their products. …
  • “Clearing the air: The hog farm lawsuits,” WECT: In 2013, China-based WH Group purchased Smithfield Foods. The $4.7 billion merger combined the United States’ top pork producer with the world’s biggest pork producing company. According to some members of the agriculture community, the massive price tag made the company a target for lawsuits.
    Coincidentally or not, 2013 was also the year when out-of-state attorneys Charles Speer and Richard Middleton started pursuing a tort case (civil wrongdoing) against North Carolina hog farms. They partnered with North Carolina firm Wallace and Graham to pursue the case. A state judge disqualified Speer and Middleton but the effort didn’t stop there. Wallace and Graham Law then partnered with Texas attorney Michael Kaeske, who had a strong track record of commercial litigation and personal injury cases across the country. Ultimately, there would be around 500 plaintiffs and 26 lawsuits. …
  • “‘Farming saved my life.’ Veteran turns to the land for PTSD therapy and a new beginning.” Charlotte Observer: At night, helicopters from Fort Bragg pass over Davon Goodwin’s camper, flying low with their lights turned off, feeling their way through the darkness above the farm where he works and sleeps. If he’s not careful, his mind fills in the rest, the bombs going off, the popping of near and distant gunfire joining together with the whirr of helicopter blades, forming a symphony of war. The sounds don’t transport him back to Afghanistan, because it’s always in him. But he’s starting to make room for the rest of his life. Growing up in Pittsburgh until the day he left for college, Goodwin went to UNC-Pembroke in 2007 with dreams of becoming a botanist and using plants to find new cures for cancer. To pay for school, he enlisted in the Army Reserves as a freshman, but after three years felt compelled to deploy, signing up for a tour in Kuwait with missions to Iraq, transporting heavy equipment. Then orders changed, sending Goodwin and half his unit to Afghanistan in 2010. …
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