News Roundup: April 16-22

by | Apr 22, 2016

News Roundup - this week's top news stories about NC agricultureEach 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.

  • “Pork council appeals hog waste decision,” Greensboro News & Record: The N.C. Pork Council served notice last week that it will challenge a recent ruling by the state Utilities Commission that designated the Dan River Combined Cycle Plant near Eden and another Duke Energy plant in Salisbury as “renewable energy facilities” that get credit for running partly on fuel derived from out-of-state hog waste. …
  • “NC Apples Persevere Through Cold Temperatures,”  Southern Farm Network: (Audio) While late freezes are not that unusual, apple growers in the North Carolina mountains keep a very close eye on the orchards, versus the weather. Last week there were two close calls, and Jack Ruff, NCDA Marketing Specialist for apples, based in Asheville says it’s still a little early to tell if there will be crop loss or not: “The two varieties, Pink Lady, and Granny Smith, were the ones that were in bloom, and a few Mutsu’s, and little Red Delicious, and some of the others, but we did have a couple of instances of the low temperatures, and we know we have some damage, but we just don’t know how much yet. It really takes a four or five days afterwards, to really get out and see how much damage was done.” The freezing temperatures may actually end up being a help says Ruff: “We have to thin apples, and it may just be a good thinning job, which is good, that helps us, or it may be more significant. And in talking to apple growers, what I’ve found out … course the cold air sinks to the valleys and the lower orchards are more prone to damage than the higher elevation ones. So, we know we’ve got some damage, we just don’t know how much yet.” …
  • “Agritourism Helps Support North Carolina’s Economy,”  Time Warner Cable News: (Video) The Powells were celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary Sunday at the Plum Granny Farm in King. The couple drove from Henderson for the farm’s plant sale and open house. “We do something special every year,” smiled Charles Powell. Charles and Debbie Powell are spreading their dollars like the farmers spread their seeds on their land. “We came up yesterday and spent the night on the other side of the mountain,” explained Charles Powell. Then they spent money at local restaraunts and gas stations. The Powells are just one of thousands of people who travel across North Carolina every year to take part in what is known as agritourism. Which is important for the state. Cheryl Ferguson runs the Plum Granny Farm. It’s been in her family for more than 150 years. “We don’t have the industry,” explained Ferguson, ” We have beauty, natural beauty in this county.” …
  • “Small farmer finds success with prawn industry,” The Daily Tar Heel: When former tobacco farmer Joe Thompson had his first hip replacement in 1995, he knew he had to find a less intensive job. Three hip replacements later, Thompson began Thompson’s Prawn Farm in Cedar Grove, N.C. Thompson said his surgeries coincided with the 2004 United States government buyout of the tobacco industry. “When the tobacco buyout happened, I had medical problems, so this is why I got out of tobacco farming,” he said. “If it weren’t for that I would still be farming tobacco.” The Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004 eliminated price support loans, which Thompson said forced small farmers like him out of tobacco farming. “If you don’t get big, you get out,” he said. Richard Reich, assistant commissioner for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the number of tobacco farms has decreased statewide in the last few years for several reasons. He said there have been consolidations of smaller tobacco farms to improve efficiency, which had led to a decrease in the number of total farms. “The tobacco industry has even more pressure on it, so the demand for tobacco has declined and that’s been a factor as well,” Reich said. …
  • “Salisbury farm tackles cheeses made from buffalo – as in water buffalo – milk,” Charlotte Observer: That must have been one heck of a bite of cheese. David DiLoreto, a family physician in Salisbury, and his wife, Faythe, were on vacation with their family about five years ago when it happened: Their first taste of mozzarella di bufala, the real mozzarella, made the way Italian cheesemakers have made it for hundreds of years, using milk from Asian water buffalo descended from ones that historians believe were brought by the Romans to farm rice fields. “It’s the flavor,” DiLoreto says today. “How do you describe it? Mild, but afterward, you get a sweet milk taste in your mouth.” …
  • “New Food Safety Law Gives States a Big Role,” Stateline: Growers of fresh fruit and vegetables will be subject to food safety regulations for the first time under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. States will start to decide this year if they will enforce the law or leave it to the federal government. With the most extensive food safety regulations in history set to take effect soon, state agriculture officials across the country are preparing to enforce the federal law, but say their ability to inspect farms and enforce the new standards depends on the receipt of promised federal funds. The law — which Congress approved in 2011 following several high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, linked to contaminated spinach, tomatoes and peanut products — comes at a time when demand for fresh vegetables is increasing. …
  • “Strawberry season begins earlier this year,” Lexington Dispatch: For many people, the sight of ripening strawberries heralds the beginning of the entire season of fresh, locally grown spring and summer produce. This year, according to experts with North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, despite a recent cold snap, the strawberry season is beginning nearly two weeks ahead of schedule. “Our growers are very experienced with dealing with late frosts and know how to protect their crops,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a written statement. “Because of their diligent efforts, this season shows a lot of promise with plenty of strawberries available. Plus, since we had warm weather in winter, consumers will be able to enjoy fresh berries even earlier.” North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation. In 2015, N.C. growers produced 14.3 million pounds of strawberries, according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Producers Sylvia and Jack Berrier of Berrier Farms in Reedy Creek said they are ready to start picking. Jack Berrier said the weather has helped bring the harvest slightly earlier than normal. He said despite the hard frost a few weeks ago, the crop seems to have survived. “The weather has been good,” Berrier said. “We had a pretty mild winter, so the season is just a little early this year.” …
  • “US farmers on path to worst fiscal troubles in two decades,” Southeast Farm Press: U.S. feed grain, oilseed, wheat and cotton farms face the bleakest outlook they’ve seen since the late 1990s in terms of financial condition and their long-term prospects for survivability. Based on the records for 63 representative crop farms maintained by Texas A&M University’s Agricultural and Food Policy Center, many of the nation’s commercial crop farms face highly uncertain futures over the next four years. “The results for our feed grain and oilseed farms, as well as wheat and cotton farms, are the worst (in terms of the highest percentage of farms in the poor category) since the late 1990s,” said Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agriculture and Food Policy Center. Specifically, he says: 11 of the 23 feed grain and oilseed farms are projected to end the baseline period at the end of 2016 and 2020 in poor financial condition. 6 of the 11 wheat farms are projected to end the period in poor financial condition. 8 of the 15 cotton farms are projected to end the period in poor financial condition. 4 of the 14 rice farms are expected to end the period in poor financial condition. “These results already include any projected ARC and PLC support that would be triggered by low prices or low incomes in future years,” said Dr. Outlaw, who testified before a House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hearing on April 14. …
  • “Fundraisers to support hemp industry held in Asheville,” WLOS: The annual, global celebration of cannabis culture, known as 4/20, was on Wednesday. Cannabis is still illegal in North Carolina, but industrial hemp is legal. Before any farmers can grow hemp, private donors need to come up with $200,000 for a regulatory commission to oversee the hemp industry. So, The New Mountain Theater and The Block Off Biltmore held fundraisers on Wednesday. The events attracted local artists, musicians and supporters of the pro-marijuana and hemp movements. Event organizers told News 13 that proceeds went towards funding the Industrial Hemp Commission. …