Looking back at 2017: our year-in-review

by | Dec 31, 2017

Tractor in the field

With over 2,000 employees in 20 divisions and a presence in all 100 counties, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services touches the lives of North Carolinians every day. We have regulatory and service responsibilities that are wide-ranging, but all seek to support and promote the health and welfare of the residents of this state.

As 2017 comes to a close, we would like to take a look back at 17 ways NCDA&CS has helped to improve the lives of North Carolinians and, in some cases, citizens beyond our borders.

  1. Provided food to public schools, seniors and emergency feeding organizations
    In 2017, NCDA&CS distributed over $48.7 million in USDA foods to 118 North Carolina public schools through our Farm to School Program. The year saw record 26,035 flats of strawberries sold to participating schools. The Food Distribution Division also administers the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which distributes food to seniors across the state. In January, the USDA awarded the Food Distribution Division an additional caseload, enabling NCDA&CS to feed 5,807 seniors. The food packages were distributed to seniors in 24 counties across the state.  In 2016, the program was only able to feed 1,237 seniors. We have seen over a 300% increase in the number of seniors we were able to feed in that time. Food was also provided to 154 North Carolina emergency feeding organizations by providing them with more than $19 million in USDA foods.
  2. Licensed first drone for pesticide application
    In October, the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Divisions licensed the first drone in North Carolina for pesticide application. The drone follows much of the same protocol as helicopters and airplanes used in pesticide application, but should allow farmers to get more localized spraying, especially for crops like blueberries, Christmas trees and vineyards.
  3. Planned for Avian Influenza
    There have been numerous changes recently in the national response to the threat of Avian Influenza. NCDA&CS has been working collaboratively with the federal government, other states in our region and the poultry industry to make sure our response to the potential threat Avian Influenza is strong and best protects all the poultry in our state.  In 2017, the Veterinary Division began redrafting the state Avian Influenza plan, preparing for biosecurity audits for commercial poultry under the coordination of the National Poultry Improvement Plan, and reviewing educational materials for all poultry owners across the state.
  4. Regulated pests
    The Agronomics Division used molecular diagnosis to positively identify an emerging root-knot nematode in the fields of Columbus, Johnston, Wayne, Greene, Harnett, Sampson and Wilson counties. This was an important find since this nematode can have a major impact on sweet potato quality, often resulting in a total loss of a crop.In addition, the Nematode Assay Laboratory had a record-breaking year, analyzing 43,600 samples. More than 8,000 of these tests were done to determine the presence of the pinewood nematode, a regulated pest. These findings helped improve our exports to China and other countries since only wood logs that are free of pinewood nematodes can be exported.
  5. Completed inspections to protect agriculture
    The Plant Industry Division had a busy year. As a measure to successfully protect North Carolina agriculture, they conducted inspections for seed and fertilizer being sold ensuring all growers had quality products available in the marketplace. In total, they performed 54,633 seed lot inspections and 41,778 fertilizer inspections.They also worked to protect North Carolina from invasive pests by conducting statewide trapping surveys along with inspections of nursery and nursery dealer locations to ensure quality pest-free plants are available to consumers.
  6. Promoted pollinators
    The department’s focus was on honeybee health and pollinator protection continued in 2017. During the year, the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides  Division laid out a Pollinator Protection Strategy to minimize the risks to pollinators from the legal use of pesticides. For the second year, the division continued with the DriftWatch Registry for beekeepers and specialty crop producers to provide information to pesticide applicators on sensitive areas in the vicinity of their planned pesticide applications so they can take required precautions to minimize damage to bees, specialty crops and other sensitive off-target areas. Additionally, department inspectors conducted over 8,800 apiary inspections to assist beekeepers with honeybee health. Later in the year, the Commissioner announced a beehive grant program to help certified beekeepers establish new hives.
  7. Provided herbicide technologies training
    The Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division worked with North Carolina State University to develop and deliver training on the new Auxin Herbicide technologies. More than 3,000 certified private users of these technologies received training in the beginning of 2017. The training enabled growers to use the herbicides properly while minimizing drift and damage to sensitive crops.
  8. Launched the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program
    The Plant Industry Division partnered with the Research Stations Division to successfully launch the first year of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program.  The program included 114 licensed growers, 2,134 acres and 210,082 square feet of greenhouse space to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.
  9. Grew our international markets
    In August, the department’s International Marketing Section and the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service hosted lumber buyers from Turkey.  A total of five leading Turkish forest products importers participated in the program. They visited more than 15 lumber, log and veneer companies in North Carolina, as well as the North Carolina Port Facility. Immediately following their visit, Turkish buyers placed orders for 28 containers of hardwood and softwood lumber totaling more than $1 million. The International Marketing Section also focused on promoting N.C. Sweet Potatoes in Scandinavia in 2017. As a result, export volumes have grown 479 percent in Finland and 839 percent in Sweden from 2016 to 2017. You can learn more about the department’s efforts to promote sweet potatoes in Europe here: http://video.unctv.org/video/3006920470/
  10. Provided on-farm readiness reviews
    North Carolina was among a handful of states piloting a program of on-farm readiness reviews to help produce farmers get ready for the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. Large farms will have to comply with the new federal rules in 2018, and smaller farms will have to comply later.The goal of the on-farm readiness reviews was to provide farmers with useful information on farm production process, everything from planting through harvest to final packaging. The Food and Drug Protection Division will partner the N.C. State University Cooperative Extension to conduct more On Farm Readiness Reviews in 2018.
  11. Responded to natural disasters
    Puerto Rico suffered incredible damage due Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Although the continental United States also experienced catastrophic damages from tropical systems Irma and Harvey, the islands of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands suffered impact from two category 5 storms. Winds of over 200 mph caused catastrophic damage to the island and its infrastructure including farming operations. To aid in the response, NCDA&CS worked with FEMA and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency to provide agricultural emergency management resources to farms in need. NCDA&CS emergency management personnel secured a USDA grant for the dairy industry for focused on providing fuel, feed, veterinary support and generators to 280 farms. They supported poultry operations by prioritizing fuel needs and worked to advance the response needed to address a potential rabies outbreak. The team also provided training to Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture’s personnel to help them plan for future disasters.
  12. Monitored fuel and gas
    The Standards Division inspected 107,147 gas dispensers, tested 20,664 gasoline, diesel and kerosene samples, and completed 7,144 inspections on gas facilities and trucks. In addition, the division worked with local law enforcement and the United States Secret Service in response to more than 50 reports of possible credit card skimmers at fuel dispensers.
  13. Held the 150th North Carolina State Fair
    Each year, NCDA&CS helps to bring the best of North Carolina agriculture to Raleigh. 2017 was no exception. More than one million visitors attended the 150th fair.  While fairgoers often have rides, games and food at top of mind each October, the fair has stayed true to its agricultural roots. At the Junior Livestock Sale of Champions, a record $182,000 was raised for educational and livestock scholarships. Two state records were also set for largest pumpkin at 1,458.5 pounds and largest watermelon at 316 pounds.
  14. Helped poultry farmers save Thanksgiving
    With the closing of Cool Hand Meats in October, poultry farmers in Western North Carolina had concerns about getting their turkeys, geese and broilers processed in time for the holidays. The Meat and Poultry Division stepped in and provided a coordinated response to help farmers get their birds to approved processing facilities on time.
  15. Protected North Carolina farmland
    The N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund awarded more than $3.28 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. More than $2.8 million went towards obtaining conservation easements on 1,432 acres of land across the state. The Trust also provided conservation easements for eight family farms in Alamance, Cabarrus, Mitchell, Duplin, Cleveland, Caswell and Hyde counties.
  16. Received the REPI Challenge Award
    In May 2017, NCDA&CS was awarded nearly $10 million in federal funding to protect land from development and maintain agricultural, forestry and military uses. The funding was awarded through a biennial competition known as the REPI Challenge, which is operated by the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program. This partnership with the military will protect and enhance the top two economic sectors in North Carolina: agriculture and the military.
  17. Distributed the 2017 Census of Agriculture
    In December, the Agricultural Statistics Division distributed the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and the people who operate them.The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. This information is used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities, from federal, state and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations. Legislators use the data when shaping farm policy, and agribusinesses factor it into their planning efforts.