News Roundup: April 28 – May 4

by | May 4, 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.

  • “PRUITT APPLAUDS INTER-AGENCY COOPERATION,” Southern Farm Network: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the cooperation between federal agencies is something that is friendly and ongoing in the Trump Administration. He also stated that it’s important that he, along with Ag Secretary Perdue, get out to visit those who will be affected by the decisions that are made inside the Beltway. Mike Davis files this report for SFN.
  • “Farm exports support more than 1.1 million U.S. jobs,” Southeast Farm Press: USDA is celebrating May as #WorldTradeMonth by highlighting its success and continued commitment to expanding trade and increasing rural prosperity through agricultural exports. “As World Trade Month begins, we recognize the vital role trade plays in supporting U.S. agriculture, rural America, and our economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers feed, fuel, and clothe our nation and the rest of the world. Since day one I’ve said I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy, and I’m proud of the progress we make each day serving our customers, selling our products around the world, and working to protect and preserve our agricultural interests.”  Agricultural trade is critical for the U.S. farm sector and the American economy. In 2017, U.S. exports of food and farm products totaled $138.4 billion, up from $134.7 billion in 2016. Farm exports supported more than 1.1 million American jobs across the entire economy in 2017. With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, USDA’s work pursuing new and expanded trade is essential to removing barriers, helping America’s farmers and ranchers reach new customers, and ensuring that U.S. products and producers are treated fairly. …
  • “Smithfield will appeal $50M verdict,” North State Journal: A North Carolina jury awarded $50 million to 10 neighbors of a hog farm in eastern N.C. who claimed that the smell of the farm and the noise from its trucks amounted to a nuisance in their community. N.C.-based Murphy-Brown Farms and parent company Smithfield Foods say they will appeal the verdict.
    “I am very disappointed in the verdict and believe it will harm our hardworking farm families who produce food for the state, nation and world,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. Lawyers for the defendants say it sets a dangerous precedent; the farms were never found to be in violation of their permits, prompting speculation that similar lawsuits can crop up against businesses even if they are operating within the law. “These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on animal agriculture, rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms,” said Keira Lombardo, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Smithfield Foods in a statement. “These farmers are apparently not safe from attack even if they fully comply with all federal, state and local laws and regulations. The lawsuits are a serious threat to a major industry, to North Carolina’s entire economy and to the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of North Carolinians.” …
  • “Troxler: Hog farm judgment will ‘harm’ NC agriculture,” WRAL: A $50 million judgment against industrial hog farms in eastern North Carolina for making their neighbors’ lives miserable will hurt North Carolina’s farming sector, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Friday.
    A federal court jury in Raleigh on Thursday awarded 10 neighbors of a 15,000-head swine operation in Bladen County $75,000 each in compensation, plus $5 million each in punitive damages. Lawyers didn’t sue the owner of Kinlaw Farms, instead targeting Murphy-Brown LLC, the hog-production division of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, which contracts with Kinlaw and other farms across the southeastern part of North Carolina. Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, plans to appeal the judgment. …
  • “AMERICAN VETERINARY ASSOCIATION PLEASED WITH HOUSE FARM BILL,” Southern Farm Network: The American Veterinary Medical Association is pleased with the animal health priorities in the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill. Among the highlights, the AVMA is pleased with the new authorizations and funding for a National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, The National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and a livestock vaccine bank with immediate attention to foot-and-mouth disease.
    Dr. Lauren Stump, Assistant Director of Government Relations for the AVMA, says the House Agriculture Committee’s work on the farm bill is a great step in the right direction to effectively respond to and prevent animal diseases. “We don’t know when the next major outbreak will occur, but it’s of paramount importance that we prepare for when it does,” she says. “We must take a proactive approach to animal health so we can stop animal diseases before they spread.” Stump says they look forward to continuing to work with Congress to help lawmakers pass a farm bill that achieves the goals of protecting animal agriculture and ensuring consumers have access to safe and nutritious protein.
  • “Conservation Groups Fighting To Protect NC Trees From Invasive Insects,” WFAE: The hemlock woolly adelgid arrived in the U.S. from Japan in the 1920s. The pest feeds off sap or starches in the hemlock tree. An adelgid stays stationary, disrupting the flow of nutrients to a tree’s needles and causing the hemlock to die within four to 10 years, according to the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina. The woolly adelgid cannot move on its own and relies on wind, animals, people and traffic to propel it. The woolly adelgids were first spotted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the early 2000s, according to the Hemlock Restoration Initiative’s Sara Defosset. The program is part of Asheville-based WNC Communities and was created in 2014 through money from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Forestry Service. “They’re pretty much anywhere there are hemlocks,” said Foothills Conservancy conservation associate Ryan Sparks. “It’s well established.” But the hemlock woolly adelgid is not the only force behind the loss of hemlock trees. “Our trees are in worst shape than trees in neighboring states,” Defosset said. “That invasive bug coupled with the drought caused a double whammy with our big mature hemlocks.” Two types of hemlocks reside in the eastern U.S., according to the N.C. Forestry Service, the eastern hemlock and the Carolina hemlock, both of which can live for hundreds of years. …
  • “USDA OPENS COMMENT PERIOD ON GMO LABELING LAW,” Southern Farm Network: The Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on a rule to establish the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard mandated by Congress in 2016. The rule will regulate how genetically modified, or bioengineered ingredients, would be disclosed to consumers on food labels. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the rulemaking “presents several possible ways” to determine what foods will be covered by the final rule, and presents label options, as well.
    American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall in a statement called the proposed rule fair, saying it “ensures that food facts win the day over hype.” The proposed rule is open for comment for 60 days and appeared in the Federal Register Thursday. Public comment can be made online at The deadline for comments is July 3, 2018.
  • “Trump put a tariff on Chinese steel. Now North Carolina pig farmers could feel pain,”McClatchy DC Bureau: The latest battleground in the looming U.S.-China trade war: Frozen pig parts from North Carolina. When China announced a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork products in retaliation to President Donald Trump’s 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum, the state’s pork industry shuddered.The Beijing government’s pork tariff targets fresh or cold pig forelegs, hindquarters and the animals’ meat, as well as frozen bone forelegs, legs and frozen liver. North Carolina, which ranks second in the nation in pork production, does a small but brisk export business in pig parts. …
  • “New farm career option for the mechanically adept, computer savvy,” WRAL: – An increase in computerized and automated farming has created a new salaried career opportunity for people who work on farms. After all, someone needs to know how to work and repair all the machines and be licensed to work with pesticides. Agricultural technicians – or agri-technicians, as they’re called – can earn up to an annual salary of $40,000, which is above average in much of eastern North Carolina. On a recent afternoon at Sharp Family Farms, mowers suspended from the ceiling of a greenhouse cut the small tobacco plants floating in their beds of water. No one was pushing or pulling the machines in this high-tech farming scene. Instead, a single person was operating them remotely. “Cutting the plants now makes them stronger later,” said Pender Sharp, who owns the farm with his father and brother.