News Roundup: June 9 – 15

by | Jun 15, 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.

  • “Bethel farmer added to Ag Hall of Fame,” Smoky Mountain News: Haywood County farmer Bill Holbrook has been inducted into the Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame for his tireless efforts as a community organizer and advocate for farmers in WNC, dedicating his career to preserve the rural way of life in the mountains. Holbrook owns Cold Mountain Farms in Bethel and is part of six generations who have farmed in Haywood County. A fulltime farmer since 1993, Holbrook was born and raised in Buncombe County and moved to Haywood in 1973 after taking a job with Waynesville’s Dayco Corporation in 1968. Since becoming a fulltime farmer, he has worked diligently to promote agriculture locally and statewide. Holbrook is one of the founding members of the Bethel Rural Community Organization and has served on the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. His awards and accolades include designation as a River Friendly Farm by the Tri-County River Friendly Farmer Program, designation as a North Carolina Century Farm for 100 years of continuous agricultural heritage and numerous awards from the Haywood County Farm Bureau and Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District. His was the first Good Agricultural Practices-certified farm in the county.
  • “Farmers vie to get dryer balls on Wal-Mart shelves,” Hendersonville Times: A couple of months ago, Olga and John Elder came across Wal-Mart’s “Open Call,” an annual event that asks entrepreneurs to submit their products for consideration. Now, the owners of Stoney Mountain Farm in Burlington are heading to Wal-Mart’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters this week to pitch their wool dryer balls to Wal-Mart buyers. If successful, they could find their product placed in as few as a dozen Walmart stores — or as many as thousands. Olga Elder left a career in insurance 12 years ago to farm and herd sheep. She and John later met and married. They found that they had a lot of excess wool and came up with the idea of the dryer balls eight years ago.
    Now, they are in stores such as Weaver Street Market in Carrboro and Whole Foods in Chapel Hill. What exactly are dryer balls? “Wool dryer balls tumble around in the dryer with your laundry,” the Elders’ product description says. As they bounce they create loft, separating the clothing and allowing the heat to distribute to the fabric surfaces more efficiently, therefore reducing drying time. The wool surface area helps to naturally soften your clothing by lifting the fibers of your clothes.” …
  • “Farmville launches warm-weather Agri-Cultural Market,”  Greenville Daily Reflector: There just seems to be something about warm weather, craft vendors, live music and cold drinks that brings people together. That theory held true at the Duck-Rabbit Brewery on Tuesday as dozens of locals made the rounds at the first Summer Agri-Cultural Market, where they could purchase fresh produce, handmade crafts, fresh food and, of course, a dark beer from the award-winning brewery/hosting grounds. “I’ve come to every one of these,” Ronnie Matlock, a 69-year-old Farmville resident said while holding a bag of fresh cucumbers and squash. “I really think something like this adds a lot to a community because it brings people together and shows them that there are other people here who are doing things that are community-minded.”
  • “Dairy Farms Find a Lifeline: Beer,” New York Times: Every day since 1938, farmhands at the 1,000-acre Carter & Stevens Farm, in central Massachusetts, have milked cows in the morning and afternoon. The same family has overseen operations for five generations. A sixth seemed uncertain. “We’re at a historic low nationwide in terms of farmers getting money for their milk,” said Sean DuBois, who works in the family business. (His wife, Molly Stevens, is the daughter of the third-generation patriarch, Phil Stevens.)Prices have cratered, driven by high supply and falling demand. For Carter & Stevens, staying solvent required creative thinking. “To succeed today as a dairy farm, you need to diversify,” Mr. DuBois said. “We found our passion for craft beer.” …Fonta Flora Brewery in Morganton, N.C., is currently turning part of the Whippoorwill Dairy Farm, which dates to the early 20th century, into a brewery. The buildings, constructed with irregularly shaped river stones, look “more like a monastery in Belgium than anything you’d associate with a farm in the South,” said Todd Boera, the head of brewing operations. …
  • “MEXICO TURNING TO EU AND OTHERS TO REPLACE U.S. PORK IMPORTS,” Southern Farm Network: Mexico is turning to the European Union and Latin America to offset any potential declines in U.S. pork imports. Mexico recently announced a 20 percent tariff on U.S. pork shoulders and legs starting next month in response to steel and aluminum tariffs placed on Mexico by the Trump administration. Mexican officials told Politico the nation will allow 350,000 tons of pork from all countries to ensure “that its consumers do not face shortages.”
    Experts predict the quota will be quickly filled by the European Union and Latin America. U.S. pork will still be able to compete under the quota but is expected to see a sharp loss in sales from the Mexican tariffs. The United States sent 25 percent of its total pork exports to Mexico last year. EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said, “If Trump does not want to do business, the EU is ready and willing.”
  • “NC lawmakers advance bills as session’s days dwindle,” Asheville Citizen-Times: North Carolina Republicans pressed legislation through the General Assembly on Wednesday, seeking to complete work on measures subject to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto before a self-imposed deadline this week as the two-year session dwindles. House and Senate GOP leaders want to give final approval to as many statewide measures as possible by Friday, giving them the time to vote on overriding any bills Cooper vetoes before adjournment, likely by the end of the month.
    In between, legislators say they want to consider local bills as well as proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot, such as one requiring photo identification to vote. On Wednesday, a House committee advanced a Senate measure idling for a year that, if approved by voters, would lower the state constitution’s cap on the income tax rate from 10 percent to 5.5 percent. The full House gave initial approval on a wide-ranging agriculture bill that would place new protections upon the pork industry after a jury this spring ordered Smithfield Foods pay huge penalties to neighbors of hog farms for their odors and other nuisances. The measure, which needs one more House vote before likely negotiations with the Senate on the final details, also would prohibit beverages made from soy, almonds and plants from being marketed as “milk” on their cartons. A late change in the House, however, wouldn’t implement the mandate unless other Southeastern states agree to do the same. …
  • “MARKETING TO MILLENNIALS,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) Marketing to millennials requires breaking away from traditional marketing for the meat industry and other agricultural sectors. Micheal Clements reports.
  • “Farmers push for stricter definitions of foods like meat and milk,” The Charlotte Observer: Can meat grown in a lab still be called meat? Can milk that comes from nuts rather than cows bear the name milk? And can mayonnaise made without eggs still be called mayo? From oat milk to grain-based burger patties to mayo made from yellow peas and canola oil, alternative products now populate nearly every aisle of the grocery. Makers of alternative foods, usually from plants, use the terms to signal how their products can be used. But farmers see the new foods as a threat and want the federal government to restrict words like milk, cheese and meat to products that come from animals. The FDA appears poised to reconsider terms. “It’s important that we take a fresh look at existing standards of identity in light of marketing trends and the latest nutritional science,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in March. …
  • “Excessive rain is challenging growers this year,” Greenville Daily Reflector: Above-normal rainfall this spring caused Pitt County growers to lose part of their strawberry crops and left them struggling to transplant tobacco, fertilize corn and harvest winter wheat. “The season is shaping up to be a challenging season and a costly season,” said Chris Jernigan, an agronomist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “If crops doesn’t look good in a few weeks and it turns hot and dry, the situation is going to be much worse. There is a lot yet to be determined,” said Jernigan, who works in Craven, Carteret, Greene, Jones, Lenoir and Pitt counties. The Greenville area received 17.66 inches of rain between March 1 and May 31, according to preliminary data collected by the National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City office. That is 6.6 inches above normal for the same time period.
  • “Full extent of flooding damages still unknown for county ag,” Hendersonville Times: Floodwaters from a historically wet May have receded, uncovering acres of flooded farmland, but growers in Henderson County are still unsure of exactly how much damage the wettest month on record has done to county crops. Throughout May, more than a foot of rain fell across Henderson County, with some areas seeing more than 17 inches. After about a week of warm, drier weather, farmers are getting back out into fields and assessing damage that’s having widespread and varying effects on county agriculture. Henderson County Cooperative Extension Director Terry Kelley said even a small percentage loss to county crops means big numbers in an industry that annually represents $650 million of the county’s economy. Those prolonged rains and wet conditions brought a range of problems, he explained, including saturated ground causing root rot. Flooded crops and fields were too wet for growers to work or spray in — in some cases as long as 18 days — increasing the threat of fungus or disease that’s already been exacerbated by the warm, wet conditions. “Disease is an issue we’re always concerned about,” Kelley said, but warm wet conditions are ideal for it to flourish. …