Emerald ash borer-fighting wasps continue to be released

A cup full of Spathius wasps, just prior to release.

A cup full of Spathius wasps, just prior to release.

Almost a year ago, the emerald ash borer was detected in North Carolina for the first time. The invasive beetle, which bores into and kills ash trees, was found in four N.C. counties in 2013 (Granville, Person, Vance and Warren). From September to early November of last year, the N.C. Forest Service released wasps to combat the pest.  Releases were suspended in the winter because the wasps are not active in cold weather.

But, warmer weather is back and so is the wasp! Last week marked the first release of the wasps in 2014. Releases will likely continue weekly if environmental conditions are appropriate. To date, 31,425 female wasps have been released in North Carolina.

Last week also marked the first release of a Spathius agrili, a wasp species that we think will perform well in the warm temperatures of the South. In 2013, only a single wasp species, Tetrastichus plannipennisi, was released, simply because the seasonality was biologically appropriate for it.

Both wasps, which are native to China, attack the larva of the emerald ash borer as it feeds just under the bark of an ash tree. The female wasp drills through the bark and lays an egg on the beetle larva. When the egg hatches, it feeds on the emerald ash borer larva, eventually killing it. The wasps are small and are not capable of stinging people.

A third and final wasp species, Oobius agrili, will likely be released in North Carolina later this year. This wasp attacks the egg stage of the ash borer, so it must be released when the emerald ash borer begins laying eggs (in late spring and summer). A single adult wasp can parasitize 80 or more ash borer eggs!

All four counties where the emerald ash borer has been detected are under a state and federal quarantine. The quarantines regulate the movement of ash material, the insect itself and all hardwood firewood from regulated areas to non-regulated areas. For more information about the quarantine, visit the EAB Quarantine FAQ website, call 1-800-206-9333 (voicemail), or send an email to newpest@ncagr.gov.

As this invasive pest continues to bore ash trees to death, hopefully the wasps will begin to reduce beetle numbers and eventually contribute to control of the emerald ash borer in the forest setting. But as with most biological control programs, this is a long-term project, so only time will tell!

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Pesticide collections hit milestone with 3 million pounds collected

Nash County Cooperative Extension Director poses with a representative from Boseman Farms in Battleboro. It was this delivery that brought the Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program to the 3 million pound mark.

Nash County Cooperative Extension Director Charlie Tyson (right) poses with a representative from Boseman Farms in Battleboro. It was this delivery that brought the Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program to the 3 million pound mark.

When Nash County held its pesticide collection day last Thursday, only 763.5 lbs was needed for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Pesticide Disposal Assistance program to surpass three million. “We collected more than 6,000 pounds,” said Derrick Bell, Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program manager. “After last year’s collections we were about 68,000 pounds from 3 million pounds collected since the program began in 1980. However, we never thought we would collect so much so early in the year.”

“North Carolina’s was the first pesticide disposal program in the nation,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Based on weight, pesticides are more expensive and more problematic than latex paints or old gasoline for counties to collect. This program gives the county and its residents a safe way to dispose of old, outdated, banned or unwanted pesticides.”

The program is paid for through the Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund, which receives money through registration fees that companies pay on each pesticide product sold in the state and through an appropriation from the General Assembly.

The program rotates collection days among all 100 counties so that each county has a collection day every other year. Collections are handled through county Cooperative Extension offices. Pickups are sometimes coordinated through a county’s household hazardous waste program. In special situations, pesticide disposal assistance staff will go to a home or farm to assist with materials.  “Our collections give farmers and homeowners a chance to dispose of some really dangerous pesticides,” said Bell. “It is still not unusual for farmers to bring in Agent Orange or DDT or other pesticides that are no longer used because we now know the dangers they cause of our environment.”

Since 1976, it has been illegal to dispose of pesticides in landfills. This program provides a way for them to be disposed of in a safe and environmentally friendly way. “This is a really great program for North Carolina,” Troxler said. “Only about half the states have a program like this one, and in those states without a program it is not really clear what they are doing with old pesticides. Our program helps make sure these products are collected and contained in a way that protects our land and water resources.”

Several more collection days are scheduled for this spring, including in Cleveland, Iredell, Johnston, Chowan, Wilson, Caswell, Rowan and Yadkin counties. For a complete list of collection sites and more information on the Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program, go to the website www.ncagr.gov/PDAP/.

Collection sites take old, outdated and banned pesticides for disposal.

Collection sites take old, outdated and banned pesticides for disposal.

 

 

 

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Today’s Topic: North Stokes High School shortens distance from farm to school

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The distance from farm to school is a lot shorter at North Stokes High School in Danbury. The school’s agricultural program recently became the first in the state to receive the Good Agricultural Practices certification. This means that lettuce and other fruits and vegetables grown on the school’s farm and in greenhouses by students can now be served in the school cafeteria.

Farms selling produce to schools must be GAP-certified under state Department of Public Instruction rules, but DPI is not alone in requiring this. More and more grocery stores, restaurants and retail locations are also requiring GAP certification. Food safety is at the core of these requirements, and that includes the ability to trace the crop forward and back.

So the students in Ben Hall’s horticulture and livestock ag programs are a step ahead of farmers who have not yet embraced GAP certification. Plus, they are learning what is required if you want to market produce today. That education could serve the students well if any of them decide on a career in farming, Troxler says.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss GAP certification at North Stokes High School.

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North Stokes High School first in the state to earn GAP certification for school farm

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North Stokes High School’s agriculture program farm is the first in the state to be GAP-certified.

North Stokes High School agriculture students and their classmates get to eat the fruits of the ag students’ labor now that the school farm has earned its Good Agricultural Practices certification. The school is the first in the state to earn this certification, which means the lettuce and other fruits and vegetables grown on the farm and in the greenhouses by students can now be served in the school cafeteria.

Farms selling produce to schools must be GAP-certified under N.C. Department of Public Instruction rules, but DPI is not alone in requiring this. More and more grocery stores, restaurants and retail locations are also requiring the certification. Food safety is at the core of these requirements, and that includes the ability to trace the crop forward and back, said Cindy Marion, former Stokes County Child Nutrition director. Marion now works with the Yadkin County school system.

“GAP is one of the most important things we can do in terms of food safety,” Marion said. “Food safety has to be No. 1. As a food service director, I want great local products for the kids. GAP is what makes that happen.”

So the students in Ben Hall’s horticulture and livestock ag programs are a step ahead of other farmers who have not yet embraced GAP certification, plus they are learning exactly what is required if you want to market produce in today’s market.

“We want to see more young people in agriculture, and this program is giving students who may have an interest in agriculture, a solid foundation. This program is teaching students what is going on in the real world, because the market is demanding GAP,” said Heather Barnes, a marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We don’t see this in every ag program in the schools.”

Barnes and Hall knows that not every student will want to pursue a career in agriculture, but are hopeful some will make a connection. Senior Austin Rutherford doesn’t see himself in the agricultural field, but he enjoys Hall’s horticulture class. “I like being outside and being able to get some fresh air,” Rutherford said. “Plus, we get to eat what we grow.”

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Senior Austin Rutherford, left, takes a pH sample from the hydroponic trays as agriculture teacher Ben Hall records the data.

Sophomore Nathan Southern has enjoyed the experience enough to consider agriculture as a possible career.

“I got into animal science as a freshman and then decided to sign up for this horticulture class,” Southern said. “I like it because plants aren’t as hard to get along with as people. A lot of my family has done farming, and I think I would like to get my own greenhouse or work in one.”

When Marion considered applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to get this GAP certification project off the ground, she knew North Stokes would be a good school for it. That was in part because of the work Hall had done to construct the greenhouse, add hydroponic equipment and boost the learning opportunities for his students. Putting all those pieces together involved a lot of community support and cooperation from other programs at the school.

“I chose North Stokes because of Ben’s program and the infrastructure he had with this program and his commitment to his students and this community. He already had a lot of groundwork laid, so we had a good foundation,” Marion said. “My vision for this was this program could be a learning experience for the students and the community.

“This is a farming community and many of the students have family in farming or experience with farming. When you’ve got high school students who already have this interest, that’s the place where you need to be connecting,” Marion said. “And, this community is still transitioning, still looking for things to diversify with. So this can help the community, as well.”

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North Stokes High School agriculture teacher Ben Hall shows child nutrition director Cindy Marion the hydroponic lettuce being grown in the school’s greenhouse.

Besides being able to provide fresh produce for school lunches, staff hoped to be able to use the learning experience to show local farmers what is involved in gaining GAP certification.

“Our Extension office has been working for five years with GAP certification, trying to help older farmers look at these changes,” said Debbie Cox, N.C. Cooperative Extension director for Stokes County. “It can be costly for farmers, but by participating in this program, these students can then show their dads and granddads that they can do this on their own farms.”

Hall said the students were already doing much of what was required for GAP certification, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to become certified. Detailed record keeping was one of the biggest changes, but that has now become just another part of what students do in terms of production.

The facilities and land at the school mean the students can produce enough volume to be effective.

“I can’t feed 600 kids with six carrots,” Marion said. “We focused on getting certified with lettuce because we knew we could grow it well and have a lot of volume with it. It can be grown in our greenhouses, fields and in the high tunnels.”

Plus, by growing lettuce, students can see the process through to the end. “They can seed it and harvest it in one semester,” Hall said. “Tomatoes can take five months until harvest, so the lettuce is quicker.”

Student-grown hydroponic lettuce that will soon be part of school lunches.

Student-grown hydroponic lettuce that will soon be part of school lunches.

The short time between harvest and serving translates on the plate, too.

“The nutritional content is always going to better than something that has traveled across the country,” Marion said. “The quicker you get it to the plate, the better the nutritional content.”

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News Roundup: April 12-18

News Roundup logoEach 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. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “NC Tobacco Growers Asked to Vote in Referendum,” Southern Farm Network: For the first time in the history of the crop, Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina is conducting a referendum for an assessment on the crop in the state of North Carolina.  Graham Boyd, Executive Vice President of TGANC discusses the referendum and the purpose: “Farmers are familiar with the checkoff system of support or an assessment as it may commonly be referred to. This one in particular will focus on domestic tobacco issues, not only on marketing but a lot of policy issues that we are confronted with and many of the changes that are occurring in the industry. We have for 30+ years been a voluntary dues paid organization and that has been very successful.” …
  • “Bees get a sweet boost in Bayer CropScience Care Center,” WRAL Tech Wire: Steve Troxler is a big guy, but sometimes he sweats the small stuff. Honey bees, for example. Troxler is a farmer. He’s also commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. So he knows we need bees to pollinate plants. He knows that one of every three mouthfuls of food we eat was made possible by bee pollination. Grain. Fruit. Tree nuts. Bees carry that magic fairy dust around on all of ‘em. That’s why Troxler proclaimed this “an important day for agriculture, for North Carolina and the world.” He was among the dozens of Bayer CropScience employees, public officials and media gathered Tuesday at the official opening of the company’s North American Bee Care Center on its Research Triangle Park campus. …
  • “County wants spent brewery grain exempt from FDA rules,” Asheville Citizen-Times News: Buncombe County leaders asked the federal government to exempt spent brewery and distillery grains from new regulations on animal food. They also approved money for a new bus shelter in Swannanoa and asked state lawmakers to consolidate the county’s fire service districts. An additional layer of control and recording keeping under the Food Safety Modernization Act would add more costs to using spent grains from beer breweries and could force local farmers to look elsewhere for feed sources, according to the resolution the Board of County Commissioners approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering the new rules for animal feed under the federal law. …
  • “USDA considers mandatory reports of deadly pig virus outbreaks: industry group,” Chicago Tribune: The United States is considering rules that would require outbreaks of a deadly pig virus to be reported to the government in an effort to improve tracking of the disease, which has already spread to 30 states, an industry group said on Monday. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) has killed millions of baby pigs since it was first detected in the United States a year ago. PEDv has crimped hog supplies in the United States and sent prices to record highs. It remains unclear how the virus entered the country, and farmers have struggled to find ways to contain it. …
  • “Peanut Futures series: Oversupply not deterring more 2014 peanut planting,” Southeast Farm Press: None of the Southeastern row crops has begged to be planted this spring, in terms of price, and peanuts are no different. But despite a supply and demand imbalance, Southeastern farmers still intend to plant significantly more peanuts in 2014 than in 2013. “Peanuts, like corn, cotton and soybeans, aren’t really begging you to plant – they’re just playing alongside the other crops,” says Marshall Lamb, research director at the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award. For the past two years, markets have been somewhat oversupplied, says Lamb. Other crops, he says, are competing for land against peanuts, mainly corn, cotton and soybeans in the Southeast. …
  • “Beef prices reach highest level since 1987,” Hendersonville Times-News: The highest beef prices in almost three decades have arrived just before the start of grilling season, causing sticker shock for both consumers and restaurant owners — and relief isn’t likely anytime soon. …
  • “NC farmers lead country on legal foreign workers,” WRAL: As a push to change U.S. immigration laws stalls, North Carolina farmers have proven adept at legally bringing thousands of temporary agricultural laborers into the United States using a specialized visa program. …
  • “Sticking with tobacco: Some N.C. family farms still see crop as key,” Wilson Times: For the past 10 years, Gerald Tyner has looked forward to seeing tobacco buyout payments arrive. “When they had the buyout, I wasn’t expecting that much out of it,” Tyner said. But the guaranteed money coming into Tyner’s family farming operation has made a difference. The buyout payments, or Tobacco Transition Payments as they’re officially known, end this year. About three weeks ago, tobacco growers and former tobacco quota holders received roughly 95 percent of their anticipated buyout payment. …
  • “With e-cigs falling in gray legal area, there are more questions than answers,” Winston-Salem Journal: A familiar puff of smoke is resurfacing inside some Triad restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. It’s coming from electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge and create a vapor that is inhaled. … The popularity of e-cigs is surging. Analyst Bonnie Herzog of Wells Fargo Securities estimated there was $2 billion in overall e-cig revenue last year. She projects up to $10 billion a year by 2017. …
  • “Whole Foods holding local producer fair in Lake Norman,” Charlotte Observer: Makers of local Whole Foods-type products, listen up: The grocer is inviting local producers to bring their wares for a shot to get on the shelves at the new Lake Norman store. The new Whole Foods is set to open in the fall at the Northcross Commons Shopping Center on Sam Furr Road. The retailer is interested in fruits, vegetables or food products manufactured in the Lake Norman area. … Here’s what Whole Foods says they’re especially interested in: “Coffee, Beer, Wine, Aged cheeses, Hard Cider, Chocolate, Organic soy yogurt, ethnic foods. …
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Savor Fuquay-Varina shines spotlight on local restaurants

You never know where Lisa Prince will show up — from touring the state to film one of the “Flavor NC” episodes for UNC-TV, or on WRAL’s noon newscast for a “Local Dish” segment to her own hometown of Fuquay-Varina in support of local food businesses — she stays busy promoting North Carolina food, food products, restaurants and food businesses.

Recently, Lisa and her sister, Michelle Holland, coordinated the judging for the second Savor Fuquay-Varina food event, something the siblings have quite a bit of experience with as coordinators for the N.C. State Fair cooking contests.  WRAL’s Brian Shrader, who joins Lisa in the kitchen for the weekly “Local Dish” segment, was one of the judges.

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The Savor event is a showcase for local food businesses and a fundraiser for the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce. Participants get to sample some of the tasty creations on the menu of local restaurants as well as local beer and wine. There was also a silent auction, an auction of decorated chairs and music.

This year’s Savor contest featured six categories, representing savory foods, creative dishes, local fare, healthy options, sweet treats and the people’s choice for best dish. First and second place were awarded in each category.

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Nut-covered chocolate and raspberry white chocolate truffles from Stick Boy Bread Co. won in the Savor the Sweet category.

This Lobster Roll, by Chef Joe Fasy for the Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina, wowed the judges in the Healthy Choice category.

This Lobster Roll, by Chef Joe Fasy for the Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina, wowed the judges in the Healthy Choice category.

Following were the winners in each category:

People’s Choice Award — 1st place and a gold fork was awarded to Old North State Catering; the Silver Fork went to Grower’s Market of Fuquay-Varina
Savor’s Best – 1st place to Grower’s Market of Fuquay-Varina for Spinach Ravioli; 2nd place to The Meeting Corner for Voodoo Cuban Sandwich
Viva la Difference — 1st place to Tyler’s Tavern for Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese; 2nd place to Old North State Catering for Cracked Alligator Sliders
Spirit of Fuquay-Varina – 1st place to Bengal Pig BBQ for ribs; 2nd place to Old North State Catering for stuffed chicken breast with sweet potatoes and collards
Healthy Choice — 1st place to Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina for Lobster Roll; 2nd place to Sweet Leaf Café for panini
Savor the Sweet — 1st place to Stick Boy Bread Co. for truffles; 2nd place to The Brick Bar and Grill for Apple Cheesecake

Tyler Fleming of Tyler’s Tavern agreed to share tips and a basic recipe for Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese with our readers. (He has to keep a few secrets of the recipe to himself!) Fleming said the award-winning dish is part of an updated menu at the restaurant at 2213 N. Grassland Drive in Fuquay-Varina. The dish wasn’t too hot for those with a milder taste for heat, but had enough kick to remind you that this was anything-but-ordinary mac and cheese. The distinct flavors of these individually popular dishes married together well. Fleming said guests can look for other spins on this childhood classic on the tavern’s new menu.

Tyler Fleming, pictured center, won top honors in the Viva la Difference category.

Tyler Fleming, pictured second from right, won top honors in the Viva la Difference category.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Use any homemade mac and cheese recipe that you bake in the oven (here’s Fannie Farmer’s Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe from Food.com if you do not have a recipe. Leave off the breadcrumbs.) and add your favorite hot sauce to the mix before baking. The amount you add will depend on your comfort level with heat.
While the mac and cheese is baking, bread four or five chicken tenders and bake or fry. When finished, cut in smaller bites and toss the pieces in hot sauce.
Once the mac and cheese is done, mix in the chicken bites and any sauce left for coating the chicken. Stir through the mac and cheese. Add a few more drops of hot sauce to the entire dish and then cover it with provolone cheese. Place back in oven to melt the cheese. Add ranch dressing on top of the mac and cheese to serve.

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Inter-Faith Food Shuttle receives “eggscellent” donation from Dunkin’ Donuts and NC farm

Removing eggs a Brasswell Foods delivery truck to place in an Inter-Faith food shuttle van going to Catholic Parrish Outreach in Raleigh.

Eggs from a Braswell Foods delivery truck were immediately placed in an Inter-Faith Food Shuttle van going to the Catholic Parrish Outreach in Raleigh.

In advance of Easter, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Raleigh received a generous donation of 81,900 eggs from egg farmers and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Dunkin’ Donuts teamed up with America’s Egg Farmers’ Good Egg Project to donate one egg to Feeding America food banks for every Eggs Benedict Sandwich sold during the first week of March. The eggs delivered on April 16 were provided by Braswell Foods in Nashville, N.C. Inter-Faith Food Shuttle was one of eight food banks across the country to receive an egg donation.

This is the busiest time of year for egg farmer Trey Braswell. His farm produces about 1.8 million eggs per day. That’s a good thing, according to Jan Kelly, executive director of the N.C. Egg Association, because North Carolinians consume about 2 billion eggs each year.

Braswell Foods has partnered with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle since 1994. The food shuttle serves about 185 organizations in and around the Triangle.

 

Egg farmer Trey Braswell of Nashville with his wife Wimberley and Executive Director of the N.C. Egg Association Jan Kelly with 6,825 dozen eggs being dontated to Inter-Faith Food Shuttle

Egg farmer Trey Braswell of Nashville and his wife, Wimberley, with Jan Kelly, executive director of the N.C. Egg Association, with 6,825 dozen eggs being donated to Inter-Faith Food Shuttle

 

 

 

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Choose chocolate animals for Easter baskets, not live ones

Easter-Pets

 Related: Easter pets are a long-term (but rewarding) commitment

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Math and games of chance collide at the NCDA&CS Standards Laboratory

NCDA&CS Metrologist Ashley Lessard checks the diameter of a lottery ball.

NCDA&CS Metrologist Ashley Lessard checks the diameter of a lottery ball.

Once a month, small white balls locked in a case with their own personal security staff make their way to the Standards Laboratory in Raleigh to have their weight and diameter checked. These balls arrive at the lab with two employees that stay with them at all times, something that is usually not allowed for other customers of the lab. These balls just might be the divas of the Standards Laboratory, and it’s for good reason – the right combination makes people winners, and losers, every day.

Each month, the N.C. Education Lottery brings nine sets of the balls used for the Carolina Pick 3, Pick 4 and Cash 5 drawings to the lab to have their mass and diameter checked. Ashley Lessard, a metrologist, checks the diameter of a ball before checking its mass. The ball must easily fit through one hole, and then not fit through another, to pass the diameter check. The mass of the ball is measured and recorded. For a single set of balls the difference in mass between the heaviest and the lightest can be only .15 grams. In comparison, the mass of a dime is 1 gram. About a third of the ball sets are tested each month. These tests are done to ensure the balls have an equal chance during lottery drawings. The standards lab provides lottery officials with third-party certification that there is no more than .15 grams difference in the mass of the balls and that they pass the diameter check. The lab is also required to re-seal all of the sets of balls after they are tested and sign a log confirming chain-of-custody.
“Mass is the biggest thing companies want to get checked at the lab,” Lessard said. “The test performed on the lottery balls would be standard operating procedure 46 in our manual, or basically we are comparing the mass of the lottery balls to our standards and checking the diameter,” Lessard graduated with a masters in applied math from N.C. State University before coming to work at the lab about three years ago.

Lottery balls may be one of the more interesting things the lab weighs but certainly not the only items that are important to consumers in North Carolina. “Probably only a few industries in the state are not touched by the standards lab in some way, said Sharon Woodard, the lab’s manager. “Our lab provides weights and measures services for manufacturing companies, pharmaceutical companies, tire factories, educational facilities and more. Even the N.C. Highway Patrol uses the standards lab to test equipment; we calibrate the load cells that they use to measure the weight of trucks on our roads.” Most companies will use the lab’s services on an annual basis. The N.C. Education Lottery is one of the few customers that has a monthly appointment. Other services the lab provides include volume calibration. The large-volume provers held in a separate area of the lab allows large tanker trucks to back in to have their capacity tested. Small provers check the capacity of five-gallon gas tanks, or any other containers that need to have accurate volume levels. The lab also checks grain-moisture meters.

The N.C. Standards Laboratory is one of two labs in the state accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). The other accredited lab is Transcat, a private lab in Charlotte. NVLAP is a federal program run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that provides accreditation to labs in the United States. All employees of the lab must go through NIST training in Gaithersburg, Md., to learn fundamentals, mass and volume. “We also participate in proficiency tests a few times a year,” Woodard said. “During a proficiency test an item is circulated to accredited labs with instructions to perform various procedures on the object and mail in our results. These results are then compared to other labs for accuracy.”

The lab is currently working towards certification for precision mass and thermometers.

Lessard performing Standard Operating Procedure Eight on lottery balls.

Lessard performs standard operating procedure eight on lottery balls.

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Today’s Topic: Federal grants will support specialty-crop sector

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The 2014 farm bill increased funding for the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to $72.5 million, which should lead to an increase in money allocated to North Carolina.

The federal program aims to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the marketplace. It is funded by USDA, but managed by state agriculture departments. Last year, NCDA&CS was able to award nearly $1.2 million for projects across the state.

The application period in North Carolina is open, and the deadline to apply is May 2. The department will accept grant requests ranging from $20,000 to $200,000 from nonprofit organizations, commodity associations, state and local government agencies, colleges and universities. Grants are not available for projects that directly benefit a single organization, institution or individual.

Projects involving the following specialty crops are eligible: fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants, as well as nursery, floriculture and horticulture crops. Funding is also available for projects aimed at developing local and regional food systems and improving access to food.

Click here for grant guidelines and an application. If you have questions about this program, contact Jeff Camden at 919-707-3111.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss this grant program.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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