News Roundup

News Roundup: June 16 – 22

By on June 22, 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.

  • “MO mayor blasts Farm Bill protest before legislature,” Mount Olive Tribune: The N.C. Farm Act of 2018 is strongly supported by Mount Olive Mayor Joe Scott, who spoke before members of the NC General Assembly last week. At that time, Mayor Scott blasted Farm Bill protesters and had choice words for lobbyists and what he called “greedy lawyers.” Scott was invited to speak by Representative Jimmy Dixon, who also supports the Farm Bill. Known as Senate Bill 711, the Farm Act of 2018 was introduced by Sampson County State Senator Brent Jackson (R). Among other things, the Bill purports to protect farmers against unfair trade practices. …
  • “Bees create buzz at UNCP camp,” Robesonian: A summer camp is giving young people a new perspective on a neighborhood insect that typically sends them running. Students in grades seventh through 12th learned Thursday that thousands of bee species pollinate fruits, vegetables, and all kinds of flowering plants during the Kids in the Garden portion of a STEM-oriented summer camp at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke that started Monday and ends June 29. The focus on bees, which took place during the Week of the Pollinator, was one portion of a camp experience to encourage participants to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math. “We’re teaching kids about the importance of nature,” said Nancy Ruppert, apiary inspector for the N.C. Department of Agriculture. “The food we have won’t be available without the pollinators, like the bees.” …
  • “Farmers tickled green over new grader,” The Wilson Times: A new grading machine has made a Wilson County farm the center of the county’s cucumber universe. The Harrell family, fourth-generation farmers near Saratoga, run Agrarian Inc., which purchased the massive grader earlier this year. “We have been growing cucumbers for roughly 20 years now,” said David Harrell, an owner of the company. “This is the first year we have ever graded cucumbers ourselves.” The farm is located off of Good News Church Road north of Saratoga. “It’s just a whole lot of hard work and it’s something that we have wanted to do for a long time,” said David Harrell. “It’s been a long road to get to this point. It’s been a whole lot of sleepless nights, early mornings and I couldn’t have done it at all without our employees and our family. Our entire family is in this business.” Bill Harrell, David’s father, said the grading machine has required a lot of long hard work and a lot of planning. …
  • “Farm Act heads to Cooper,” WRAL:  The legislature’s farm bill, which would protect hog and other farmers from nuisance lawsuits, is headed to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.
    The final measure, amended significantly in the House, cleared the Senate Thursday night on a 32-9 vote. Three Democrats voted for the bill with the Republican majority.
    Cooper will have 10 days to decide whether to sign the bill, and his office has said only that he will review it. The bill cleared both chambers by veto-proof margins, but that margin was razor thin in the House. (A number of legislators were absent during the vote, skewing the numbers.)
    The legislation would limit new lawsuits like the ones moving through the federal courts now. The legislature has moved before to limit these suits, but a jury hit pork giant Smithfield with a $50 million judgment in April. …
  • “Suits against Smithfield could leave hog industry in doubt,” Fayetteville Observer:  The people who live in a row of small homes on a short dirt road leading to Billy Kinlaw’s hog farm don’t have a problem with him, and they don’t want to see him go out of business. Still, those neighbors appeared in federal court in April as plaintiffs in a lawsuit that says Kinlaw’s farm stinks, creates clouds of flies and lowers property values. The neighbors complain about the tractor-trailers that rumble past their homes and the buzzards that swoop in to feed on dead hogs. Some days, they say in the lawsuit, the stench is so bad from thousands of hogs that they can’t go outside. On April 26, a federal jury sided with the neighbors in a $51 million judgment. The jurors ruled that the farm is a legal nuisance and effectively putting Kinlaw out of business. Only four of Kinlaw’s 12 barns still hold hogs. Soon, all of the animals will be gone. …
  • “PLANT-BASED MILK ALTERNATIVES CHANGING DAIRY MARKET,” Southern Farm Network: A new report from CoBank predicts continued double-digit growth in the plant-based milk alternatives market. The report says sales are up 61 percent over the past five years, with slower growth of 15 to 25 percent projected by 2022. At the same time, cow’s milk consumption continues a decades-long slump. However, a CoBank spokesperson says the total volume of alternative milk is “relatively small and is not a major factor behind declining fluid milk sales.” The report found that most consumers who buy alternatives are not completely abandoning milk. The report goes on to say that some traditional dairy companies are adding plant-based alternatives to their portfolios. Even Dean Foods, the largest milk bottler in the United States, recently invested in Good Karma Foods, a plant-based milk and yogurt company. …
  • “N.C. farmers to feel the crunch of retaliatory tariffs,”  Henry Herald: As the trade dispute with China picks up, bigger farms in North Carolina are scrambling to cope with a shrinking market of customers. U.S. agriculture relies heavily on exporting its products overseas, where China is the world’s fastest-growing market and foreign consumers help keep farms in business. North Carolina is a growing part of the international market, but access to that market is now in peril. After President Donald Trump announced his latest tariffs, China joined Canada, Mexico, and the European Union in hitting back against the president. …
  • “Sweet potato transplanting underway,” Sampson Independent: Workers kick up a little dust as they work to transplant sweet potatoes in this Duplin County field. Area farmers in Sampson and neighboring counties are still in the process of setting potatoes. In the latest statistics released by the state Agricultural Department, Sampson ranked No. 1 in the production of sweet potatoes while Duplin ranked 8th. Locally, farmers plant harvest around 13,500 acres each year; our neighbors to the east harvest a little more than 3,200 acres.
  • “Agriculture feeds local economies, the world,” The Virginia Pilot: With one out of every four acres dedicated to producing crops or raising livestock, agriculture is big business in eastern North Carolina. But its ability to grow is facing headwinds. The ‘biggest challenge’ Throughout the state, cash receipts from farm products generated in 2016 totaled $10.6 billion, according to statistics from the N.C. Department of Agricultural (NCDA). In a seven-county area — Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow and Pamlico counties — more than 650,000 acres are dedicated to growing crops or raising livestock on a total of 2,319 farms, according to 2012 census data provided by the NCDA. To put that number in perspective and to illustrate the economic impact that agriculture holds, one out of four acres in this defined 7-county region is committed to agriculture. Melissa Huffman, extension agent at the N.C. Cooperative Extension – Onslow County, said crops grown locally include corn, soybeans, wheat, tobacco, peanuts, and cotton.”The biggest challenge our farmers are facing, at least in the short term, is the weather and trying to get the crop in,” Huffman said, referring to the wet spring. “We’ve got about 68 percent of the soybean crop in across the state, which is actually ahead of the 5-year average for this time of year.” …
  • “Area residents talk potential effects of hog farm suits,” Jacksonsville Daily News: Ongoing litigation in Raleigh between trial lawyers and local swine operators could have a devastating effect on local hog farms. More than 89 lawsuits containing more than 500 plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages against hog farm operations using a “temporary nuisance” statute under North Carolina law, said N.C. Representative Jimmy Dixon. In April, Duplin County farmer Billy Kinlaw lost his case in Federal Court in Raleigh when a jury ruled in favor of Kinlaw’s neighbors in a $51 million judgment, according to court documents. Jurors found the farm to be a legal nuisance. …
  • “Drones used to see what farmers can’t,” Wilson Times: Piloting is not Bobby Vick’s forte. Nonetheless, Vick was able to gently land a quad-copter aerial drone safely back on its target undamaged. “I don’t generally fly them,” said Vick, a solutions engineer with PrecisionHawk. “The great thing about these drones is literally when you put them in the air, they fly themselves.” Vick and a team from the commercial drone company used two drones to gather imagery of a Wilson tobacco field Monday. The research project is led by North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences doctoral student Joshua Henry, in collaboration with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson, Vick Family Farms and PrecisionHawk. “All you have to do is tell the drone where to go,” Vick said. “The software is telling the drone what positions to go to and what altitude and speed to fly. The drone actually flies itself. Any one of us out here could fly these drones in five minutes time and feel comfortable doing it. It’s not a hard process to learn.” Henry said drones are specifically suited for the study because they are able to fly over and get a lot of information very quickly. …
  • “Ag committee weighs in on nuisance ordinance,” Hendersonville Times-News: As Mills River gets ready to enact a nuisance ordinance covering everything from excessive noise to junk cars, the town’s agricultural leaders weighed in on what language could help make sure farmers don’t run afoul of the new ordinance simply for doing their jobs.
    At the Mills River Agricultural Advisory Committee meeting Friday morning, Town Manager Jeff Wells laid out the details of the ordinance town staff has been writing with the planning board for several months, using Henderson County’s ordinance as a guide. If adopted by the town council, the ordinance will cover things like improper sewage disposal, high grass, junk cars, scrap metal, abandoned manufactured homes, infestations of vermin and more. The proposed ordinance, as currently written, provides an exemption to the requirements for agricultural operations with at least three acres actively used for agricultural purposes. Members of the ag advisory committee Friday were concerned about the specificity of the definition of agricultural use and the three-acre benchmark, with Chairman Bert Lemkes, of Tri-Hishtil, saying that a one-acre greenhouse can be quite a profitable operation, but wouldn’t be covered under this exemption as written. There were also concerns about whether the three acres would have to be all contiguous, or whether someone with a total of the three acres combined would also fall under the exemption. Wells reported that the three acres is a fairly standard measurement across zoning ordinances, and that he would think if a farmer or other ag business had a combined three acres, the exemption would apply. …
  • “Good things abound at the farmers’ market,” Greenville Daily Reflector: “I dig dirt!” exclaimed a small boy via the T-shirt he was wearing at the Leroy James Farmers’ Market.
    Those words express the attitude of many people who appreciate the soil and the good things that come from it. La Rita Johnson is one of those people. As market manager, she works to fill the stalls each week with local vendors who sell good things and create an atmosphere she hopes will bring more people out to the facility on County Home Road south of Greenville.  Most Saturdays, the long interior hallway brims with 32 vendors. Sometimes they spill out onto the lawn. “When the vendors are happy, I’m happy,” said Johnson.

Ice cream, lemonade and berries galore at the State Farmers Market Blueberry Day

By on June 21, 2018

In North Carolina, summer isn’t defined by blue skies, sunny days and barbecue – we have that all year long. Instead, we know it’s summer when blueberry season rolls around. Fittingly, Blueberry Day at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh

Today's Topic

Today’s Topic: Farmers markets across the state hitting the peak of season

By on June 20, 2018

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.” When the weather heats up, consumers will find more and more offerings at their local farmers market. In June and July, markets

Caring in Cary: Protecting unique hemlocks from a tiny tree-killing insect

By on June 20, 2018

Nestled in Cary, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is home to an isolated population of more than 200 eastern hemlock trees. Hemlocks, primarily found in the mountains, are long-lived evergreens prized in nature for their vital role in the ecosystem and

Celebrate Pollinator Week with the latest buzz from a local startup

By on June 19, 2018

If you want to save the bees, you may have to start by thinking like one. That’s the key to sustainable success for 25-year-old Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, founder and CEO of the 2014 Durham startup, Bee Downtown. Bonner claims her passion

A Little River forces Herculean efforts to save the future of countless forests

By on June 16, 2018

The future of many forests floated away after Hurricane Matthew’s relentless barrage of rain in October 2016. More than 15 inches in under 24 hours spilled into the Little River, as well as its tributaries and canals around the N.C.

News Roundup

News Roundup: June 9 – 15

By on June 15, 2018

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

Recipe: Celebrating the blueberry

By on June 14, 2018

Spring may belong to the strawberry, but when it’s summertime in North Carolina we have the blues. Fresh, ripe, NC-grown blueberries play a dual role of being a healthy snack and a part of delicious desserts. North Carolina ranks sixth

Agriculture and America’s favorite past time

By on June 13, 2018

Summer may officially start next week, but across the state the boys of summer have been filling stadiums with cheering fans for months. Agriculture figures pretty prominently in baseball from the uniforms to the snacks to the field. Check out

Disease of Leyland Cypress on the Rise

By on June 13, 2018

Leyland cypress is a popular tree in North Carolina landscapes. Desired for its fast growth and evergreen needles, it makes an ideal wind or privacy screen. However, it can’t serve that purpose very well if branches are dying. Unfortunately, that’s