Agriculture

The NC National Guard visits a 4-H camp.
NC National Guard / Flickr Creative Commons

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension wants communities across the state to help the organization change its business strategy. 

The Cooperative Extension is in the middle of a series of 12 meetings to adjust to budget cuts.  The group funds agricultural, nutrition and youth education programs like 4-H camps.  Four of those camps are shutting down by the end of the year. 

Cooperative Extension director Joe Zublena  says he's asking people for feedback about which programs matter the most.

NC Sweet Potato Commission

Buyers of sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina will likely pay more for them at the market this year. North Carolina sweet potato growers have led the nation for years in producing the root crop.  State agriculture estimates are that Tar Heels last year produced about 47 percent of the crop nationally.

But Sue Johnson-Langdon of the non-profit North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission says this year's yield fell victim to mid-year rainfall that ranks among the wettest in more than a century.  

Laura Candler

In the supermarket today, you can find about a dozen kinds of apples. But years ago, there were hundreds and hundreds of varieties grown all over the South. North Carolina native Lee Calhoun once had 3,000 apple trees growing in his backyard in Pittsboro. I visited him there recently and he showed what was left.

“This is a remnant of an old orchard I used to have,” he said. “Most of them are gone now. This is an Orange Cauley, a little bit different from a regular Cauley, and this is a Green River --that’s a Kentucky apple.”

An aerial view of BASF's Crop Protection and PlantScience site in Research Triangle Park.
BASF

Officials with a leading plant sciences company have expanded their presence in Research Triangle Park.  BASF cut the ribbon today on new lab, office and greenhouse space.  The expansion cost $33 million. 

The new addition includes an insect production facility, or an "insect zoo," to aid in testing bug-killing agents.  Nigel Armes is BASF's director of research and development.  He says the facility is key in establishing the company as a leader in insecticide production.

Visitors harvest lavender at Bluebird Hill Farm in Chatham County. Agritourism.
Bluebird Hill Farm

The Triangle foodie scene is growing its digital footprint. A new website called TriangleGrown launched by the Destination Marketing Organizations for Orange, Durham, Johnston, Chatham and Wake Counties aims to promote agritourism by being a go-to resource for people interested in exploring the local farming community.

Heavy rain could be reducing farm yields across the state, like this one in western NC.
mystuart via Flickr, creative commons

Record rainfalls across much of North Carolina have resulted in poor crop growth. When there's too much moisture, root systems often don't get a chance to develop fully, and certain nutrients, like nitrogen, also tend to be depleted.

Carl Crozier, soil science professor and extension specialist at N.C. State, says it's a complex issue because of all the different types of soil in North Carolina.

Potato late blight lesion, a fungus-like pathogen on a plant.
Jean Ristaino, NC State University

New research reveals the disease that wiped out millions of potatoes and led to widespread famine in Ireland is still around, and it’s more virulent than ever.  A new study led by NC State University plant pathologist Jean Ristaino investigates the history of the fungus-like organism that caused the Irish potato famine and how its genome has evolved since it first showed up in Ireland in the 1800’s.

Honey Bees
Clinton & Charles Robertson

The past year has been a bad one for America's honeybees, with commercial beekeepers reporting hive losses of up to 50 percent. Some blame the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder; others blame pesticides; and many scientists say we just don't know. 

Mercy for Animals

A bill in the state Senate could put an end to secret videos seeking to expose shoddy business practices.  The N.C Commerce Protection Act would stop advocacy groups from getting hidden-camera evidence of crimes unbeknownst to employers. 

Mercy For Animals made one such video at a Butterball plant in Hoke County in 2011 that led to charges.  The group's lead investigator Matt Rice says the bill would go beyond just animal cruelty.

Strickland Farms tobacco and house
Leoneda Inge

Farmers in North Carolina and around the country are keeping their eyes on Washington, where Congress is crafting a new Farm Bill

The Senate's version cuts more than $2 billion in agricultural spending per year, but includes about $100 billion in subsides over the next five years.  President Obama has asked Senators to find more ways to save money, including cuts to a farm insurance program.

strawberries
NC Strawberry Association

Researchers at N.C. State say oils extracted from herbs and spices could act as a natural disinfectant for fruits and vegetables. 

A joint project with the University of Tennessee aims to find an alternative to chlorine used on produce grown for mass consumption. Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie is a horticultural science professor at N.C. State's research campus in Kannapolis.  She says pungent spices tend to be best at fighting harmful germs.

"They have a very distinct odor, like cinnamon, for instance," Perkins-Veazie says.

USDA photo by Anson Eaglin / flickr

Starvation is often considered a problem distant from the American experience. But for many United States citizens, hunger is a way of life. And many of them live right here in North Carolinians.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 636,000 households in the state have been labeled “food insecure” within the past year. This means that over 17 percent of our families lack consistent access to nutritious food. Families hit hardest by food insecurity are Black, Latino and homes led by single mothers.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
www.ncagr.gov

Farmers and many of those they do business with will gather at the State Fairgrounds Thursday for the annual Ag Development Forum.  State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler will begin his third term in office by discussing the state of the industry.  Ag Department spokesman Brian Long says the meeting will be about much more than just tending crops and animals.  It's about the process of getting the goods to your home.

North Carolina Agriculture products are in growing demand around the world according to new numbers from the US Department of Agriculture.

The USDA reports North Carolina agriculture exports hit 3.75-billion dollars last year.  That makes the state 11th in the nation for overall ag exports.  The latest export numbers also set a record for North Carolina.  Peter Thornton is an International Marketing spokesman for the state ag department.

North Carolina has a significant number of local, niche and pasture based meat producers and consumers, but it lacks enough processors to make the farm to market meat supply chain run as smoothly as possible. On December 3rd and 4th, people involved in all aspects of the meat business in North Carolina will gather in Bermuda Run to work on streamlining the process during the Carolina Meat Conference.

An NC State researcher says a 10-million-dollar gift will mean a stable future for the poultry science program.

North Carolina is one of the nation's leaders in poultry production. Clinton-based Prestage Farms' endowment has given NC State's School of Poultry Science new life.

Mike Williams says, "The concept of poultry science is often hard to sell to new students coming into a program."

An “Ag-Biotech Summit” gets underway in Raleigh today.  It’s the first gathering of its kind in the state.  It will focus on shaping a new “bio-economy.”

Leoneda Inge:  Gwyn Riddick is the Vice-President of Ag-Biotech at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.  He says Agriculture and Biotechnology are the state’s biggest industries.

Gwyn Riddick:  Agriculture which is considered to be around $71-billion dollars, that’s with a “B.” And then Biotechnology, at $64-billion.

North Carolina's top apple-producing county is experiencing its worst crop in decades. That's according to growers and agriculture officials who say this year's unusual weather has devastated many of Henderson County's orchards.

Adam Pryor is a farmer and President of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association. He says the crop was hit hard in April by an overnight frost, after unusually warm weather had caused the trees to start blooming.

Uprooted Innocence

Apr 10, 2012

The United States has child labor laws to protect the safety of its children. However, these laws don't apply to the agriculture industry, where almost half a million children across the nation are employed.

Fans of sustainable farming are meeting in Durham this weekend. The 26th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference seeks to address the growing demand for local and organic food. Fred Broadwell is with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. He says one hot trend is permaculture. It uses observations of nature to design self-sufficient ecosystems.

State agricultural officials travel to eastern North Carolina this week to get an update on recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Leaders from the state Department of Agriculture will meet with farmers today in Rocky Mount and Thursday in Winton. Former Congressman Bob Etheridge is an advisor to the governor for hurricane recovery. He says some crop damage might not be covered by state or federal disaster funds.

A new report released yesterday takes a close-up look at the state of workers in North Carolina’s tobacco fields.

The report – “A State of Fear – Human Rights Abuses in North Carolina’s Tobacco Industry” was produced by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and Oxfam America.  It includes interviews with migrant farm workers, mostly undocumented and representatives of the tobacco industry.


Baldemar Velasquez is president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO. He says the only way to better the lives of the tobacco workers is for industry to step in.

State Agriculture leaders have come up with a “wish list” for the legislature.  They say the measures will help farmers weather future disasters.

Farmers – mainly in eastern North Carolina – are continuing to feel the wrath of Hurricane Irene.  Early estimates put damage to Agriculture at 325-million dollars.  The state Ag Board met at the fairgrounds yesterday to discuss how to help.  Ag department spokesman Brain Long says one idea is for there to be “bridge” loans available for farmers devastated by a disaster.

Bean plataspid
ncsu.edu

An insect that feeds on invasive kudzu is making its way into North Carolina. The so-called kudzu bug was first discovered in Georgia several years ago. Jack Bacheler is an entymologist with N.C. State University. He says the problem is the beetle, called the bean plataspid, also likes crops like soybeans.

Agriculture officials say most of North Carolina’s biggest and most profitable farming operations are in the state’s coastal region that was hit hard by Hurricane Irene.  

Tobacco was one of the hardest hit crops during Hurricane Irene – a 750-million dollar industry.  Brian Long is with the state Agriculture Department.

Brian Long:  "If you think about how much tobacco was still out there, yet to be harvested, and then, Irene’s wind and rain just did a really big number on that crop."

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