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

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."

North Carolina agriculture continues to grow – despite the down economy.

N-C State Agriculture Economist Mike Walden told Agri-business leaders today in R-T-P – the state’s Ag Industry generates nearly 70-billion dollars for North Carolina’s economy.

A major effort is underway to grow North Carolina’s Agricultural Technology Industry. Alexandria Real Estate Equities of California announced yesterday it is building a 50-thousand-square-foot Ag-Tech Center near Research Triangle Park.  More than one-third of the space will be a greenhouse. Amber Shirley is director of Biotechnology-Crops Development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.  She says Alexandria’s greenhouse space will be flexible and collaborative.

Port of Morehead City
NC Ports Authority

  North Carolina agriculture leaders say the state is losing exports to neighbors like Virginia and South Carolina. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told the Ports Authority board almost 90 percent of North Carolina's overseas agricultural exports leave from other states. He says it's too expensive to transport goods to the coast and ports don't have the right equipment to handle large loads.

NC Strawberry Association

The North Carolina Strawberry Association is optimistic about the upcoming season for growers. The weather has been ideal lately and growers are hoping there won’t be extreme temperatures in the coming months.

A food distribution program at UNC-Wilmington is opening a food processing center this week for local farmers. The center will act as a way to deliver locally grown fruits and vegetables to area schools and restaurants. Farmers can store their goods at the center and make a profit from distribution.

Leslie Hossfeld is a co-founder of the program that sponsors the food center, called Feast Down East. She says the facility has partnered with more than 70 restaurants in Wilmington:

North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture is in China this week. This is the second trip to that country since 2009. 

Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler doesn’t necessarily like the long air plane trip to China.   But he says it’s worth it.  Troxler says after the 2009 trade mission – China increased its purchase of North Carolina tobacco by close to 40-percent.  Sales of soybeans and cotton also increased.

Taste Of Place

Jun 23, 2010

Certain places are known for their indigenous foods. Vidalia, Ga. grows sweet onions. The banks of the Indian River in Florida produce outstanding citrus fruits. In some cases, governments go as far as to designate these special places with geographical indications. But what makes some geographical indications associated with certain foods and drink profitable for the farmers and producers in that area? N.C.