Agriculture

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."

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.

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