TheFirstFurrow

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 Principles For Progress

The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of NC Field and Family.

Mergers showcase the need for competitive choice

Progress has been a guiding principle of farming since before North Carolina’s first Commissioner of Agriculture Leonidas L. Polk established Progressive Farmer magazine in 1887, after serving in office.

With each new season of the year, it seems there is also a huge new merger or acquisition being announced in the name of progress. With the dizzying pace of consolidation in agribusiness, it seems appropriate to consider both sides of this double-edged sword. Is consolidation beneficial to farmers and consumers? Or do these legal strategies lessen competition to the point where too many options vanish?

According to industry analysts, these deals may result in increased efficiencies, crop yields and time savings, so we’re typically told this merger or that acquisition is ultimately for the benefit of farmers and consumers. Yet, is consolidation the only way, and the best way, to achieve progress?

What makes our economy prosperous? Is the answer independent, strong small businesses? Or, is it the consolidation of large corporations? Like most things in life, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Ideally, we’d like everyone to be prosperous. But one thing is certain: Farmers and consumers need choice!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 NCFB’s 82nd Annual Convention

In a few days, North Carolina Farm Bureau members and voting delegates will travel to Greensboro, NC for the organization’s 82nd Annual Convention. The event is a celebration of the year’s work: growing the membership, advocating for farmers and rural families, telling the story of North Carolina agriculture, and investing in the future of our state. But the convention is also the culmination of the year’s policy development process — a process that, for more than 80 years, has exemplified the true grassroots spirit of Farm Bureau.

We’ve discussed Policy Review Day in the past, and have talked about how that event kicks off the policy development process.

During the fall, those policy resolutions go back to all 100 counties and are reviewed, debated, and in some cases modified. This involves countless hours of input from thousands of farmers across the state. All of those county recommendations came together earlier this week and were reviewed again by a 100-person committee comprised of farmers.

At Annual Convention, those resolutions will again be discussed by a voting delegate body of more than 600 farmer members. The process is thorough, comprehensive, and is a wonderful example of how North Carolina Farm Bureau has remained true to its grassroots foundations.

As always, we look forward to next week’s Annual Convention, and we are proud of what it means for this organization and North Carolina agriculture.

READ: Eighty Years of Service for North Carolina Farm Bureau

Wednesday, November 22, 2017 Average Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Decreases

From American Farm Bureau Newsroom

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey shows diners will enjoy a slightly more affordable Thanksgiving dinner this year. Micheal Clements has more.

Clements: The 32nd annual informal Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey shows consumers continue to enjoy an affordable food supply as this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is the most affordable in five years. The average cost for 10 for a classic Thanksgiving Dinner decreased less than two percent, remaining under $5 per-person, according to AFBF market intelligence director John Newton.

Newton: The price of Thanksgiving Dinner is $49.12, that’s down 75 cents, or one and a half percent from last year and shows that the Thanksgiving dinner is down for the second consecutive year in a row and remains below five dollars per-person.

Clements: The decline was driven by lower retail turkey prices, along with lower prices for milk and rolls. The average cost of turkey this year is $22.38 for the whole bird.

Newton: Wholesale turkey prices are at their lowest level since 2013, and given that the turkey represents nearly 50 percent of the basket’s total, it’s the biggest factor driving the price decline. Turkey prices came this year in at $1.40 per-pound, that’s down two cents from what we saw last year.

Clements: Meanwhile, the supply of pumpkins for processing for pumpkin pie has rebounded from a couple of years ago.

Newton: The supply of pumpkins this year should be more than adequate. We’ve had favorable growing conditions for two consecutive years in a row in Illinois, where the majority of pumpkins are produced.

Clements: Full survey results are available at www.fb.org. Micheal Clements, Washington.

2016 Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey: Thanksgiving Dinner Ticks Down to Less Than $5 Per Person

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 Announcing the North Carolina Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists

Agriculture is the foundation of North Carolina’s rural economies, and plays a key role in strengthening and supporting our state’s rural communities. But another vital component of rural economic development is rural entrepreneurship – the innovators and creators who build upon the entrepreneurial spirit of agriculture by adding value, developing solutions, and investing in the communities they love.

North Carolina’s growing population is a fertile market for farm direct agricultural consumption. Farmers engaging in on-farm entrepreneurship benefit the state and their neighbors through stewardship of natural resources, creating local economic value, fostering a sense of community and preserving North Carolina’s cultural heritage. Among the types of businesses North Carolina’s rural and farm community develop are experiential businesses such as agritourism, product-based businesses such as farm made foods, value-added products, and crafts and service businesses targeted to the public or other farmers.

North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud to recognize our state’s agriculture and food innovation. This year, for the first time, North Carolina Farm Bureau members will select the North Carolina Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year. From a strong field of 44 applicants, three finalists have been selected based on their impact in rural North Carolina, their impact to the agricultural community, and for the innovation and creativity of their business ideas. The finalists will attend NCFB’s Annual Convention and pitch their businesses to NCFB volunteer leaders, who will vote to decide this year’s winner. The three finalists are:

Devine Farms is an important member of the Catawba County agriculture community. When judges reviewed their application they were impressed with how the Devines have worked with their community to partner with local schools, businesses and non-profits. Judges were particularly impressed with Devine Farms’ purpose to educate individuals about “agriculture, history and how food is produced.” The judges noted, “Their focus on agritourism is a model for other farms attempting to do similar projects.”

 

Fonta Flora Brewery is a fixture in the revival of downtown Morganton. The judges reviewing their application were impressed with their positive impact on jobs in the community. They were also impressed with their dedication to sourcing local ingredients from local farms. Judges also noted that the purchase of a local farm will enable the brewery to produce some of their own ingredients and will further increase the economic impact of the brewery through additional jobs.

 

Four Prongs Tea and Herb located in Watauga County is a value added medicinal herb business. Ginseng is a heritage herb product from Western North Carolina. While the market for ginseng roots is well established, the tops have been considered a waste product—no one uses them, that is until now by Four Prongs Tea and Herb. Judges reviewing their application were impressed by the knowledge base of company founders and the potential to add sales of tea made from ginseng leaves to an already established market for ginseng roots. Judges noted that “Their idea capitalizes on a sustainable niche.”

 

North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud of all this year’s applicants and we wish the best of luck to Devine Farms, Fonta Flora Brewery, and Four Prongs Tea and Herb as they compete for this year’s award. We’re excited to see what you’ll think of next!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 18 Factoids About Turkeys

You can fry it, roast it, smoke it, cook it upside-down or even in a bag. But regardless of how you fix it, the centerpiece of most dinner tables this Thanksgiving will be a turkey. We were planning to give a brief history lesson of how turkey became the America’s Thanksgiving staple but apparently it is a matter of much debate, so we’ll steer clear. However, we will take the opportunity to show our appreciation to the hardworking farmers that provide this delicious Thanksgiving centerpiece every year by highlighting the importance of this commodity to our state with some great facts. So this year while shopping for that perfect turkey be sure to think about our turkey producers and maybe share a few of these fun facts around the table.

18 factoids about turkeys

  1. North Carolina ranks second in the nation in turkey production
  2. In 2016, more than 1.2 billion pounds of turkey were produced in NC
  3. Turkey, NC (near Clinton) is one of only three towns in the U.S. named Turkey
  4. 33.5 million turkeys were produced last year in NC
  5. The most turkeys ever produced in NC was in 1992 when farmers raised 62 million turkeys
  6. Last year, the value of turkey production was nearly $1 billion
  7. In 2016, the average American consumed about 16.7 pounds of turkey
  8. Headquartered in Garner, Butterball is the largest producer of turkey products in the U.S.
  9. The male turkey is called a tom and the female turkey is called a hen
  10. The “Turkey Trot” (ballroom dance) was actually named for the short, jerky steps that turkeys take
  11. Turkeys can see in color but not well at night
  12. Turkeys are related to pheasants and lived almost ten million years ago
  13. Turkey consumption more than doubled since 1970
  14. In 2015, turkey was the #4 protein choice for American consumers
  15. Almost 70 percent of U.S. turkey exports go to Mexico
  16. Turkey eggs hatch in 28 days
  17. Turkey is low in fat and has more protein than chicken or beef
  18. A 15 pound turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat
Wednesday, November 1, 2017 2017 Legislative Long Session Recap

The NC General Assembly adjourned (again) a couple weeks ago, and with November officially upon us it’s probably as good a time as any to put a bow on this year’s legislative session. Overall, it was a good session for North Carolina agriculture, with the General Assembly enacting several important measures to help farmers. Today, we want to give you a quick overview of a few key legislative actions.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 5 Questions with Senator Brent Jackson

Brent Jackson was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 2010 and is currently serving his fourth term representing Duplin, Johnston, and Sampson counties. He is the co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee and serves on numerous other committees as well.

Jackson and his wife Debbie are first generation farmers, starting Jackson Farming Company in Sampson County in 1981. They currently grow watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydews, strawberries, pumpkins, corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, flue-cured tobacco, occasionally cotton, and various other crops.

Question #1: There are only five North Carolina legislators (about 2% of the General Assembly) who list farming as their occupation. As a farmer, what perspective do you bring to the General Assembly? Conversely, is there anything you’ve learned as a legislator that has given you new perspective on the farm?

There are a wide variety of backgrounds amongst my fellow legislators, and I believe that everyone’s individual and unique experiences are a source of value. As a farmer, I have tried to ensure that my colleagues know where their food comes from and the work that goes into putting food on the shelves. I have also made it a point to stress the goodness of American agriculture and the wonderful and exciting career opportunities that exist, especially for young people.

Question #2: In your opinion, what is the most significant state-level issue facing farmers in North Carolina? And what is one issue that may not be on the front-burner for farmers that you think they need to pay more attention to? Why?

I think there are several main issues that we will have to continue to work on at the state level. The first is labor, although mainly a federal issue and President Trump and Congress are working on a solution. However, it is important that from a state level, we are careful not to pass laws making it more difficult for farmers to use a legal workforce. Without a reliable and legal workforce, crops cannot be harvested.

We must also make sure that our regulatory framework is set up to foster growth in the industry and recognize that one-size-fits-all regulations rarely work in farming. Water rights will continue to be an issue that we must remain vigilant on. It will be important for farmers to make their voices heard as the EPA goes about reviewing and rewriting the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule.

Farming is a way of life in rural North Carolina, and we must do a good job working with our urban citizens to ensure that rural and urban North Carolina works in harmony.

Another issue that we must tackle to ensure the future of farming is the average of the farmer, which in North Carolina is in the mid-50s. Too many of our children in rural communities are moving off the farm and to the cities. It is crucial that we make sure we inspire the next generation of farmers and expose our children to the career options that the ag industry offers. We must also make sure that we help first-generation farmers overcome the barriers to entry, especially given the price of equipment and land.

Question #3: Obviously, you’re very involved in agriculture policy at the legislature. What is another policy area you spend a lot of time working on?
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 Farmers Are Multi-Skilled For a Single Purpose

The following article was written by Jessica Walker Boehm and appears in the Fall 2017 issue of North Carolina Field and Family.

Ask a farmer what he or she does on a daily basis, and you’re bound to get a wide variety of answers – there’s planting crops, evaluating soil, predicting weather patterns, caring for livestock, repairing and maintaining equipment, keeping detailed financial records, and much more.

As a result, it’s easy to conclude that farmers routinely multitask their abilities and develop new skills to get the daily job done efficiently and safely. Often, they switch from one role to the next without skipping a beat, constantly working to master new methods and skills that might better serve their farms and livestock.

multi-skilled farmers

“Before I worked in agriculture, I thought you just put a seed in the ground and watched it grow, then had something to harvest at the end of the season,” says Russell Hedrick, a first-generation farmer who owns JRH Grain Farms in Hickory. “I had no idea about the technology you can employ to ensure you grow a better crop, and I didn’t realize how much I would learn once I was immersed in this occupation.”

MORE THAN A FARMER

Just of few of the skills farmers master to accomplish their jobs:

  • accountant
  • advocate
  • conservationist
  • educator
  • entrepreneur
  • feed consultant
  • marketer
  • mechanic
  • meteorologist
  • public speaker
  • researcher
  • soil scientist
  • technology expert
  • veterinarian
  • welder

Established in 2012, JRH Grain Farms is a 1,000-acre, no-till operation that includes corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, oats and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), as well as pasture-raised beef cattle, Katahdin sheep and Berkshire pigs.

JRH Grain Farms also has a seed- cleaning facility that serves various local farms, and Hedrick says his farm is the only one in the state that produces bourbon. Additionally, Hedrick makes legal moonshine and stone-ground grits and cornmeal.

His operation has evolved over the years as he has continued to learn about soil science and technology. For example, he now uses sensors buried 48 inches in the ground to monitor soil moisture and temperature, as well as rooting depth and electrical conductivity, helping him to conserve water.

Hedrick has also worked with scientists and researchers across the U.S. to reduce his farm’s soil fertility needs by approximately 70 percent, which further contributes to his conservation efforts and results in significant cost savings. In addition, he has created a cover crop by blending five different plants that helps limit soil erosion, suppress winter weeds, scavenge excess nutrients from the preceding crop and improve the soil’s biological health.

multi-skilled farmers

Russell Hedrick of JRH Grain Farms

He sharpens his educator skills regularly, sharing his knowledge with other farmers who might also bene t from it. Hedrick hosts a Field Day each year that features guest speakers like Ray Archuleta, a famed North Carolina conservation agronomist, where farmers have the opportunity to learn how they can enhance their operations and improve their soil without damaging the environment.

In addition, Hedrick is a businessman, marketing his products directly to consumers using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, and he promotes agriculture by working with organizations like Catawba County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers team and the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

“I try to advocate for agriculture any way I can,” Hedrick says. “Here in Catawba County, we have Farm to Fork Week every June, and the last two years my farm has hosted a daylong event. Members of the community have come out and looked at our equipment and our operation, and this year we hosted kids of all ages.”