Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NC Organic Initiative


Raleigh, NC. (Nov. 22, 2011) USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for a national initiative being offered in North Carolina. Administered under the 2008 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative helps certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic production meet their conservation goals. Technical and financial assistance will help producers plan and implement conservation practices to allow their organic operations to be environmentally sustainable.

Funding for the EQIP Organic Initiative will be available soon. Now is the time for certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic productions to work with their local USDA Service Center to establish eligibility and apply so that their applications can be considered when funds become available.

EQIP is primarily used to provide financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices to address soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources. An organic provision targets organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production:

  • Assistance is for conservation practices related to organic production
  • Assistance is limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 during a six year period
  • Producers are required to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan (OSP) or carry out practices consistent with an OSP
  • Producers must be pursing an organic certification or in compliance with their organic certification The initiative is available for farmers who are certified organic, transitioning to certified organic, or organic exempt according to USDA’s National Organic Program regulations. Farmers can submit applications for the initiative anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin ranking eligible EQIP Organic Initiative applications on February 3, 2012 for possible funding. Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit. For an application to be considered complete for ranking all land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met. Applications that are not complete by the first ranking date will be deferred to the next ranking period, which is anticipated to occur on March 30 and June 1, 2012.

Under the EQIP Organic Initiative applicants can apply for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources including: experimenting with cover crops and crop rotations, installing intensive grazing infrastructure (grazing plans, internal fencing and water lines), establishing wildlife and pollinator friendly habitat, and installing seasonal high tunnels. Applicants who apply for the national initiative can also apply for conservation practices under the general EQIP program.

Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives; locations are listed on-line at or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

High Tunnel Initiative


Raleigh, NC. (Nov. 21,2011) – Longer growing seasons, conserving natural resources and providing a greater supply of locally grown food are all advantages for the farmers who participle in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative. The initiative is offered under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and funding availability is to be available soon for eligible applicants.

Farmers can submit applications for the initiative at anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin the application ranking process for the EQIP Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative on February 3, 2012 for possible funding. Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit. For an application to be considered for ranking all land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met.

The initiative will provide opportunities for farmers to establish seasonal high tunnel systems for crops and for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources. Applicants who apply for the national EQIP initiative can also apply for conservation practices under the state administered Farm Bill conservation programs.

The 2008 Farm Bill provides additional incentives for farmers, who are beginning, have limited resources, or who are socially disadvantaged. Such farmers can receive up to 90 percent of the costs associated with planning and implementing certain conservation practices and up to 30 percent of expected costs may be provided in advance.

Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives; locations are listed on-line at or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amy's Kitchen Informational Meeting, November 28

Amy's Kitchen Informational Meeting

Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center

455 Research Drive
Mills River, NC 28759

Please join us Monday Nov. 28th from 9:00am - 11:00 am to meet with John Aselage, the Organic Purchasing Manager for Amy's Kitchen. Amy's Kitchen in the nations largest organic prepared food manufacturer and will be opening a facility in Greenville, SC. in the summer of 2012. They are very interested in sourcing local organic products to be used in the Greenville plant. John Aselage will discuss Amy's Kitchen's standards for production and processing and procedures for getting into their supply chain. Here is a link to their website:

This event is for growers (organic, transitioning, or growers interested in organic), processors, researchers, crop consultants and those interested in organic food production in the region. Parking is available on site.

Please contact Karen McSwain if you have any questions.


DIRECTIONS: From Interstate 26, take Exit #40 (the Asheville Regional Airport exit). At the top of the exit ramp turn toward the airport onto NC Hwy 280. Just past the end of the airport runway, the highway curves to the right. Turn right at the first road after the runway onto Old Fanning Bridge Road. After ~1 mile, cross the French Broad river, and ~1/2 mile later the MHCR&EC office building is on the right at the top of the hill. A map and further location details are available at

Meeting is hosted by:

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association


North Carolina Cooperative Extension

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Study Finds that Salmonella Can Enter Tomatoes Through Leaves at VERY High Concentrations

From Food Safety News November 11

Salmonella Can Enter Tomatoes Through Leaves
By Gretchen Goetz

Recently scientists have been exploring whether or not pathogens can enter fruits and vegetables through plant parts, and have found that bacteria can indeed be taken in through the roots. Now new research shows that the leaves of tomato plants are a possible point of entry for Salmonella.

A study from the University of Florida, released Wednesday by PloS ONE publications, revealed that after leaves of tomato plants were exposed to high concentrations of Salmonella, the bacteria traveled through the plant and contaminated some of the fruit.

Researchers found that 1.5 percent of tomatoes whose leaves had been dipped into a solution with a high concentration of Salmonella then tested positive for the bacteria.

However, these findings don't mean that 1 or 2 out of every 100 tomatoes in the field will be contaminated if their leaves come into contact with Salmonella. The concentrations of Salmonella used for the study were much greater than what plants would normally be exposed to, says Ariena van Bruggen, the study's lead author, a professor of plant pathology and member of UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.

This unusually high concentration of Salmonella was necessary, says van Bruggen, in order to ensure that if the bacteria did get through to the fruit, it would be detectable among the smaller sample size of a greenhouse full of tomatoes.

"If you use a normal Salmonella concentration that you would find in the field, you would have to test say 10,000 plants or so," she explained to Food Safety News.

The take-home message, she says, is that leaf-to-tomato contamination "can happen, but the chance is low."

"That should be stressed," she notes, "so that we don't create any panic."

But the fact that such means of contamination is possible is a reminder that growers need to be careful to review safety plans, for factors such as the source of their irrigation water or wild animal encroachment, because given the quantities of tomatoes produced in America, some tomatoes in a field where thousands of leaves are exposed to Salmonella could become contaminated, notes van Bruggen.

"It's just because we consume so many tomatoes, somebody could become ill at some point," she says.

And even that small risk is reason for safety precautions. The tomato industry brings in an estimated $619 million per year, and damaged consumer confidence could have a devastating effect on producers.

In 2008 when a Salmonella outbreak was incorrectly linked to domestic tomatoes, consumers stopped buying fresh tomatoes, and growers lost an estimated $100 million.
The study also came with a kernel of good news: contaminated seeds do not seem to contaminate the plants they produce.

"Somehow seed contamination doesn't survive in the next generation," says van Bruggen, who explained that her team planted contaminated seeds harvested from the plants that acquired Salmonella through their leaves and tested the fruits they produced, finding no Salmonella.

Organic Food No Guarantee Against Foodborne Illness

By Madhu Rajaraman, NEWS21

Original Link:

Eating organic may limit your exposure to pesticides. It may make you feel environmentally conscious. It can help support local farmers.

But scientists warn it won't necessarily protect you against foodborne illnesses. Organics, like conventionally farmed foods, can harbor dangerous pathogens including E. coli and salmonella.

A 2006 study in the Journal of Food Science did not find a significant difference in the prevalence of E. coli between organic and conventional produce. And a 2009 Kansas State University study did not find a difference in the prevalence of E. coli between organically and conventionally raised cattle.

Organic foods have caused their share of outbreaks of disease. Last winter, for example, sprouts from an organic farm in Illinois infected at least 140 people in 26 states and the District of Columbia with salmonella. And over a three-month period in 2011, a massive outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli linked to sprouts from an organic farm in Germany killed 50 people and sickened more than 4,300 in several countries.

Organics are a big business in the U.S. Sales of organic food and beverages totaled $26.7 billion in 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association, with sales of fruits and vegetables up nearly 12 percent over 2009.

Consumers buy organic for a number of reasons, including to avoid certain pesticides, to encourage smaller farms and to support agriculture that doesn't introduce harsh substances into the environment. In a June 2011 health survey by Thomson Reuters and National Public Radio, 58 percent of respondents said they preferred organic over non-organic foods. The most popular reasons cited: to avoid toxins and support local farmers.

Despite the public's favorable perceptions, however, "the science doesn't show a difference," said David Lineback, senior fellow in food safety at the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the University of Maryland.

Federal organic standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture do not include explicit requirements for food safety, nor are they intended to. The primary purpose of organic farming is not to prevent foodborne illness but to practice and promote environmentally sustainable agriculture.

"We don't purport that organic is healthier than conventional food," said USDA spokeswoman Soo Kim.

"The organic standards do not directly address issues of food safety but instead production and processing and handling methods of agricultural products," Kim said in an email. But, she added, "organic certification by the USDA doesn't preclude any operation from having to meet the food safety and environmental requirements" of two other federal bodies: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Organic labeling standards are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.

For crops, this means growing on land without the application of any prohibited substances (as defined in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990) and without the use of genetically modified organisms, most conventional pesticides or sewage sludge, for example. Organic livestock must be raised without hormones, fed 100 percent organic feed without byproducts and given year-round access to the outdoors.

Carrie Vaughn, vegetable production manager of the recently certified organic Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Md., said she believes the food safety risks are lower on her farm because of strict standards for manure composting that come with organic certification.

USDA's organic program requires composted manure to be heated to at least 131 F for a minimum of either three or 15 days (depending on the composting system) in order to reduce pathogens.

Vaughn said the close relationship she has with her buyers and their families motivates her to be vigilant about food safety in the field. "It's terrifying for me as a grower to think that I could grow something that could kill a small child," she said. "So we're careful on the farm, and we also work directly with our customers. ... If something ever happened, it would be so easy to trace that contamination back to us."

Lineback, at JIFSAN, remains skeptical of what he calls consumers' "I-know- the-farmer" attitude. That trust, he said, is rooted not in science but in consumers' feelings about food and a distrust of corporate agriculture.

There is even debate over whether organic food is more nutritious, as proponents maintain. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2010 that a study of 50 years of academic articles on the topic found that organic and conventional foods are nutritionally comparable.

So, which is better for you: organic or conventional? In the end, as Lineback noted, "it's a matter of choice and what people believe."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spotted Wing Drosophila Survey

See below note from NCSU Small Fruit and Specialty Crops Entomologist, Dr. Hannah Burrack:

As many of you are aware, we had significant issues with spotted wing drosophila (SWD) in raspberries, blackberries, and other (persimmons, kiwi, etc) crops in North Carolina this year. My lab has received funding for 2012 from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. These funds will allow us to conduct management (chemical, non-chemical, and post harvest) research & extension as well continue our monitoring efforts for next year.

There's more work needed on SWD than we can do in a year. In order to secure funding for the future, I am working with a group of scientists in the eastern US to submit a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative proposal to study SWD. To make sure that our proposal is addressing the right questions, we are seeking input from stakeholders affected or potentially affected by SWD, including you!

If you have experience with an concerns about SWD, please consider filling out the stakeholder survey here:

Please also feel free to share this survey with others. I'd like to receive responses back by December 1.

On a related note, I will be presenting an update on SWD status and our 2011 research findings on December 8 at 10am. You can link to the webinar here:

You can read more about SWD in North Carolina here:

Nickels for Know How Referendum: Support Ag, Extension and Teaching

A self-assessed, state-wide check-off that supports agricultural research, extension, and teaching programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at NC State University will be held Wednesday, November 16, 2011 subject to approval by the Board of Agriculture.

Users of feed and fertilizer in North Carolina will vote on November 16 whether to continue the voluntary 15 cents per ton self-assessment on fertilizer and animal feed produced in our state. Since 1951, the Nickels check-off has been voted on every six years and has passed in the 13 previous referenda by an average 90% favorable vote.

Co-Chairs of the November 16 Referendum are Mr. Larry Wooten, President of the NC Farm Bureau, Mr. Jimmy Gentry, President of the NC State Grange and Mr. James I. (Jim) Smith, Chairman of the NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc. and a farmer from Stem, North Carolina.

Dean Johnny C. Wynne of CALS says: “Virtually every significant advancement in agriculture in the last 60 years has received Nickels funding at some point. Without Nickels, our College would not be able to serve the citizens of North Carolina as well as we do.”

In addition, Nickels for Know-How provides support for fund raising efforts in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that generate over $20 million annually in private contributions. This is a $50 return on every $1 dollar invested. Some of the entities that Nickels provides support include the NC Cooperative Extension Service Foundation, the CALS Research Foundation, the NC 4-H Development Fund, the NC FFA Foundation, the NC Family & Consumer Sciences Foundation, the NC Dairy Foundation, the CALS Alumni and Friends Society, and the JC Raulston Arboretum Board of Directors.

Nickels funds have helped the College to raise funds for over 550 endowments valued at over $100 million that provide $900,000 in support of scholarships for 800 undergraduate students in the College. In addition, these endowments support faculty efforts, county extension programs, commodity research efforts, and other programs in CALS.

Efforts to keep rural agricultural students at NC State through the “Spend a Day at State” program, the CALS Student Ambassadors Program, CALS Teaching and Advising Awards, Workshops for High School Vocational Agriculture Teachers, On-Campus Internships and Annual Scholarship Enhancement are also funded by Nickels.

Since 1951, most of the state’s research-based agricultural advances have at some point shared Nickels funds. Some examples of those faculty-driven projects are as follows:

  • Construction of the NC State University research-based feedmill – the only facility of its kind in the US.
  • Switchgrass varieties as feedstock for bioethanol production.
  • Family & community disaster preparedness education.
  • Strengthening agricultural programming in 4-H through commodity groups.
  • International competitiveness of the NC swine industry.
  • Helping NC Farmers survive during difficult times.
  • Developing 4-H livestock programs and educational materials
  • Using vitamin E to improve pork quality.
  • Alternatives to herbicide spraying for woody vegetation.
  • Integrating swine waste mgmt. with greenhouse tomato production.
  • Off-season production of small fruits.
  • Development of a method for estimating potato yield losses.
  • Processing mortality silage into valuable poultry and swine feed products.
  • Fertility regimes for high density apple orchards in Western, NC.
  • Using animal waste for horticultural compost production.
  • Assessment of flood impacts on agricultural soils in NC.
  • Profitable peach production as part of a diversified farming operation in NC.
  • Evaluation of cover crops & conservation tillage for conventional & organic sweetpotato production in NC.
  • Development and delivery of on-farm HACCP educational safety programs.
  • New forage grazing strategies to improved conversion of grass to beef.
  • Development of niche markets for new orange and yellow watermelon cultivars.
  • Integrated strategies to minimize disease risk & enhance strawberry enterprises.
  • Development of an online course on Feed Mill management.
  • Enhancing quality and safety of North Carolina specialty meat products.
  • Building a superior striped bass.
  • Wheat transformation for drought tolerance.

These are just a few of the ways Nickels for Know-How has worked to support North Carolina farmers and agribusinesses. NC State University is grateful to the citizens who make this possible by voting on November 16, 2011 for the statewide Nickels Referendum.

Polling Places:

Haywood County

  • County Cooperative Extension Service Office located at 589 Raccoon Road, Waynesville
Henderson County
  • County Cooperative Extension Service Office located at 100 Jackson Park Rd (formerly 740 Glover St.) in Jackson Park, Hendersonville
  • Valley AG Farm and Garden Supply located at 4221 Boylston Highway, Mills River
  • Crop Production Services (CPS) located at 1657 Sugarloaf Rd, Hendersonville
  • Helena located at 3590B Chimney Rock Rd (64), Hendersonville
  • Coastal AgroBusiness Inc located at 814 McMurray Rd, Flat Rock
Buncombe County
  • County Cooperative Extension Service Office located at 94 Coxe Ave in downtown Asheville

For addition information on the Nickels for Know-How November 16 Referendum or the Nickels Program, please contact Keith Oakley at 919.515.9262 or at

Grant Applications for the WNC AgOptions 2012 Cycle!

We are so excited and pleased to announce that WNC AgOptions Grant Program applications are now available!

Grants of $3,000 and $6,000 will be awarded to individual farmers proposing diversification projects that boost economic viability of their businesses. Awards of up to $10,000 will go to three farmer-led groups working to solve processing, packaging, marketing and other distribution needs of the local agriculture system.

Applications for the two grant opportunities are available at and at the local Cooperative Extension Centers. Interested applicants must contact their local Extension Agents by November 16 to notify them that they intend to apply. The application postmark deadline is December 1.

Eligible farms are in: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural Options:; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission:; WNC Communities:; Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, RAFI-USA:

To read the full Press Release go here.

If you are a farmer in Henderson, Haywood or Buncombe Counties contact me as soon as possible so we can make sure you have the best and most complete application.