Monday, April 30, 2012

Dept. of Labor Withdraws Proposed Child Labor Rule

News Release

WHD News Release: [04/26/2012]
Contact Name: Joshua R. Lamont or Elizabeth Alexander
Phone Number: (202) 693-4661 or x4675
Release Number: 12-0826-NAT

Labor Department statement on withdrawal of proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor today issued the following statement regarding the withdrawal of a proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations:

"The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations.

The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.

"As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of  the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

"The decision to withdraw this rule - including provisions to define the 'parental exemption' - was made in response to thousands of comments  expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration
of the Obama administration.

"Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders - such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H - to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer
agricultural working practices."

Addison Farms Vineyard in Mountain XPress

Check out the article, Risky Agri-Business, on local Buncombe County farmer, Jeff Frisbee!  Jeff and the rest of the Frisbee family have been hard at work for the past few years planting their labor of love, Addison Farms Vineyard in Leicester.

Congratulations Addison Farms Vineyard!

Addison Farms Vineyard also received a WNC AgOptions Grant (A project of NC Cooperative Extension) in 2011.

Pest News April 27, 2012

The latest edition of NC Pest News in now available.

In this edition you will find the following articles related to Fruits and Vegetables:
  1. What causes misshapen strawberries?
  2. Be on the look-out!  Garden diseases to watch for in May and June.

Certified Organic Recordkeeping Tool

COG Pro - Recordkeeping system for organic certification provides an online solution to the detailed record-keeping required to be a certified organic producer.

The website is organized like a logbook with tabbed dividers, so users can easily enter their activities in a wide variety of categories. A simple click on a tab brings up the appropriate entry form and a view of previously entered records.

It also has a Good Agricultural Practices or GAPs record keeping function.

You can log in as a guest to take a look at the system and try it out - go to

Senate Agriculture Committee Invests in Fruit and Vegetable Industry

Report from United Fresh Produce
April 26, 2012

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted 16-5 to pass the  Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012. This marks the beginning of efforts to reauthorize the 2012 Farm Bill, which is set to expire on September 30, 2012. For the fresh fruit and vegetable industry and United Fresh  members, this bill answers the call over the last year to continue to build on the investments made in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“While this is just the 'first inning' of a long and difficult Farm Bill process, it is extremely important that the Senate Agriculture Committee has confirmed what our members have been saying for quite a long time: investments in fruit and vegetable producers translate into a healthy industry – from field to table – while creating job opportunities and improved nutrition for consumers,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh.

The Farm Bill proposal includes the following fruit and vegetable programs:

• Funding of $150 million annually for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program
• Annual funding at $50 million per year for DoD Fresh program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to schools and service institutions
• Investment of $70 million annually for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program
• The Specialty Crop Research Initiative was funded at $25 million per year ramping up to $50 million by 2017
• Increased funding of $60 million in 2013 up to $65 million 2017 for pest and disease management programs
• The Market Access Program ($200 million per year) and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops ($9 million per year) were fully funded
•  Hunger-Free Communities Grant Program for fruit and vegetable SNAP incentives was funded at $100 million over 5 years
• Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program was funded at $100 million over 5 years
• Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at $406 million per year in mandatory purchases

As a member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, United Fresh worked closely with key policymakers on the Committee and those with significant produce industry interests to secure support for several programs of particular importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. This culminated on April 2 when 32 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee
demanding funding investments in specialty crops when the 2012 Farm Bill come up for consideration before the Committee.

“We applaud Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts for listening to their Senate colleagues and industry stakeholders by making important policy investments in the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,” stated Guenther.

The legislation must now go to the full Senate for debate and votes, and then on to the House of Representatives for consideration, which is currently expected sometime this summer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Study Points to Roles for Industry and Organics in Agriculture

The New York Times
APRIL 25, 2012

A paper in this week’s issue of Nature reinforces the argument that a hybrid path in agriculture — incorporating both industrial-style production and organic practices where they make sense — gives the best chance of feeding some 9 billion people by midcentury with the fewest regrets.

The paper, “Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture,” is  by a doctoral student, Verena Seufert, and the geography professor Navin Ramankutty, both of McGill University, and Jonathan Foley, the director of the Institute on the Environment of the University of Minnesota. They found that, over all, conventional farming methods produced 25 percent higher yields than organic techniques, but organic came close for certain crops in certain soils.  The authors’ core conclusion?

[T]here are no simple ways to determine a clear ‘winner’ for all possible farming situations. However, instead of continuing the ideologically charged ‘organic versus conventional’ debate, we should systematically evaluate the costs and benefits of different management options. In the end,  to achieve sustainable food security we will probably need many different techniques — including organic, conventional, and possible ‘hybrid’ systems —to produce more food at affordable prices, ensure livelihoods for farmers, and reduce the environmental costs of agriculture….

To establish organic agriculture as an important tool in sustainable food  production, the factors limiting organic yields need to be more fully understood, alongside assessments of the many social, environmental and economic benefits of organic farming systems.

I caught up with Foley by e-mail, saying that the paper appeared to paint a  picture in which cereals, particularly, benefit from fertilizer and the other inputs favored in large-scale farming, while specialty crops can offer smaller farming operations sustainable levels of income. Here’s his reaction:
We really need new “hybrid” approaches, taking the best of the conventional  and organic paradigms, and deploying them when and where they make the most sense.

In this study we found that organic systems can compete very well with conventional farms when it comes to fruits and many kinds of vegetables. And they do very well (understandably) with legumes. That’s the good news for organic farming.

Where organic has a lot of ground to make up is in the major grains, especially staples like wheat and rice. There we found that organic farms have significantly lower yields than their conventional counterparts.. And since most of the world’s bulk calories come from these cereals, this is a really big deal.

Organic practices, as we know them today, just cannot produce the same  volume of grain calories that conventional farms do on the same land base.  That assumes, of course, that our goal is to grow calories — which is only one measure of food production and only one aspect of food security.

The bottom line? Today’s organic farming practices are probably best deployed  in fruit and vegetable farms, where growing nutrition (not just bulk calories) is the primary goal. But for delivering sheer calories, especially in our staple crops of wheat, rice, maize, soybeans and so on, conventional farms have the advantage right now.

Looking forward, I think we will need to deploy different kinds of practices  (especially new, mixed approaches that take the best of organic and conventional farming systems) where they are best suited — geographically, economically, socially, etc.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blackberry Cold Damage?

Check Dr. Gina Fernandez's blogpost on the potential cold damage to blackberries tonight:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Biopesticides and Resistance Management Webinar

This looks like a great webinar and one that I am sure many of you will find useful.

Biopesticides and Resistance Management

Used in partnership with traditional chemicals in an IPM program, biopesticides can prolong the efficacy of important crop protection products. Because of their unique modes of action, it is difficult for pests and pathogens to develop resistance to most biopesticides. Including biopesticides in the rotation of crop protection products can prevent or delay the development of resistance to all the products used.

When: April 26, 2012
2:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Speakers include:

Margaret Tuttle McGrath
Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology
Cornell University
Long Island Horticultural Research & Extension Center

Frank Sances
Founder and Director
Pacific Ag Research

Dr. Lerry Lacey
(Retired) USDA, ARS, Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory
Wapato, WA

To register for the webinar go to:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Rust Found on Eggplant in Florida

It seems like this year will be challenging for pest control on vegetables. Please see the message below from Gene McAvoy, County Extension Director in Hendry County, FL.

Dr Pam Roberts reports a new find of rust on eggplant in SW Florida.

Rust detected on eggplant (Solanum melongena) in Southwest Florida Pamela D. Roberts, Katherine Hendricks, and Mark Verbeck 3/3/2012

Lesions were detected on the top of eggplant leaves that were roughly circular, with a yellow halo and a dark center. Lesions on the undersides of the leaves were similar except they were a bit smaller and contained pustule, cup-like structure with erupting yellow to orange spores.

Microscopic examination revealed that the individual structures (aecia) contained spores (aeciospores). Spores were red-orange in color and round to ovoid.

A rust disease caused by Puccinia sp. was described on eggplant in Georgia in 1997. Eggplant was the aecial host for the rust pathogen of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). We suspect this is the same rust and will follow with additional testing.

In this outbreak, nearly every eggplant in a 10 acre field was affected. Plants are mature and have been harvested 2 to 3 times. No symptoms occurred on fruit.

To see pictures of the disease and read more about, please visit Eggplant Rust Alert.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Strawberry Locater Map

Check it out! The NC Strawberry Growers Association has a new "Strawberry Farm Locator Map" powered by Google.

The map locates farms that are members of the NC Strawberry Growers Association. So if you grow strawberries think about becoming a member. The Association has all sorts of wonderful marketing materials and this year members will receive a free 24 x 36 "how to pick" poster, printed on vinyl banner material.

To become a member, fill out the form found here:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Small Fruits Newlsetter Now Available

The April 2012 edition of Small Fruits News is now available on-line.

In this edition you will find (It is a very good one!):
  • Blackberry Breeder John Clark Receives NARBA's Distinguished Service Award
  • Southern Region Small Fruits Grant Awards
  • Report: Grape Growers Should be Prepared
  • Beware of Bermuda and Johnson Grass
  • Blueberry Pre-Plant Diseases Associated with Nematodes
  • Local Market Survey
  • A History of the Blueberry Industry
  • Blackberry and Raspberry Seasonal Checklist
  • Strawberry Seasonal Checklist

To learn more about the excellent research going on in small fruits in the south, as well as some great resources, visit the Southern Small Fruit Consortium Website:

Lowes Food/MDI to Host Growers Meeting April 11

This may be off interest to some growers:

From the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Dear Valued North Carolina Farmer:

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Marketing group is hosting Grower Information Sessions with key personnel from the Lowes Foods grocery chain and (MDI) Merchants Distributor being on-hand to provide information direct to North Carolina Growers. Growers from counties within close proximity to each session are invited to attend.

The Farmer meetings will be geared towards those farmers/growers that are interested in selling to Lowes Foods and MDI. Topics to be addressed are guidelines that Lowes and MDI require for you, as a farmer, selling to their stores. Lowes Foods Executive Director of Produce and MDI’s Director of Produce will be on hand to address the criteria they require. Examples Include: Liability insurance, Gap Certification, etc. Please do not allow any of these guidelines to keep you from the meeting, as we have designed these meetings to be informative as to these topics. Marketing Horticulture Specialist from our staff will be giving a presentation on how to become Gap Certified and other grower type information. There will be a question and answer session, and possible one-on-one sessions, if time permits. Lunch will be provided by the “Got to be NC” Goodness Grows Program.

Statewide, we have seen strong growth and interest in local produce. Lowes Foods and MDI are committed to support our local farmers and are currently buying from groups across North Carolina. However, their needs and demand for local is out pacing their supply and they are in need of more growers. We are dedicated to assist our farmers in finding a market for their products. These meetings will provide you an audience that you may otherwise not have had the opportunity to experience. Please join us for these very important meetings. Feel free to invite other growers in your area that might not receive this letter.

April 11th. Asheville/Fletcher Meeting
Heritage Building
Western North Carolina Ag Center
1301 Fanning Bridge Road
Fletcher, NC 28732
(828) 687-1414

Meeting will be held from (9:00am – 3:00pm - Registration beginning at 8:30am) with lunch provided.

There is no cost associated with these meetings; however you will need to reserve your space.

Call or email ASAP, the following contacts to reserve your space.

Randy Maness, 919-707-3133,
G.W. Stanley, 919-707-3148,

Additional meetings were held in Lumberton (Feb 29) and Winston-Salem (March 28).