The entire southeast remains free from drought as reported in USDA’s latest drought monitor. As recently as three months ago only 46% of South Carolina was drought-free, and more than 10% of the state was in moderate drought. One year ago 5% of the state was in extreme drought, and 73% of the state was in moderate drought.
Long-time Leader of NC Rural Center Resigns
The longtime president of the embattled North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center has announced he will retire, effective immediately.
Billy Ray Hall announced his departure Thursday, after the release of a state audit Wednesday that showed the taxpayer-funded nonprofit agency failed to provide proper oversight of millions in grants while paying Hall too much money. The audit prompted Gov. Pat McCrory to call for the replacement of Hall and Valeria L. Lee, who chairs the center's board.
State Auditor Beth Wood's report said oversight requirements on millions in grants issued by the center were not diligently enforced and that job creation claims could not be verified. The audit also questioned Hall's $221,000 annual salary and another $241,000 in a special account to be paid as severance pay.
Hong Kong IPO Planned if Smithfield Deal Goes Through
If the proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods by Chinese company Shuanghui (shawn-way) International moves forward – Reuters is reporting the plan is to list the combined company in Hong Kong. With the combined Smithfield-Shuanghui operation valued at around 20-billion dollars – the Hong Kong IPO would be valued at around four-billion dollars. Reuters cites sources with knowledge of the matter – saying a Hong Kong IPO would allow the merged group to trade in a market that would place a higher valuation on the stock than the U.S. or other exchanges. A Hong Kong listing is also said to offer an ideal exit route for Shuanghui’s private equity investors.
PETA Brings Message of Unhappy Cows to California State Fair
PETA is exhibiting at the California State Fair for the first time this year. The group’s exhibit features cow-costumed mascots with signs reading “cheese comes from unhappy cows.” While some say the exhibit doesn’t belong at the fair at all – others point to freedom of speech. According to the fair’s organizers – PETA has the same right as other businesses to attend the fair. Fair Director Rick Pickering says they don’t judge the message – as long as it’s done in a family friendly manner.