The North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s soil testing lab will begin charging a fee for soil samples beginning tomorrow, December 1st. Dr. David Hardy, North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Soils Lab says they’ve seen the customary rush here at the end of the month from producers trying to beat the fee:
“We are busy. The last couple of weeks we’ve had samples literally pour into the lab, I think. We’ve had a pretty good harvest season, and I think people have been sampling in anticipation of the fee.”
Let’s go over some of the options for when the fee kicks in.
“The last day for free samples is the last day of November, and we will be open and receiving samples until 6:00 pm. Any sample has to be received, it can’t be mailed or post marked, it’s got to be received by us for there to be no fee. It’s important to note that we have a gate on the division property now, and that gate will close at 6:00 pm. From that day forward, it will be opening and closing daily 6:00 am and 6:00 pm on our work days. So, that’s a change most people need to realize as far as delivering us samples.”
Let’s go over why you charge a fee and what happens to that money.
“The fee was put into place about four or five years ago by the commissioner. I think the commissioner was thinking that our lab is a big lab, we have a high volume lab, we can put out more samples in August, September, October, November, than we currently do as we receive the samples.
“So, his feeling was to encourage early sampling to try get more samples through the lab to try to decrease turnaround time, the time that the results go back to the grower, and it did help quite a bit, to be honest with you. When I first came here, and that was back in 2002, and for a number of years before the fee, we would stay busy until the middle of April, usually by the time you pay the tax man, we were finishing up with samples. What the fee has done for us, certainly we’re getting busy earlier, but by the middle of February now, we’re essentially cleaned out in the lab. So, we’ve seen a benefit of about six to eight weeks, I think with the fee and being less busy in the spring, the results can come back to the grower.”
The fee has helped you pay for some equipment.
“It has. That is a wonderful thing about the fee, all the money we get with the fee stays with the division, it does not go into state government, per se, where we can’t see it. We keep our hands on it, we’ve replaced equipment that needed to be replaced, we have automated with new equipment, we have done wonderful things with that money.
“Plus, we can hire temps, part of our busy season every year is hiring temporary help to get the set load up, especially in the grinding room. And we have used that money to hire temps, and that’s a big part of our money this year.”
The soil sampling fee will be in place until Monday, April 2nd, 2018.