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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says July is officially the warmest month on record. Looking ahead, Ed O'Lenic, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center Operations Branch Chief, says expect more hot weather across much of the country:

“We continue to experience drought conditions in the middle of the country and warm conditions in many places. Some of that is likely to continue for the next several months.”

Vilsack Explains the Hold Up for the 2012 Farm Bill

Earlier this week, Southern Farm Network spent a few minutes with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack discussing the drought in the Midwest, and the impacts on the Carolinas. At planting time, the hope for the 2012 crop was high, and many sectors of the ag economy were counting on a bin-busting crop. The reality is that’s not going to happen. Livestock producers from the Carolinas were counting on that huge Midwestern crop, because it’s needed here just as much in the Midwest. Secretary Vilsack had these thoughts:

"It’s a tough situation and its particularly tough if you basically liquidate. Its very hard to get back in that business. So we are hopeful that congress gets to work in September.”

North Carolina grows only 1/3 of the corn needed for animal feed, the other 2/3 comes from other states or countries.

Drought-resistant Corn Helps, but Not a Solution

Drought resistant corn may provide some help in short periods of drought – but the National Corn Growers Association says there’s no silver bullet yet to the kind of prolonged drought the country has seen this year. NCGA Biotech Director Nathan Fields says truly drought-tolerant corn varieties are fairly new and just starting to gain a foothold into the market. Fields says current technology can offset some of the yield loss from drought – but not the kind of drought the country has had this year…

“Unfortunately this year the drought has been so severe that I don’t think you can tailor any crop to withstand this amount of dryness.”

And then there’s the problem of repeated droughts in the same season…

“Dryness at the beginning of the growing season and dryness at the end of the growing season attacks the plant in very different ways. So will there be a magic bullet? No, its going to be done piecemeal both with agronomic practices and some of the technologies that are out there.”

Fields says farmers are also using no-till farming and other practices to keep moisture in the soil – which is also paying off in cushioning drought losses that this year could add up to billions for corn, beans and other crops. And what about the big picture – with global population now exceeding 7-billion – can the U.S. still meet world needs amid continuing challenges to agriculture?…

“I believe so. We have been through weather scenarios that have been highly variable and we’ve been able to produce a good sized crop where we are not running out of corn but we just don’t have as much as we thought we did. We are still producing the eighth largest crop on record.”

Fields concludes the U.S. still has the capability to produce a lot of the world’s food.

Smithfield Packing fined for safety violations

Smithfield Packing Co.'s hog processing plant in Clinton has been fined more than $250,000 by the state for safety violations following the death of a worker in February.

The N.C. Department of Labor cited Smithfield Packing for 17 violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina.

Kids Get Unique Opportunity to Attend ‘State Dinner’ at White House

Kids ages eight to 12 will have the chance to participate in the first ever Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House on Monday. First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting the event for 54 kids representing all U.S. states, three territories and the District of Columbia. The kids attending Monday’s luncheon were selected as winners after submitting an original lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable, tasty and follows the nutritional guidelines set by USDA’s Choose My Plate website. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.