NC Farmers Concerned Over Labor Shortages

North Carolina Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler says that there’s concerns among farmers planning for their 2012 crops about the availability of labor:

“There’s certainly a lot of concerns out there about the availability of farm labor, and after what we saw in Georgia and Alabama, that concern is out there. But, there’s also concern about what the farm labor is going to cost.”

Labor for tobacco farmers is a concern, but for farmers with fruits and vegetables, availability of labor is crucial:

“Fruits and vegetables are extremely perishable, and you don’t have time to be thinking about where the labor is going to come from, to harvest these products; it has to be there. We’ve seen instances in the past in our cucumber industry for pickling that there have been cucumbers that were not harvested because of the lack of laborers.”

Troxler says that there’s help for farmers in need of seasonal workers:

“The one good thing that I can say is that North Carolina has the largest H2-A program in the country and an association here that assists farmers in bringing in legal labor, so we’re going to do the best we can.”

Virginia Investing in Agritourism

Agritourism's economic impact on the Shenandoah Valley will be the focus of a new study to be conducted by Richmond-based Chmura Economics and Analytics for the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission.  Augusta County Economic Development Director Dennis Burnett says the study's findings will provide another tool to help farmers in the region.

Charleston Harbor Project included in Federal Budget Proposal

President Obama has included $3.5 million in his budget proposal for the next fiscal year to continue the study of deepening the Charleston Harbor shipping channel.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says if the money is approved, the $20 million study can continue without uncertainty over funds.

Pilgrim’s Pride fined in N.C. ammonia leak

The North Carolina Department of Labor has fined Pilgrim’s Pride a total of $107,100 and cited the company for a number of safety violations stemming from an ammonia leak in August at Pilgrim’s poultry plant in Union County.  The plant’s workers and nearby residents were evacuated after the leak caused an explosion at the plant.

The state Labor Department cited the company for 27 serious violations, which carry a maximum penalty of $7,000 each, and seven non-serious violations.

Expect Beef Prices to Continue Rise

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reports that experts are telling consumers they should expect higher beef prices for the next two years due to the smallest cattle herd in 60 years. It’s unclear whether costs will drop in later years because growing demand could keep supplies tight even as ranchers breed more animals.

The experts are saying retail prices for beef could climb as much as 10 percent a year in 2012 and 2013. And the increase could be even greater if demand from other countries increases.

CME Group Announces Fund to Further Protect Farmers & Ranchers

CME Group has unveiled the first, targeted step toward rebuilding confidence in futures markets following the failure of MF Global. CME Group announced that it would make a 100-million dollar Family Farmer and Rancher Protection Fund available to provide an additional layer of protection to farmers and ranchers who lose money due to any future failure of a clearing member firm.

CME Group Chief Operating Officer Bryan Durkin says CME Group is creating this fund to make sure the nation’s food producers never again find themselves in the position they did in the weeks following the MF Global situation…

“Their money was tied up, and so many farmers and ranchers were unable to buy seed to plant crops or feed their livestock. This was obviously very concerning to all of us, because they were essentially prevented from keeping their businesses going.”

Durkin says this is an unprecedented situation – and CME Group understands farmers and ranchers need as much of their funds returned as possible and as soon as possible. He says CME Group has done everything they can to work with the bankruptcy Trustee to make sure that happens 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.