USDA Mission Trip Underway

Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse leads nearly 40 American businesses on a U.S. Department of Agriculture trade mission to China starting today and ending March 28. The mission trip aims to help American businesses strike new deals, strengthen business ties, expand their markets, and support jobs for Americans. Joining Scuse on the trip are leaders from six state departments of agriculture, including North Carolina Department of Agriculture Assistant Director of International Marketing Peter Thornton. This is the largest USDA trade mission to date.

Possible New EPA Policy Could Have Harmful Effects on Ag

The American Farm Bureau Federation is trying to find an administrative or legislative solution to an EPA policy that it says would dramatically increase the agency's footprint in farm country.

A guidance document now pending before the White House Budget Office would let field offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers decide whether a geographic feature is a water of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act. The agencies have sought new guidelines after previous methods had been put into question by two Supreme Court rulings.

Don Parrish – Farm Bureau Senior Director of Regulatory Relations – says if the guidance goes into effect – it's going to be really difficult to conduct farming activities without being exposed to Clean Water Act regulations…

“It’s going to impact virtually every program in the Clean Water Act, and the cost is going to be horrendous, and potential for farmers to run head-long into this just skyrockets out the roof.”

Cape Fear River Channel to be Dredged Later this Year

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to dredge the shipping channel near the mouth of the Cape Fear River later this year.
The corps' sand management plan calls for dredging a section near Bald Head Island's south beach every two years to keep the channel 44 feet deep.

Island residents say the failure to follow the regular dredging schedule has seen a significant part of their beach slip into the water. The channel hasn’t been dredged since 2009, the usual schedule is every two years.

Expect Cost of Pork to Rise

Under pressure from animal rights activists and sensing a shift in consumer sentiment, several major pork producers have agreed to phase out gestation crates and switch to more open pens. Some of that change will come as U.S. pork producers build new barns and retrofit old ones to give hogs more space. Many of those same producers point out that consumers opposed to keeping pregnant sows in tight cages can expect to pay for their clearer consciences with higher food prices.

Five Incubator Farms Set Up Across NC

Five North Carolina communities are setting up incubator farms to encourage young people to go into farming. Future farmers will be provided with plots of land they can use to develop their skills before they invest in property. The incubators will be located in Moore, Wayne, Onslow, Guilford, and New Hanover Counties. Joanna Lelekacs  with N-C State explains how they work.

“Well, generally an incubator farm is a training farm, where people interested in starting a farming business are given temporary access to farm land, that enables them to practice the skills of farming and marketing.”

The average age of the American farmer is 57, so it's important to help young farmers get established. State agriculture officials are also encouraging shoppers to support farming by spending 10 percent of their food dollars locally.

Kitchen Garden to Be Planted

The White House Kitchen Garden will be planted Monday. Joining First Lady Michelle Obama will be school children from across the country. In 2009, Mrs. Obama planted the White House Kitchen Garden – the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden – as a way to start a conversation about the health of our nation’s children. To participate, each youth student wrote the First Lady about their own gardening experiences. Children from Greensboro, North Carolina will be involved.

Today’s Farm Fact:

97% of U.S. farms are run by families, farmer partnerships, or co-ops. 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.