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NC Buyers Beware: Six stores pay fines for price-scanning errors

RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Standards Division has collected fines from stores in Currituck, Durham, Rockingham, Wake and Wilson counties because of excessive price-scanner errors.

“We want consumers to be confident that the price on the shelf matches the price that’s scanned at the register,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Stores have a responsibility to make sure their pricing is accurate, and most stores pass inspection. Ones that don’t are fined until they come into compliance. Consumers who would like to file a complaint about a store can call the Standards Division at 919-707-3225.”

The department conducts periodic, unannounced inspections of a business’ price-scanner system to check for accuracy between the prices advertised and the prices that ring up at the register. If a store has more than a 2-percent error rate on overcharges, inspectors discuss the findings with the store manager and conduct a more intensive follow-up inspection at a later date. Undercharges are also reported, but do not count against a store.

Penalties are assessed if a store fails a follow-up inspection. In addition to the penalties paid, the store will be subject to re-inspection every 60 days from the last inspection until it meets the 2-percent-or-less error rate. Additional penalties may be assessed if the store fails a re-inspection. Following are stores that paid civil penalties in the first quarter of 2017:

  • (Currituck) Dollar General #8763 at 6431 Caratoke Hwy., Grandy, paid $1,380 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in February found an error rate of 5 percent, based on five overcharges in a 100-item lot. A second inspection in March found an error rate of 3.67 percent, based on 11 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store passed inspection in May.
  • (Durham) Dollar General #12773 at 101 Ganyard Farm Way, Durham, paid $517.50 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in March found an error rate of 6 percent, based on three overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in April found an error rate of 3 percent, based on nine overcharges in a 300-item lot. A third inspection in June found an error rate of 5.67 percent, based on 17 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store was assessed $2,105 in penalties and will be re-inspected.
  • (Durham) Office Depot #2687 at 5600 S. Miami Blvd., Durham, paid a total of $5,235 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in October 2016 found an error rate of 16 percent, based on eight overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in November found an error rate of 7.33 percent, based on 22 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,710 in penalties. A third inspection in January found an error rate of 5.33 percent, based on 16 overcharges in a 50-item lot. The store paid $1,610. A fourth inspection in March found an error rate of 3 percent, based on nine overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,915. The store passed inspection in May.
  • (Rockingham) Dollar General #10976 at 1200 E. Stadium Drive, Eden, paid $592.50 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in February found an error rate of 8 percent, based on 4 overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in March found an error rate of 4.67 percent, based on 14 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store passed inspection in May.
  • (Wake) Family Dollar #3594 at 3416 Poole Road, Raleigh, paid a total of $9,360 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in March 2016 found an error rate of 8 percent, based on four overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in April 2016 found an error rate of 3.33 percent, based on 10 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid 1,290 in penalties. A third inspection in June 2016 found an error rate of four percent, based on 12 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,865. A fourth inspection in August found an error rate of 4.67 percent, based on 11 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $2,785. A fifth inspection in October found an error rate of 3.67 percent based on 11 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $3,420. The store passed inspection in January.
  • (Wilson) Family Dollar #359 at 1301-J Ward Blvd. South, Wilson, paid $1,800 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in August 2016 found an error rate of 8 percent, based on four overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in October found an error rate of 3.67 percent, based on 11 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store passed inspection in January.

Troxler encourages horse owners to vaccinate against EEE

RALEIGH – Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is encouraging North Carolina horse owners to have their animals vaccinated against Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis.

“Triple E is a mosquito-borne disease that causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord in equine and is usually fatal,” Troxler said. “The disease is preventable by vaccination.”

There were nine recorded cases of EEE in horses in North Carolina in 2016, but the mild winter could cause that number to go up this year, State Veterinarian Doug Meckes said.

Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death. Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take three to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

“If your horses or other equine animals exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately,” Meckes said.

Meckes recommends that equine owners talk to their veterinarians about an effective vaccination protocol to protect horses from EEE and another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile virus. The combo vaccination initially requires two shots, 30 days apart, for horses, mules and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history. Meckes recommends a booster shot every six months.

Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days, so removing any source of standing water can reduce the chance of exposing animals to WNV or EEE. Keeping horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans and turning off lights after dusk can also help reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Insect repellants can be effective if used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.

Got to Be NC Festival offers agricultural fun May 19-21

RALEIGH The Got to Be NC Festival, a family-friendly celebration of agriculture, food and fun, returns to the N.C. State Fairgrounds May 19-21.

“The Got to Be NC Festival offers something for everyone, including farm animals, antique tractors, bluegrass competitions and a barbecue cook-off,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We encourage everyone to come celebrate the state’s $84 billion agriculture industry as we kick off the start of the growing season.”

One of the festival’s highlights is the Homegrown Fare presented by Lowes Foods. Visitors can sample and purchase food, wine and beer from about 100 N.C. companies in the Expo Building. Admission is $3 for ages 12 and older, but guests can receive two free admission tickets by presenting their Lowes Foods loyalty card at the door.

This year, the Got to Be NC Festival will have an expanded music lineup inside Dorton Arena, featuring 11 free musical acts from North Carolina. On Saturday, May 20, bluegrass fans can enjoy the Carolina Bluegrass Battle from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The competition will include eight local bluegrass bands vying for prize money and a chance to perform at the N.C. State Fair and PreddyFest 2017. The contest will be hosted by The Church Sisters, who also will give two special performances before and after the competition.

Also on Saturday, Masonic lodges from across the nation will take part in the annual Carolina Pig Jig barbecue cook-off. Starting at 11 a.m., visitors can sample barbecue, chicken and side dishes, and place their vote for the People’s Choice award. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children 7-11, and free for children under 7. All proceeds benefit the Masonic homes for children in Oxford.

The festival also includes one of the largest displays of antique tractors and farm equipment in the Southeast. Guests can see the antique tractors in action during the tractor parade daily at 1 p.m. In addition, visitors can see farm animals ranging from baby chickens and goats to longhorn steers and alpacas.

Other attractions include more than 30 carnival rides and games for all ages. Tickets are available for $1 each, 14 tickets for $12, or 30 tickets for $20. On Friday and Sunday, visitors can take advantage of a special Ride All Day Wristband for $20.

New attractions include the Pig Patch Birthing Center, with daily pig births beside the midway; the State Fair Flyer, a chairlift ride that debuted at the 2016 N.C. State Fair and offers panoramic views of the fairgrounds; original sand sculptures by artist Ed Moore; Kids’ Tractor Pedal Pulls on Friday and Saturday in the grandstand; the Bulldozer Sandbox featuring construction demonstrations with working excavators and bulldozers; and more.

Admission and parking at the festival are free, but certain attractions have a separate admission charge. Gates are open Friday from noon to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.gottobencfestival.com.

North Carolina strawberry growers expect second wave of crop

RALEIGH – It has been about a month since most areas of North Carolina saw their last freeze, and for local strawberry growers and eaters that means the second wave of strawberries is almost here.

“This has been an unusual strawberry season in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Thanks to a warm February, many growers were picking at least two weeks ahead of schedule. Then the state had freezing temperatures in March, which put production on hold. It takes 30 days or more for a blossom to turn into a berry. Now that we are past the last freeze, more strawberries are about ready for picking, and consumers should expect a strong crop through the end of May.”

Picking will begin in Eastern North Carolina and the Piedmont over the next two weeks. Western North Carolina growers should be ready for picking May 1. The peak of the N.C. strawberry season is traditionally Mother’s Day weekend, but locally grown berries should still be available into Memorial Day, said Dexter Hill, marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

To celebrate the season, the department and N.C. Strawberry Association will hold three Strawberry Day events at the state-operated farmers markets in Colfax, Charlotte and Raleigh in May. The first event is at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh on May 4. The celebration includes a strawberry recipe contest, ice cream samples and a visit by Suzy Strawberry. On May 5, the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax will host its Strawberry Day, which also includes a recipe contest, ice cream samples and visit by Suzy Strawberry. On May 12, visitors to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market can enjoy free strawberry ice cream samples. All three events will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation, and the crop generated more than $23 million in farm income in 2015. More information about the strawberry industry is available at www.ncstrawberry.com. Consumers interested in finding a you-pick strawberry farm near them can go to www.ncfarmfresh.com.

N.C. Bioenergy Research Initiative announces grant recipients

The N.C. Bioenergy Research Initiative recently awarded $1 million in grants for 13 research projects to boost bioenergy opportunities and production in the state.

“These grants continue to push our knowledge of bioenergy applications in North Carolina forward, creating the potential for future market opportunities for farmers, agribusinesses and forestry industries,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

Below is a list of grant amounts, recipients and projects:

  • $43,618 to N.C. State University’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering for the third year of its study of fertilization rates and yield response of the giant reed Arundo donax. The project will focus on collecting field data needed to establish realistic yield expectations and nitrogen fertilization rates under various North Carolina growing conditions.
  • $55,835 to the NCSU Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources for “Loblolly Pine Biomass Genetics/Cropping Study – 2016-2017.” The project will continue genetic evaluation of loblolly pine varieties with high potential as an energy source.
  • $148,804 to the NCSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for a project titled “Nutrient Dynamics and Production of Bioenergy Crops in Swine Effluent Sprayfields, 2016-2017.”  Funding will continue research on the nutrient requirements and uptake of proposed biomass crops grown in a sprayfield environment.
  • $148,650 to Carolina Land & Lakes RC&D for the development of “Pellets for Pullets.” This expands a previously funded project into areas of the state with a higher concentration of broiler production. Wood pellet heating systems have been shown to offer cost savings, reduction in moisture and fossil fuel by-products and delivery of a better product to market, while utilizing a renewable domestic fuel.
  • $30,167 to the NCSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for the second year of the study “Suitability of N.C. Piedmont Soils for Bioenergy Crop Production.”  The project investigates the potential conversion of land to bioenergy crops with an emphasis on how soil biochemical and physical properties will be impacted.
  • $50,000 to Power Resource Group LLC for a project titled “Crops to Litter to Fuel.” Combinations of giant miscanthus, biochar and pine shavings will be tested against traditional pine shaving litter in turkey brooder houses. Spent litter will be tested to see if it can successfully serve as a high-BTU feedstock for combined heat and power production.
  • $32,213 to the NCSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for the first year of a two-year project titled “Weed Management in Miscanthus and Switchgrass Bioenergy Cropping Systems.” This builds on a previously funded herbicide project, but will focus more on weed management while establishing giant miscanthus and switchgrass, two potential bioenergy feedstock crops.
  • $103,470 for the first year of a three-year project titled “Predicting Short Rotation Woody Crops Productivity and Economic Feasibility.” This collaborative effort between the NCSU Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources and N.C. A&T State University’s Department of Economics will use previously funded projects to refine and validate a forest productivity and economic model. This model will facilitate stakeholder decision-making for short rotational woody crop production and procurement as well as provide best land management practices to landowners via a web-based interactive tool.
  • $147,851 to the NCSU Department of Horticultural Science for the project “Gene Editing for Improved Energy Canes.” This project will build on previously funded projects focused on breeding high biomass, cold hardy hybrids. Efforts will now focus on refining regeneration systems and the development of gene-editing technologies for the development of seedless cultivars.
  • $24,818 to Tyton Biosciences LLC for the project titled “Energy Tobacco Variety and Sprayfield Trials.” In partnership with NCSU, Tyton will build on results from its previous energy tobacco work by conducting variety trials of modified energy tobacco to maximize biomass yield and evaluate hardiness and other plant characteristic. Work will also include testing energy tobacco in a sprayfield environment to determine nutrient uptake.
  • $58,004 to the NCSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for “Developing Industrial Hemp in North Carolina.”  This work will investigate the feasibility of industrial hemp for food, fiber and fuel by evaluating varieties and developing best management practices such as planting dates and response to plant growth regulators.
  •  $59,339 to the NCSU Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources for year one of a project titled “Loblolly Pine Plantations to Maximize Bioenergy Production.”  This two-year project builds on previously funded work and will utilize two established experimental stands of loblolly pine. Results from this novel design will provide a better understanding of superior genotypes, crown forms, spacing and silviculture practices to optimize loblolly pine for bioenergy production.
  • $97,231 to Appalachian State University’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment for the project “Demonstrating Syngas Production from Bioenergy Crops.” This project builds on previously funded work that developed methods of heating greenhouses with biomass. The next focus will be using biomass grown on-site to produce syngas for heating as well as biochar as a soil amendment for the biomass production.

The N.C. Bioenergy Research Initiative is a program of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Its goal is to support the research and development of agricultural and forestry-based feedstocks for bioenergy production and agribusiness development. The N.C. General Assembly approved funding for grants to stimulate energy production from N.C. agricultural and forest products.

Burning ban issued for 22 additional counties to protect lives and property

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler today banned open burning and canceled all burning permits for 22 more counties in Western North Carolina. Added to the list are Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Cabarrus, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.

The burning ban will take effect at 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 21, and will be in effect until further notice.

Under North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in the affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was issued. The issuance of any new permits also has been suspended until the ban is lifted. Violation of the ban carries a $100 fine plus court costs of $180.

The ban on open burning is necessary because of the dry weather conditions and the potential for the increase in human-caused wildfires in the region. As of Nov. 20, there have been 3,021 wildfires affecting more than 19,058 acres on state protected lands across North Carolina this year. In the mountains alone, there have been 1,203 fires that have burned 4,015 acres.

Those numbers do not include fires burning on federal lands, the Party Rock fire near Lake Lure and the Chestnut Knob fire. The Party Rock fire has burned 7,171 acres since it was first reported on Nov. 5. The Chestnut Knob fire, burning in the South Mountain State Park, has burned 6,433 acres since it was first reported on Nov. 6. These fires, combined with those on federal lands, have burned closed to 46,000 acres in Western N.C. State protected lands include state and private owned properties.

“Fire experts with the N.C. Forest Service feel the current drought situation and the increase in available forest fuels makes it necessary to increase the number of counties under the burn ban,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We want to be proactive in our approach and take appropriate action to prevent the potential for human-caused wildfires.”

An open burn ban is now in place for the entire counties of Alexander, Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Gaston, Graham, Guilford, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Montgomery, Polk, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Union, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin and Yancey.

Here are a few facts about the law regarding the ban on open burning:

  • The burn ban does not apply to cooking fires such as grills or outdoor cookers.
  • The ban does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. County fire marshals have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service has advised county fire marshals of the burning ban and asked for their consideration of also implementing a burning ban. In addition, other local ordinances and air quality regulations may also impact open burning.
  • If a fire within that 100-foot area escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be responsible for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing it.
  • Open burning includes burning leaves, branches and other plant material. In all cases, it is illegal to burn trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative materials.
  • Outdoor burning is also prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts.

Local fire departments and law enforcement officers are assisting the N.C. Forest Service in enforcing the burn ban.

Fire Prevention Education Team deployed to region

A U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Education Team is working in Western North Carolina in an effort to decrease the number of human-caused wildfires there. In addition to assisting with information on these wildfires, the team is working with communities, distributing information and working with the media to raise awareness about the current fire danger. In addition a joint information center has been established to help provide information to the media and the public. The JIC can be reached at 828-575-2352 or by email at [email protected]

You can also contact Brian R. Haines at 919-857-4828. Residents with questions regarding their specific county can contact their county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service or their county fire marshal’s office.

Be Aware – Seven stores pay fines for price-scanning errors

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Standards Division has collected fines from stores in Chatham, Columbus, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Moore, Pender and Wake counties because of excessive price-scanner errors.

“As we get into the holiday season, we want consumers to be confident that the price on the shelf matches the price at the register,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Stores have a responsibility to make sure their pricing is accurate, and most stores pass inspection. Ones that don’t are fined until they come into compliance. Consumers who would like to file a complaint about a store can call the Standards Division at 919-707-3225.”

The department conducts periodic, unannounced inspections of a business’ price-scanner system to check for accuracy between the prices advertised and the prices that ring up at the register. If a store has more than a 2 percent error rate on overcharges, inspectors discuss the findings with the store manager and conduct a more intensive follow-up inspection at a later date. Undercharges are also reported, but do not count against a store.

Penalties are assessed if a store fails the follow-up inspection. In addition to the penalties paid, the store will be subject to re-inspection every 60 days from the last inspection until it meets the 2-percent-or-less error rate. Additional penalties may be assessed if the store fails a re-inspection.

Following are stores that paid civil penalties in the third quarter of 2016:

  • Wal-Mart #3182 at 12500 U.S. 15/501, Chapel Hill, paid $1,995 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in April found an error rate of 5 percent, based on five overcharges in a 100-item lot. A second inspection in June found an error rate of 3.33 percent, based on 10 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store passed inspection in September with a 1.33 percent error rate.
  • Family Dollar #71 at 1001 Pireway Road, Tabor City, paid $1,005 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in May found an error rate of 10 percent, based on five overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in June found an error rate of 2.33 percent, based on 7 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store passed inspection in August with a .33 percent error rate.
  • Family Dollar #3937 at 2316 E Market St., Greensboro, paid $5,555 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in May found an error rate of 10 percent, based on five overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in June found an error rate of 5.33 percent, based on 16 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $2,970 in civil penalties. A third inspection in August found an error rate of 6.33 percent, based on 19 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid an additional $2,585 in penalties and will be re-inspected.
  • CVS #7688 at 3440 Wilkinson Blvd., Charlotte, paid $1,940 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in April found an error rate of 8 percent, based on four overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in May found an error rate of 4 percent, based on 12 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $705 in penalties. A third inspection in July found an error rate of 3.67 percent, based on 11 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,235 in penalties. The store passed inspection in September with a 1 percent error rate.
  • Dollar General #7052 at 3350 U.S. 1, Vass, paid $517 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in April found an error rate of 10 percent, based on five overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in May found a 2.67 percent error rate, based on 8 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store passed inspection in July with a 2 percent error rate.
  • Dollar General #9201 at 15489 U.S. 17 North, Hampstead, paid $2,247 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in May found an error rate of 8 percent, based on four overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in June found an error rate of 2.33 percent, based on seven overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $397 in penalties. A third inspection in August found an error rate of 4 percent, based on 12 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,850 in penalties and will be re-inspected.
  • Family Dollar #3594 at 3416 Poole Road, Raleigh, paid $5,940 in civil penalties. An initial inspection in March found an error rate of 8 percent, based on four overcharges in a 50-item lot. A second inspection in April found an error rate of 3.33 percent, based on 10 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,290 in penalties. A third inspection in June found an error rate of 4 percent, based on 12 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,865 in civil penalties. A fourth inspection in August found an error rate of 4.67 percent, based on 14 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $2,785 in penalties and will be re-inspected.

Feeding NC Livestock could be an Issue this winter

Flooding in eastern North Carolina and drought in western counties has state agricultural officials concerned about feeding livestock and horses this winter. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is utilizing a website, www.ncagr.gov/hayalert, to help livestock and horse owners in sourcing hay.

The Hay Alert website was first launched during the drought in 2002 and used again in 2007. It is similar to Craigslist, in which users can post hay for sale or hay wanted ads. The department will not be involved in the transaction beyond hosting the website.

“We’re trying to help farmers meet the needs for livestock and horses this winter,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Earlier this fall, we expected to have eastern hay to fill the void in the west, but the flood has ruined so much of the eastern crop. We encourage farmers to go ahead and start securing their hay for the winter.”

Farmers are encouraged to work with their local cooperative extension agent to set up a winter feed plan. They are also reminded that many areas of North Carolina are under quarantine for plant pests and care should be taken to not introduce pests into new areas. Check with the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division for guidance if moving hay from a quarantine area to a non-quarantine area.

Troxler announces availability of farmland preservation grants; application deadline is Dec. 16

County governments and nonprofit groups pursuing farmland preservation projects have until Dec. 16 to apply for funding assistance from the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. This year’s request for proposals includes statewide general appropriations for traditional farm preservation projects and conservation easement applications to protect military-base and training buffers. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Dec. 16.

The fund’s purpose is to support projects that encourage the preservation of qualifying agricultural, horticultural and forest lands to foster the growth, development and sustainability of family farms.

Grants can be awarded to secure agricultural conservation easements on lands used for agricultural production; to support public and private enterprise programs that promote profitable and sustainable agricultural, horticultural and forestland activities; and for the development of agricultural plans. Military-designated grants are restricted to easement-related projects.

The grant application and guidelines for the current funding cycle are available at www.ncadfp.org/CycleX.htm. Call 919-707-3072 with any questions.

Hurricane Matthew inflicts significant damage on N.C. agriculture

The flood water hasn’t receded yet, but initial reports show that North Carolina’s agricultural industries took a beating from Hurricane Matthew. State ag officials do not have damage estimates, but the 48 counties affected by the storm are some of North Carolina’s largest ag counties.

“The eastern counties represent 71 percent of the state’s total farm cash receipts,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “While lots of crops were harvested before the storm, many crops, such as soybeans, sweet potatoes, peanuts and cotton, were just in the early stages of harvest.”

The 48 counties accounted for more than $9.6 billion of the $13.5 billion in farm cash receipts in 2014.

In addition to crops, Eastern North Carolina also has a large poultry and swine population. Initial reports show that 1.9 million birds, mostly broiler chickens, have died as a result of the storm. However, considering the extent of the flooding, State Veterinarian Doug Meckes expects that number to rise. North Carolina growers raise more than 800 million birds each year.

Veterinary officials and the department’s Environmental Programs Division staff are working with growers on proper disposal of the birds. Troxler requested and was granted a $6 million grant from FEMA to purchase carbon material to compost the carcasses and mitigate the potential public health risk. Composting is the preferred method of disposal as it reduces leeching of farm waste, reduces pest and disease issues and prevents odor issues. The finished compost can then be used for agricultural purposes. Farms have begun requesting carbon materials and deliveries began today.

The hog industry did a good job preparing for this event and taking proactive measures to reduce populations or move hogs to higher ground. As of press time, there are limited reports of swine deaths and no known hog lagoon breaches. NCDA&CS is not the regulatory agency that oversees hog lagoons.

“The industry learned a lot since Hurricane Floyd in 1999,” said Troxler. Many hog farms in the 100-year flood plain were closed through a swine buyout program overseen by our Soil and Water Conservation Division.”

Farmers needing assistance can call the Ag Emergency Hotline at 1-866-645-9403. The department is operating the hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.