Digital Voices Initiative

The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance is initiating a Digital Voices initiative, intended to insert the voices of farmers and ranchers into consumer food conversations and increase the positive share of voice around USFRA’s core issues: animal welfare, antibiotics and hormones, crop inputs, GMOs and sustainability. As part of the initiative, USFRA is forming a blogger community of industry professionals, farmers, ranchers, agriculturalists, registered dietitians and more. The blogger community will be a volunteer group consisting of individuals who will work with USFRA and affiliates and industry partners to create content, respond to existing content and provide additional insights and input surrounding core issues. Sign up to become part of the community at:

Leonard-Mobley Small Farm Fund

The Leonard-Mobley Small Farm Fund was established to support and cultivate small farms in North Carolina. It was founded in 2014 in honor and in memory of Franklin County farmers Marjorie Leonard and Steve Mobley of Meadow Lane Farm in Franklin County’ Louisburg. The fund aids in the development and long-term sustainability of small farms through an annual grants program, with proceeds raised during a dinner at the farm and through community donations and sponsorships. Multiple chefs from all over the state join to prepare a culinary feast in a meadow setting and to celebrate local food. Everyone is invited. Spring early bird tickets are now available: To be eligible for this grant a small farm can be the enterprise of one person or family and the farmer must generate at least 50 percent of his/her personal income from the farm operation during the previous calendar year. The farm must have been operational for at least two years in North Carolina by July 1 of the year of the grant. Previous winners are not eligible. You may own or rent the land. Grant proposals may be submitted online or by mail. Contact: (919) 802-7259.

Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge Opens

American Farm Bureau Federation will open online applications for its third Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge on May 1, to coincide with National Small Business Week (May 1-7). Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds. The competition provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations that benefit rural regions of the United States. It is the first national rural business competition focused exclusively on innovative entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses. Competitors are invited to submit for-profit business ideas related to food and agriculture online at

Joining Forces, June 24

On June 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the NC State Grange will host “Joining Forces to Bring Veterans & Careers Together.” This hiring event will be held at the Embassy Suites in Fayetteville. The mission is to bring agriculture and agribusiness careers and military veterans together. Contact: Laurie Barnhart, 919-539-5821.

Migrant Workers Study

America’s seasonal agricultural industry suffered from a labor shortage in recent years as average migrant workers became significantly less mobile, according to a new study from Ball State University. “Why Do Fewer Agricultural Workers Migrate Now?” found farm workers who migrate and work on multiple farms during a growing season dropped from 55 percent in 1998 to 20 percent in 2009. The study was published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Agricultural labor markets have historically been characterized by both seasonal demand and migrant workers, said Maoyong Fan, an economics professor at Ball State and the study’s lead author. “Our research is the first study that shows that a true ‘labor shortage’ may be experienced by farmers despite stable worker totals,” Fan said. The study’s results, Fan said, also directly address a major concern that granting legal status to unauthorized agricultural workers might further reduce their willingness to migrate and, thus, is less likely to help ease the “labor shortage.” “We also found that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents were more likely to migrate than unauthorized workers during the 1998–2009 period. Apparently, stricter border enforcement during this period made unauthorized workers less willing to migrate within the United States because they feared such a migration would raise the odds of being caught,” he said. Contact: Maoyong Fan, Ball State University, 765-285-5741.

OSHA Final Rule

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration published its final rule establishing procedures for handling retaliation complaints under the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act. The final rule explains the burdens of proof, remedies and statute of limitations similar to other whistleblower protection statutes that OSHA administers. In 2014, OSHA published an interim final rule and requested public comments. This final rule responds to those comments, clarifies the agency’s policy regarding approval of settlement agreements, and improves consistency with the language of the statute, other OSHA whistleblower regulations and developments in applicable case law. Farm Bureau is reviewing the final rule.

Cogongrass Workshop, June 2

Following the discovery of the federally listed noxious weed cogongrass in northern Scotland County, plant pest regulators with the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will hold a workshop June 2 to help residents identify the grass to be able to report it and help prevent its spread. The free, hands-on workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will provide participants the opportunity to see the plant during its flowering stage, help them learn how to identify it and offer discussions with weed control specialists about various control options. The workshop will be held at the cogongrass site in Marston. Cogongrass is considered one of the top 10 weeds in the world, and spreads through seed and rhizomes. Contact: Bridget Lassiter, NCDA&CS, 919-707-3749;

Forest Fires Raging

The N.C. Forest Service is battling several wildfires across the state, and residents are being asked to be careful when using open flames while dry conditions persist. The Whipping Creek Fire in Hyde County, on the Dare County line, began on private land and has grown to about 14,000 acres on public and private lands. It is 15 percent contained. The Clemmons Road Fire in Brunswick County is currently about 1,600 acres and is 70 percent contained. Battling this wildfire are 27 personnel, four Type 6 engines, eight fire dozers, one helicopter, three SEATs, one patrol plane and one lead plane. The Stateline Fire, which started in the Cherokee National Forest is burning along the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. This fire is 1,068 acres, with the majority being on the Tennessee side of the state line, and is 60 percent contained. For information on any of these fires, contact Brian R. Haines, public information officer, N.C. Forest Service, 919-857-4828.

Rural Center Strategy

Representatives from the N.C. Rural Center held the fifth of six statewide sessions on April 20 in Oxford. The event brought together leaders from various entities with an interest in rural communities and economic development. The agenda focused on the center’s 10 Strategies for Rural North Carolina, which are as follows: 1) Vigorously Advocate for Innovation in Education and Workforce Development; 2) Stabilize and Transform Rural Health; 3) Expand Accessible, Affordable High-Speed Fiber Broadband; 4) Accelerate Modernization of Essential Rural Water and Wastewater Infrastructure; 5) Expand and Upgrade Transportation and Natural Gas Infrastructure; 6) Invest in Stronger Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Systems; 7) Strengthen Homegrown Manufacturing; 8) Develop Opportunities for Agriculture and Natural Resources, including Biotechnology and Value-Added Food Processing; 9) Enhance Regional Collaboration and Partnerships; 10) Stabilize and Leverage Rural Development Funding, Capacity Building and Technical Assistance.

NCDA&CS Partners With FieldWatch

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has joined 13 other states in partnering with FieldWatch, an online mapping service to help prevent crop damage and bee deaths due to accidental/unintended pesticide drift. Producers of horticultural and organic crops can map their field location using the DriftWatch program. As a companion program, BeeCheck will allow hive owners to map the locations of beehives. Pesticide applicators can access both databases before treating a field to identify sensitive sites that are close to the spray areas. Growers, beekeepers and pesticide users can access DriftWatch and BeeCheck at

Plant Biotech Partnership

NC State University and VIB, a life sciences research institute in Belgium, recently entered into a strategic collaboration agreement aimed at spurring growth in the plant biotech research sector in both Belgium and North Carolina. Both institutions are leading international players in plant biotech with strong interaction with local agrotech clusters – VIB with the Ghent Agro Cluster and NC State with the AgBio[sphere] in the Research Triangle. VIB and NC State want to exchange researchers, set up new companies and collaborate on studying the soil microbiome’s influence on plants, plant breeding, systems and synthetic biology, field phenotyping, precision agriculture and related sciences.

Checkoff Funds & Cuba

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's recent announcement that commodity checkoff funds can be used to help market U.S. farm products in Cuba lets America's farmers invest directly in the growth in trade between the two nations. Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups have been worked closely with the USDA on lifting the prohibition against using agricultural checkoff funds in Cuba. Checkoff funds are raised through a direct assessment on farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses and are not taken from U.S. treasury funds. As such, it is appropriate that the many farmers and ranchers who pay into the assessment and pay for the oversight of the program by USDA be allowed to see those funds invested in the development of the Cuban market.

Data Survey

American Farm Bureau Federation recently launched an online survey to collect feedback from farmers about farm data. The survey, which is open to all farmers and ranchers, will help gauge progress on big data issues and give some important insight into new issues. When Farm Bureau conducted a similar survey on big data in September 2014, nearly 3,400 farmers responded. The results of the survey proved quite helpful for in prioritizing the development of further actions on the issue of big data. For example, the survey showed 66 percent of farmers were interested in a neutral, independent data warehouse service designed to store their farm data. This led Farm Bureau to become one of ten founding members (and the only farm organization) of the Ag Data Coalition. Through American Farm Bureau’s recently launched follow-up survey, they’ll be checking to see if any progress has been made in raising farmers’ awareness, addressing their concerns and ensuring we are properly focusing our upcoming efforts on the most important big data issues to farmers. AFBF will use the feedback from the survey to develop recommendations on how Farm Bureau can move forward to ensure farmers understand what is going on with farm data and ways to best enhance usage of that data. Take the survey at

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