From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
As I have been making my way around the state lately, I can't help but notice that a number of crops look to be in pretty good condition. I have seen some good looking corn and tobacco, but I have also seen field reports where corn in some areas is starting to become stressed because of the lack of rain. Thankfully, we are not seeing widespread shortages of moisture.
This has been an unusual year in that we had a fairly mild winter, followed by a mild spring. I think some people thought we might see a hot spring, but the temperatures were moderate and we have received a decent amount of rain across the state.
In checking the latest North Carolina Weather and Crops Report put out by the Statistics Division, the information supports what I have seen in different parts of the state. Farmers are reporting 79 percent of soil moisture levels are adequate and 6 percent have a surplus. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 14 percent of soil moisture levels are short and 1 percent is very short.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor of North Carolina, there is an abnormally dry band that runs through the middle of the state and also touches along the southern coastline, but at this time we do not have any parts of the state in any higher drought classifications. I hope that holds true throughout the growing season.
The June Monthly Farm Report indicates good harvests of winter wheat and sweet potatoes. The winter wheat harvest is expected to total around 45 million bushels. That is up 8 percent from 2011. Yield is expected to be about 8 bushels per acre less than the record 68 bushels per acre harvested in 2011.
Sweet potato production in 2011 saw a record year with a 32 percent increase in production from the previous record in 2010. A total of 64,000 acres was harvested in 2011, and farmers intend to plant 67,000 acres this year.
In Caswell County, Cooperative Extension is reporting a strong hay crop, with many producers cutting for the second time. The wheat crop in Caswell also received strong marks.
In Catawba County, Extension reports that a late spring freeze did hurt wheat, but that yields were still respectable.
Lee County Extension reported that tobacco is looking great and ponds are on the rise.
While we have mostly focused on field crops, I can tell you that all this means shoppers will find plenty of farm-fresh goodness at farmers markets across the state. Whether you are looking for corn or cabbage, peaches or peppers, you can find it in season at local farmers markets along with many other fruits and vegetables. If you are looking for a local market or roadside stand in your area, go to our N.C. Farm Fresh website at NCFarmFresh.com. Remember, when you want the best, it's Got to Be NC.