2012 Agribusiness year in review

Published 9:54 am Wednesday, December 26, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: The year 2012 was overall a productive one for agriculture. It was a banner year for cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat and soybeans. In fact, there’s an overabundance of peanuts. Mild winter temperatures resulted in a strong wheat harvest. The following is a month-by-month rundown of agriculture news in Western Tidewater in 2012.

• Jan. 18: Isle of Wight County has received a $110,952 Farmland Preservation Grant from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The county must use the money to pay landowners to permanently preserve their land by placing conservation easements on the land.

• Jan. 23: Virginia Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm advocacy group, continues to oppose Sunday hunting as do some members of the Southampton County Farm Bureau and Southampton County Board of Supervisors. Supervisors voted 7-0 on a resolution to oppose hunting seven days week.

• Feb. 14: Gary Cross harvested more peanuts in Southampton County than any other producer in 2011. Cross on Tuesday was recognized by the Virginia Peanut Growers Association for his yield of 5,127 pounds on 110.7 acres.

• Feb. 15: The Windsor High School Future Farmers of America was commissioned to build 50 bluebird houses for local government grant participant Mert Felts. The construction of suitable houses is necessary to meet the needs of certain wildlife species.

• Feb. 22: Isle of Wight County has been named a primary disaster area due to excessive heat, high humidity, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and excessive rainfall between April 1 and Oct. 31. Southampton County and the City of Franklin received disaster declarations because they border Isle of Wight County.

• March 7: Windsor cotton grower James Jones has been re-elected as Virginia’s vice-chairman for the National Cotton Council for 2012. Also re-elected were producer Randy Everett of Stony Creek as chairman and Jason Hodges, a ginner with Mid-Atlantic Gin in Emporia as secretary.

• March 14: State Fair of Virginia, the nonprofit that produces the State Fair of Virginia, last week converted its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in Richmond District Court. As a result, the organization will no longer produce the fair at The Meadow Event Park.

• March 21: The exceptional mildness of this past winter, which gave way to spring Tuesday, has been a help to the wheat crop’s growth in the region. Extension agent Chris Drake noted although the crop looks good, applying nitrogen and dealing with insects require attention.

• March 28: Virginia agricultural exports hit a record-high $2.35 billion in 2011.

• April 4: Acres planted in soybeans, corn and peanuts are up this year, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Farmers announced their planting intentions in response to a March 1 survey.

• April 11: Based on declining cotton prices, reports of seed sales and local farmers, the county’s extension service speculated cotton acreage would be down by 20 percent. The high price of fertilizer is another factor.

• April 18: More than 90 attended Southampton 4-H Livestock Club’s first goat clinic at the Southampton County Fairgrounds.

• May 2: The winter’s mild temperatures and early spring attributed to the strawberries ripening two weeks early at Amp Cobb’s Goose Hill Farm, where he has 1-1/3 acres planted.

• May 30: The Southampton and Suffolk historical societies, along with the Western Tidewater Chapter of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, are considering producing a documentary on the history of peanut production.

• June 6: Since 1996, the southeastern area of Virginia remains essentially free of cotton boll weevils. But vigilance is necessary, and this year is no exception. For this annual task, the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services since 1990 has employed survey trappers from July through September to look for the once rampant pests.

• June 13: The operators of Virginia’s 47,000 farms will be asked to participate in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which is conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

• June 27: So far, Western Tidewater has experienced a good year for its wheat, peanut, cotton and corn crops, according to Chris Drake, extension agent. Yields are above average for wheat, peanuts look good for the most part, and progress varies noticeably for cotton, he added.

• July 11: Western Tidewater farmers have lost about 20 percent of their corn crop, said Extension Agent Chris Drake. The area since Sunday got anywhere from three-tenths of an inch to three inches. Ray Davis of Davis and Sons Farms said the heat and drought has already resulted in a loss to his 275 acres of corn at Highway 35 and Wakefield Road north of Courtland.

• July 18: Extension Agent Chris Drake said last week’s rain was sufficient for the most part, but with the region’s sandy soils and high temperatures, farmers are seven days away from drought conditions in the critical summer months.

• Aug. 1: Visitors to the 32nd annual Franklin-Southampton County Fair, which runs from Thursday, Aug. 9, through Saturday, Aug. 11, can expect more than 60 entries in the livestock events. Organizer Jennifer Vincent expects seven heifers, 20 goats, 18 feeder pigs, 18 poultry and nine rabbits.

• Aug. 22: Although July was among one of the hottest on record, the effect on agriculture both regionally and statewide has not been devastating. “The potential for cotton, peanuts and soybeans is definitely above average right now,” said Chris Drake, extension agent.

• Aug. 29: Siblings who took home grand champion and reserve champion 4-H titles at the Franklin-Southampton County Fair will be among those competing at the Isle of Wight County Fair. Lee Johnson, 12, and his sister, Maryann, 10, of Drewryville will each enter four goats in competition on Sept. 15.

• Sept. 12: Southampton County Public Schools received a $10,000 grant for a DNA biotechnology lab system and lab supplies. Southampton was one of 176 school districts in 35 states to receive a grant funded through the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program.

Southampton County elementary school-age students Mattie Carr and Danielle Snyder were named winners for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Youth Poster Contest in the Southeast District.

• Oct. 3: The Western Tidewater Humanities Regional Council has received a $3,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to make a documentary film about peanuts.

The grant will pay for initial research and interviews, and an outline and budget for the film.

• Oct. 10: Like most of Virginia, Western Tidewater’s pumpkin 2012 pumpkin crop looks very good. “The traditional orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins are the biggest I’ve ever seen,” said Kevin Semones with the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association. “Most of the wholesale pumpkins are gone now from southwest Virginia, the center of the state’s commercial pumpkin industry.”

• Oct. 31: John Claud feels fortunate even after possibly losing more cotton than he initially expected from Hurricane Sandy. He expected minimal damage to his 425 acres of cotton in Drewryville, which had received 2/10 to 3/10 an inch of rain at that point.

• Nov. 14: In spite of Hurricane Sandy and subsequent rains, losses of cotton in Southampton County have been relatively minimal. In fact, yields are looking better than anticipated.

In Western Tidewater, 82 percent of voters supported the amendment protecting landowners’ rights during the Nov. 6 election. The amendment sought to narrowly define when the government can use eminent domain to seize private property.

• Nov. 28: To help the 80 strawberry growers in Virginia maximize their potential, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services awarded a grant locally. Working with the state’s strawberry industry is Gail Milteer, the sales and market development specialist for VDACS in Franklin.

• Dec. 5: Favorable conditions for soybeans in Southampton County have resulted in an overall excellent harvest this season, and the market seems to reflect that strong bounty. Out of the 30,162 acres devoted to the crop in the county, yields have been ranging from 40 to 65 bushels per acre with an average of 50 bushels for many farmers.

• Dec. 19: A record-breaking yield of Virginia peanuts in 2012 means there’s more to give this Christmas. This year has seen the best yield ever, with 4,200-plus pounds to the acre, according to Dell Cotton, manager of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association in Franklin. He said the 4,000 mark was surpassed only once — in 2011, but not by much.