Back to October 2011 home page


Irene huffs and puffs and blows crops down
Open Grounds Farm Inc. (cover story, September) took a direct hit from Hurricane Irene, though preparation and timing were on the side of the largest farm in the eastern U.S. “The eye went directly over us, but it was not quite strong enough to do major damage,” says Greg Rowland, the Italian-owned operation’s business manager. Some other farmers in Carteret County and other coastal counties and across the state weren’t as lucky. The governor’s office estimates agricultural losses at more than $320 million — and climbing.

Buildings suffered slight damage, but Open Grounds’ corn crop was more than 90% harvested. Its roughly 18,000 acres of soybeans suffered wind damage, but stunted by near-record drought most of the spring and summer, the crop may have benefited from the rainfall. Under ideal conditions, the farm’s corn and soybeans would have been valued at more than $20 million.

But farmers who rent about 5,000 of Open Grounds’ 57,000 acres, mostly for cotton, suffered, say Rowland and Dianne Farrer, the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service’s regional agronomist. Wind blew apart and rain soaked cotton bolls that were already open. Younger plants were tangled and matted. The N.C. Agricultural Extension Service’s county office estimates a 65% loss for cotton in Carteret. In 2010, cotton sales in the 12-county central coastal region totaled about $50 million.

Farther inland, tobacco, which contributed the bulk of the central coast’s roughly $850 million of crop sales in 2009 (the most recent year available), was nearly a total loss due to wind and flood damage. Produce such as watermelons, strawberries and tomatoes already had been written off because of severe drought.

WHITEVILLE — Nasdaq issued a noncompliance notice to Waccamaw Bankshares because the bank holding company did not file its second-quarter results on time. Waccamaw hasn’t filed first-quarter results for 2011 or an annual report for 2010. The company claims three complicated transactions are delaying its financial statements.

PEMBROKEThe U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has ordered the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina to repay more than $98,000 in misused federal funds. HUD originally said the tribe was out of compliance on more than $115,000 of the $14 million it received last year.

GREENVILLEJames R. Hupp resigned as dean of East Carolina University’s new dental school after a state audit uncovered questionable travel expenses and failure to disclose outside compensation. Hupp didn’t report teaching part time at UNC Chapel Hill or receiving payments for editing research journals. He remains on the faculty.

LAURINBURGGOJO Industries will close its local factory by the end of the year, laying off about 70. The Akron, Ohio-based company makes Purell hand sanitizer at the plant.

GREENVILLEMontreal-based paper company Domtar agreed to buy Attends Healthcare, a local manufacturer of incontinence products, for about $215 million. Attends employs 330 at a factory and distribution center here.