Long-time Horticulture Agent Tony Melton retired earlier this month, finishing out a 40-year career with Clemson University. Tony is best known for his passion for working with fruit and vegetable growers in the Pee Dee Region, as well as his frequent appearances on SCETV’s Making It Grow.
Tony first began his career with Clemson University in 1980 in the Horticulture Department before earning his Master’s degree in Horticulture and becoming an Extension Agent in 1989. He attributes his passion for horticulture to the time he spent working with the McLeod family of McBee, SC in his teens. To honor his dedication, the McLeods later created and funded a Clemson University scholarship in Tony’s name.
In addition to his work with the farming community, Tony worked closely with the Master Gardeners in the Pee Dee and wrote weekly articles for the Florence Morning News. He was also involved in fruit and vegetable research, managing 20 acres of research plots at the Pee Dee Research and Educations Center in Darlington. As part of this work, Tony was recently awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant to develop heat tolerant butter beans.
Throughout his career, Tony has earned numerous awards including the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Clemson Alumni Association, the County Agent of the Year from the SC Beekeeper Association, and the Distinguished Service Award from the SC Association of County Agricultural Agents.
Tony is well respected by his peers and is known for his love of work and staying busy. He’s even been known to show up on farms before the sun comes up. His kind-hearted personality and vast knowledge will be greatly missed as we all wish Tony well in this next chapter. Thanks for everything you’ve done and the impact you’ve made, Tony!
From Clemson Agribusiness Agent Kevin Burkett.
Beginning April 5th, USDA Farm Service Agency began accepting new and modified CFAP 2 applications. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on March 24 the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin providing additional financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and producers impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions. This is part of a larger effort to reach a greater share of farming operations and improve USDA pandemic assistance.
USDA reopened CFAP 2 signup for all eligible producers beginning April 5, 2021. The CFAP 2 signup period has reopened as part of USDA’s new Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. The original application period for CFAP 2 was September 21 through December 11, 2020. A deadline for signup for the reopened CFAP 2 has not been announced. Many common South Carolina fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and herb crops are eligible.
Note: Participation in CFAP 1 is NOT required for assistance through CFAP 2.
More information for specialty crop producers.
Apply for CFAP 2.
From Clemson Plant Pathologist Dr. Tony Keinath.
Last week I listened to a panel assembled by The National Garden Bureau discuss this topic. Panelists included employees from Johnny’s, Seminis (Bayer), Harris, Syngenta, Jung, and Botanical Interests seed companies. The short answer to the seed shortage question was yes, 3 to 7% of cultivars—especially cultivars new for this season—may be out of stock. A website often doesn’t show how soon seed will be restocked. Restocking may take only a week if seed still available in a warehouse, or buyers may have to wait 3 to 9 months until the next seed crop is harvested.
The reasons for the seed shortage were mainly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including labor shortages of dock workers to unload shipments of seed produced in Asia and workers at seed processing facilities in rural areas. Another reason is the 3-year timeframe seed producers use when they decide how many acres of a given cultivar to plant. Increased demands for vegetable and flower seeds of 100% and 70%, respectively, mean existing seed stocks are being used up faster than expected in 2020-2021.
Several panelists suggested buyers substitute similar cultivars for out-of-stock cultivars. For growers in the South purchasing seed for vegetable crops, it’s important to find a cultivar with a similar harvest date. In the spring, heat-sensitive crops like beans and radishes need to mature quickly for optimum yields and quality. In the fall, earliness may be important for cold-sensitive cucumbers and squash. Be sure to substitute another early maturing cultivar if the desired early cultivar is not available.
Finally, a tip I heard: carrot seed is likely to be in short supply in 2022, because carrot is a biennial that flowers in the second year of growth (if not eaten before then!).
Earlier in 2020 we asked fruit and vegetable producers to respond to a short survey on their experiences with COVID 19. As the pandemic is ongoing and we are close to starting a new season, we are re-launching the survey to understand what happened over the last full year and what changes are being implemented going into 2021. If you responded to the earlier survey, we appreciate your input and are asking for your response to this survey as well. Click the graphic below or scan the QR code with your phone to access the survey.
Once analyzed, the results will be available online. All survey results are anonymous and will be shown as aggregated results. We hope the results benefit producers, Extension, government, and other participants in agriculture. The greater the response, the more accurate and useful the information will be. We appreciate your time and feedback. Please contact us with any questions or concerns related to the survey.
The USDA is accepting applications for Value Added Producer Grants. The applications are due by March 22, 2021. Click below for the application templates.
According to the application, “The purpose of the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program is to help U.S. agricultural producers enter into value-added activities. Awards may be made for either economic planning or working capital activities related to the processing and/or marketing of valued-added agricultural products. The maximum grant amount for a planning grant is $75,000 and the maximum grant amount for a working capital grant is $250,000.”
Kyle Player of the SCDA ACRE program has planned a Value Added Producer Grant Webinar for January 7, 2021 from 3-4 pm. This will be a great webinar for learning about eligibility and applying for the grant. Click on the flier below for more information.
The 2021 Southeastern US Vegetable Crop Handbook is now available online. Click here to access the online copy. Hard copies are on the way and will be distributed by your local Extension Agent when they arrive.
From the Farm Service Agency.
Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 for Specialty Crop Producers
More than 230 fruit, vegetable, horticulture, and tree nut commodities are eligible for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) along with honey, maple sap, floriculture and nursery crops. Check to see if the crops you grow are eligible through our Eligible Commodities Finder on farmers.gov/cfap.
Don’t miss a “beet” and apply for CFAP 2 by December 11, 2020, through your local USDA Farm Service Agency.
Learn more at farmers.gov/cfap or call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance.
Clemson Cooperative Extension is inviting you to participate in a research study. The purpose of this research is to collect information on the impacts of COVID-19 on the agricultural industry and understand the effects (positive and negative) on specialty crop and direct marketing farms in South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) is a collaborator on the survey.
Efforts like this allow Clemson Extension to improve the quality of life of all South Carolinians by providing unbiased, research-based information. Extension works to help support South Carolina’s $42 billion agriculture and forestry industries. Any collected data will be used in aggregate form. Survey results may be shared with Extension faculty, staff and / or outside organizations in an effort to further understand the impact COVID-19 has had on South Carolina agriculture.
The survey is voluntary and anonymous. It will take you about 7 minutes to complete the survey. Click here to access the survey.
As always, we appreciate your feedback and participation in Clemson Cooperative Extension programs.
Small packages of seeds have started showing up in the mail around the country, including in SC, and no one is sure why. The packages appear to be from China and that’s about all we know at this time. The SCDA and Clemson’s Department of Plant Industry are investigating, as is the USDA. Since we do not yet know if the packets contain invasive species or plant diseases that may affect our agriculture industry, we need to take this seriously.
A mysterious package of seed that recently arrived in Greenville, SC from China. Note the false description of contents on the shipping label. Photo from The Post and Courier
If you receive a package of seeds that you did not order, follow these steps:
- Do not open them.
- Do not plant them.
- Do not throw them or the package they came in away.
- Report the seeds to Clemson DPI and the USDA
- You may also contact:
See Clemson’s press release on the mystery seeds here.
Hurricane season is upon us and the USDA has recently come out with a series of Hurricane Preparation and Recovery Guides for SC Producers. There is (or will soon be) a guide for just about every type of crop and agricultural commodity including:
Fruit Tree Produce (Peaches, Pecans, Apples, etc.) – Coming Soon
Onions – Coming Soon
Strawberries – Coming Soon
Tomato, Pepper, and Eggplant
For the full list of guides for South Carolina, see the USDA page here.