2 weeks ago

Could patented golden kiwifruit be Alabama’s next export success?

REELTOWN – A small community in eastern Alabama is home to the nation’s only commercial golden kiwifruit orchard, an innovative operation that could lead the way in establishing a new specialty crop for growers across the Southeastern U.S.

The Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative, established in 2014 and located in Tallapoosa and Macon counties, grows varieties of golden kiwifruit developed and patented at nearby Auburn University, and aims to export them to far-flung global markets.

Golden kiwifruit, in contrast to its green counterpart, has bright yellow flesh and smooth, not fuzzy, skin. It also has a sweeter, more mellow flavor than the tart taste of green kiwifruit.

“The goal is to get it overseas to places like Japan and Southeast Asia where gold kiwifruit is in high demand,” said Clint Wall, co-op vice president and manager.


To launch the developing orchard, the horticulture graduate of Auburn’s College of Agriculture is drawing his on eight years of experience working in New Zealand, a global hub of kiwifruit production.If the orchard is successful, it could also boost the fortunes of other fruit and vegetable growers across Alabama.

Kiwifruit is extremely profitable, particularly golden kiwifruit, Wall said. Once the orchard’s vines mature, a sophisticated, post-harvest system will be installed to pick, pack, process and cool the kiwifruit in preparation for shipment overseas.

That same system could also be used for peaches, satsumas, blueberries and other Alabama-grown produce to follow a similar path.

“I think it’s time that that sort of intensity is brought to the fruit growing sector here in Alabama,” Wall said. “You know those Chilton County peaches that run down your chin when you take a bite? There could be a huge export market for them.

“If we pave a road for our fruit to Japan, we can put other things on that highway.”


So just how did a kiwifruit orchard come to be in Alabama?

Wall says he gets a few strange looks when he tells people what he does for a living.

“People are usually just surprised that kiwifruit grow in Alabama. They think it’s tropical, but it’s not. It doesn’t grow in a tropical climate,” he said.

China is the world’s largest kiwifruit producer, while Italy and Chile are also major players in the global industry. New Zealand has a fairly small footprint of total acres devoted to kiwifruit, but the country is No. 1 in production per acre.

In the U.S., all kiwifruit orchards are in California, except for the Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative in Reeltown.

Alabama and kiwifruit connect through Auburn, where horticulture professor Billy Dozier has long pursued a dream to turn kiwifruit varieties he has patented into a viable niche crop for Southeastern growers.

Several years ago, Dozier, along with nursery owners and brothers Wayne and Jimmy Bassett, formed Gold Kiwi Group LLC, with the exclusive right to propagate, grow and sell five patented cultivars Dozier and others developed at Auburn.

The partners bought land for the orchard from former Auburn football coach Pat Dye. They then tapped Wall, who wanted to return to the U.S. to be closer to family, to run the operation.

A former student of Dozier’s, Wall used his industry connections to help land the support of investor Sun Pacific, the largest kiwifruit producer in the U.S. The Reeltown orchard is the company’s first foray into golden kiwifruit.


A recent study by the global kiwifruit industry identified the Southeastern U.S. as a possible new growth area, specifically a swath running through Alabama and into Georgia and South Carolina.

Among the benefits of the region are a frost-free growing season, abundant rainfall, plenty of lakes and rivers and a favorable soil profile. Another plus is that the U.S. has never had an outbreak of a devastating bacterial canker that nearly wiped out the global kiwifruit supply in 2011.

The study results did not surprise Wall.

“I always kind of knew that. Auburn has been growing kiwifruit at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s Chilton Research and Extension Center near Clanton since the mid-1980s. It was just never commercialized,” he said.

The Reeltown operation is still in the development phase, since it takes about four years for a kiwifruit vine to produce well. Currently, the orchard has about 40 acres of vines that are that age, but it won’t fully produce on all of its 180 acres until 2022.


The coming year will be one of experimentation, Wall said, as he tries to figure out some growing issues with the help of graduate students from Auburn. They plan to study the use of trap crops, rotating organic and non-organic pesticides and how to improve pollination using both honey bees and bumble bees.

“By 2019, we would like to make an informed decision about how we proceed,” he said. “Do we plant more acres? Do we not? Do we try to do it somewhere else? It will be an interesting couple of years.”

If the Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative is successful and has to create the infrastructure to get its products to market, Wall said he would love to see other Alabama-grown commodities go to market through a similar pathway.

“It’s a big world with high demands out there, and it would be unfortunate for such fantastic commodities to be undervalued by keeping them here,” he said. “We could introduce them to a greater audience, which would be thrilled, and that thrill is going to turn into dollars.”

 (By Dawn Azok, Courtesy Made in Alabama)

array(1) {

4 hours ago

Evidence mounts of full-scale Russian campaign to undermine American energy

The U.S. government for the first time ever blamed Russia for hacking into American energy infrastructure. The Trump administration action comes a little over two weeks after a House committee detailed Russian attempts to influence energy markets.

U.S. officials said a “multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors” that began in March 2016, possibly earlier, is part of a campaign to target critical infrastructure, including energy, nuclear and aviation facilities.


The FBI and Department of Homeland Security on Thursday said hackers targeted small facilities “where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks,” Reuters reported.

It’s the first time the U.S. has directly called out Moscow for infrastructure hacking. It’s still unclear whether or not the hacks were successful or led to any damage, and the security alert did not name the companies targeted.

The Trump administration condemnation comes more than two weeks after the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology found Russian agents used social media outlets to embolden opposition to American energy production.

“Russia exploited American social media as part of its concerted effort to disrupt U.S. energy markets and influence domestic energy policy,” reads the committee’s report on Russian activities.

The committee found accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm, published 9,097 social media posts from 2015 to 2017 targeting energy policies and projects. Thirteen Russians connected to IRA were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“The IRA targeted pipelines, fossil fuels, climate change, and other divisive issues to influence public policy in the U.S.,” the House committee found.

For years, Republicans and energy industry experts have worried Russian money was being used to undermine U.S. energy policy.

Intelligence officials confirmed in early 2017 in a declassified report on election meddling that the state-owned media outlet Russia Today (RT) ran “anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health.”

The House committee began the investigation in 2017 and asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to investigate whether or not Russians were using an offshore Bermuda-based law firm to funnel money to U.S. environmental groups.

Lawmakers asked Mnuchin to investigate whether or not the U.S.-based environmental group, the Sea Change Foundation, took $23 million from a Bermuda-based shell company with ties to Russian oligarchs in 2010 and 2011.

Sea Change gave millions to U.S.-based environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. All of those groups oppose hydraulic fracturing.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

5 hours ago

VIDEO: PA-18’s lessons — dangerous teachers — student walkouts … and more on Guerrilla Politics

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories including:

— Were the results in Pennsylvania’s special election a rejection of Trump or Pelosi?

— Why did the executive director of the state’s superintendent association imply teachers were unstable and dangerous?

— Will the student walkouts bring about some real change on gun issues?

Clayton Hinchman joins Jackson and Burke to discuss his campaign for Congress in Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at Hillary Clinton where he begs her never stop talking.

6 hours ago

AlabamaWorks! is holding a career event for students to learn about jobs in the state

Edie Gibson and Antiqua Cleggett talk “Worlds of Work at SkillsUSA” which will be held April 24-25 at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex.

Worlds of Work at SkillsUSA is designed to help 8-12th grade students “connect the dots” and clearly identify steps toward a college or career pathway as they enter their high school education.

More information is available here.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

7 hours ago

Wounded Warrior running for Alabama State House representing Chambers and Lee Counties

Back in 2003, while U.S. Army Specialist Todd Rauch and his buddies were patrolling the streets of Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi city made famous by its notorious prison, a remotely-detonated mortar exploded near his patrol. His right shoulder and hand were severely injured in the blast.

Rauch was eventually flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and endured 12 surgeries to save his limbs from amputation.

He is now running as a Republican for the State House of Representatives district representing Chambers and Lee Counties.

So how did this Illinois-native find himself running for office in Alabama?

While recovering at the hospital, Rauch’s roommate was from Fort Payne and “all he talked about was Auburn and Auburn and Auburn,” Rauch told Yellowhammer News.


Rauch soon recovered from his injuries, and then his plans for a transition to civilian life became all about … Auburn, Auburn, Auburn.

“I applied to Auburn and felt like it was a good place to get a fresh start,” he said

Rauch studied psychology at Auburn University, with the intention of working in veteran services or military intelligence. He then worked for a time as an intelligence analyst and then began working in veterans’ services, helping his brothers and sisters in arms receive the benefits they were promised.

He’s running on a platform strengthening communities.

Rauch has a firm conviction that a community’s representative ought to be more present in the community itself, something he said he hasn’t seen much at the 75 city and county commission meetings he has attended over the last few years.

“I realized that there was no one there who was representing us in Montgomery to take those voices and those issue and those problems to Montgomery,” he said.

Rauch has put improving jobs and education among his platform principles.

He is a stanch supporter of the community college system, of which both he and his wife are products.

“It’s a good and affordable way to get your education and to get experience in college without jumping into a four-year university,” he said.

Rauch also supports expanding broadband access to rural areas. He said it is critical to the development of rural areas that have little internet and cell service.

“You’re not able to do your banking,” he said. “Some of these people aren’t even able to have home security systems because some of that works off of cell service.”

With the campaign motto, “Community. Country. Service,” Rauch said he wants to work to improve life for his constituents, and by extension, the rest of the state and country.

“Focusing on the community creates better environment for the kids, inspires better leaders, and provides better community for our state, and provides a better state for our country,” he said.

The GOP primary is June 5.

(Image: Todd Rauch for Alabama/Facebook)

The conservative alternative to Martha Roby gains momentum as Terry Everett, lawmakers endorse Barry Moore

State Rep. Barry Moore’s campaign for Congress recently received strong endorsements from the district’s former congressman and a dozen of Alabama’s most conservative state lawmakers.

“Since I left Congress, government has grown, our representation has wavered, and District 2 values have been casted aside,” said former Republican Congressman Terry Everett, who represented the district from 1993-2009. “We need to make a change, and I am privileged to support Representative Barry Moore for Congress.”

Everett’s powerful endorsement comes days after 12 of the state’s most conservative lawmakers gathered in Montgomery to endorse Barry Moore, whose conservative record they witnessed firsthand while working alongside him in the State Legislature.

Wetumpka State Rep. Mike Holmes told reporters that the district has “an opportunity to send a strong, unapologetic conservative to Washington,” and Montgomery State Rep. Dimitri Polizos agreed, saying that Moore is a “proven conservative leader” who will “stand with President Trump and give our district the representation it deserves.”

Visit Barry Moore’s website, his Facebook page and @RepBarryMoore on Twitter to learn why Terry Everett and others believe in his vision to Make Alabama Great Again!

(Paid for by Barry Moore for Congress)