Peak-season soil-test fee coming this fall/winter
The 2013 Appropriations Act passed by the General Assembly approved a $4 fee for soil samples analyzed by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the period from December through March. The fee is an attempt to lessen the backlog associated with the busy season when the lab is routinely inundated with tens of thousands of samples. The rest of the year — April through November — NCDA&CS will continue to analyze soil samples without a fee.
In fiscal year 2013, the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division analyzed nearly 368,000 soil samples. About 60 percent of these arrived at the lab during the peak season of December through March, slowing processing turnaround time to nine weeks at one point. At other times of the year, processing can easily be completed in two to four weeks, depending on sample volume.
The new peak-season fee should accomplish two goals. First of all, it will encourage more growers to submit samples earlier, thereby fostering a more balanced sample load throughout the year. Secondly, the fee will enhance sustainability of the soil-testing program because receipts generated in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 are earmarked for improvements such as automated equipment, additional peak-season personnel and computer-programming enhancements.
The vast majority of soil samples analyzed during the winter months are from farms in preparation for spring planting. Most of these samples can be collected and submitted well before December 1st, thus avoiding the fee. Nearly all soil samples associated with home and garden and landscaping projects can be collected and submitted from April through November.
Soil samples received during the peak season will be processed in the order received without any guarantees regarding turnaround time. However, clients can purchase NCDA&CS expedited shippers to receive a guaranteed turnaround time of 10 business days. This year, 525 shippers will be sold. The anticipated 2013-14 price for a 36-sample shipper is $200.
During peak season, the sample receiving process will change. Sample drop-offs at the Eaddy Building in Raleigh must take place during business hours (6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday). A locked gate will prevent access afterhours and on weekends. This procedure will increase the security of samples and improve client access to Agronomic Division personnel.
By late fall 2013, clients will have the convenience of entering sample and payment (credit card) information online via the PALS website. Cash and checks will be accepted for peak-season samples only if deposited in advance in an escrow account. Payment should never be placed inside shippers.
This year, December 1st falls on a Sunday and is preceded by the Thanksgiving holidays. Wednesday, November 27th, will be the last business day of the month for the soil-testing lab. Any soil samples arriving after 6 p.m. on November 27th will be subject to the peak-season fee because they will not be logged in and processed until December 2nd.
Contact the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division office at 919-733-2655 if you have any questions regarding the new peak-season soil-testing fee or the purchase of expedited shippers.