Ag Business Briefs

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Economy improving in rural parts of 10 states

OMAHA, Neb. – The economy appears to be gaining strength in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states.

The overall economic index for the region improved to 55.6 in May from April’s 53.2, suggesting growth in the months ahead.

The survey of bankers in the region uses indexes that range from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. A score above 50 suggests growth in that factor in the months ahead.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey. He says the results show the economy is improving in these rural areas that depend heavily on agriculture and energy production.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

Union Pacific announces 2-for-1 stock split

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Union Pacific Corp. said on May 15 that it plans to split its stock 2-for-1 and increase its capital spending this year.

The rail transportation company said that shareholders of record on May 27 will receive one additional share of Union Pacific stock for each share they hold. It will be paid in the form of a dividend on June 6.

In addition, the company’s board declared a quarterly dividend of 91 cents, or 45.5 cents post-split, payable July 1 to shareholders of record June 16.

Union Pacific also said that its board has approved an additional $150 million for capital expenditures, bringing its total 2014 capital spending plan to $4.1 billion. It plans to use the extra money to acquire equipment and expand its capacity.

The company’s CEO Jack Koraleski said that it is investing in a future that has “never been brighter.”

Last month the railroad reported its first-quarter net income rose 14 percent despite harsh winter weather as it hauled more agricultural, industrial and coal shipments.

Union Pacific, based in Omaha, Nebraska, operates Union Pacific Corp. Its railroad connects 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country by rail.

FSA offers Farm Bill website and online overview of Farm Bill programs

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (the Act), also known as the 2014 Farm Bill, was signed by President Obama on Feb. 7, 2014. The Act repeals certain programs, continues some programs with modi­fications, and authorizes several new programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Most of these programs are authorized and funded through 2018.

For the latest on 2014 Farm Bill programs administered by FSA, please visit our Farm Bill website at www.fsa.usda.gov/farmbill and for an FSA program overview please read, download and/or print our recently posted FSA Farm Bill Fact Sheet titled, What’s in the 2014 Farm Bill for Farm Service Agency Customers? It is available at http://1.usa.gov/1fxyXQZ.

For more information on FSA, please contact your local USDA Service Center or visit us online at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Corn Palace renovation bids higher than expected

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — Bids for the first phase of a planned $7.2 million renovation of the Corn Palace tourist attraction in Mitchell have come in higher than expected, but officials say it shouldn’t be a problem.

The Daily Republic newspaper reports that the two bids are close to the $4.2 million budget for the first phase but that other expenses such as design fees and furniture will add to the cost.

Development committee chairman Doug Dailey says the bid proposals include alternates that the group can work with. The committee will recommend a bid at the next City Council meeting.

The upgrade to the Corn Palace and the soon-to-be vacated adjacent City Hall includes new domes and lighting, larger murals and a walk-out balcony above the marquee.

Prosecutors outline previous case against farmer

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Prosecutors say one of two North Dakota brothers accused of scamming the government out of $2 million in crop insurance payments orchestrated a similar scheme nearly 20 years ago — but only pocketed about $33,000.

Fifty-year-old Aaron Johnson and 47-year-old Derek Johnson are accused of conspiring to receive illegal payments by intentionally destroying potatoes. They have pleaded not guilty.

Aaron Johnson pleaded guilty in a similar case in 1995. Court documents filed Friday say he falsely claimed he and his brother produced about 9,500 hundredweight of potatoes, when it was actually more than 76,000 hundredweight.

Prosecutors said Aaron Johnson obtained a book of blank scale tickets from the Northwood Elevator, falsified 21 scale tickets and submitted them to the government.

A federal public defender was not immediately available for comment.

N.D. rural electric co-op gets $29M loan guarantee

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A North Dakota-based electric cooperative is getting a $29 million loan guarantee to improve rural electric service in the state.

Minot-based Central Power Electric Cooperative is getting the help through a federal Agriculture Department effort involving aid for projects in 18 states.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the loan guarantees nationwide total $540 million. He says reliable electricity is critical to the success of rural economies.

Central Power plans to add 56 miles of electrical line, build a new substation and upgrade existing facilities.

Officials hope to boost dairies in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Officials are trying to boost the number of dairy farms in North Dakota.

Members of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition recently met with representatives of crop commodity groups. State Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says rebuilding the state’s dairy industry will give crop and forage producers more local markets. He says it also will ensure that North Dakota is not dependent on outside sources for its milk supply.

The number of dairy farms in North Dakota has fallen below 100.

North Dakota meatpacking plant going on auction block

HARVEY, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota meatpacking plant that began as a facility to process beef according to Islamic law is going on the auction block.

Maas Companies of Rochester, Minnesota, is auctioning the 18,000-square-foot facility in Harvey on June 4.

The $2.7 million plant began operations in 2001 as Dakota Halal Processing but went bankrupt in part because of a drop in sales after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

A cooperative of ranchers and farmers took over operations in 2003 but also failed. Two Burleigh County ranchers later took over the plant to supply their Bismarck beef store, but that venture also didn’t work out.

Ranchers reminded to sign up for livestock forage disaster program

South Dakota ranchers are reminded that assistance for grazing losses is available through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program. The 2014 Farm Bill makes this a permanent program and will cover eligible losses back to Oct. 1, 2011, according to Craig Schaunaman, state director for the South Dakota Farm Service Agency.

Eligible producers can apply for losses suffered since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011. That includes calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Ranchers have until January 2015 to apply on their 2012 and 2013 grazing losses, Schaunaman said.

Compensation is available to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses for covered livestock on land that is native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative cover or is planted specifically for grazing.

In 2012, all South Dakota counties are eligible for LFP with the exception of the following nine counties: Brown, Campbell, Clark, Corson, Edmunds, McPherson, Marshall, Roberts and Spink. For a complete list of eligible counties, visit http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.