Ag Business Briefs

Farm Forum

Construction industry concerned about rail delays

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (AP) — Representatives of Minnesota’s construction industry are the latest to express concern about the state’s congested railways caused in part by increased oil shipments moving from North Dakota.

Industry leaders say the demand for concrete is growing due to a boom in construction and the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. One of the owners of AVR in Apple Valley, Peter Fischer, says two or three of his employees spend the bulk of their time figuring out where they’ll get the next load of fly ash. That’s a byproduct of coal and is used in making cement. Fischer says his concrete company is juggling and moving from supplier to supplier.

KMSP-TV says legislators recently heard how other essential freight, including grain and propane, has taken a back seat to oil shipments, along with Amtrak passenger trains.

South Dakota confirms 2 new cases of swine disease

PIERRE (AP) — South Dakota veterinary officials say two more farms have confirmed cases of a potentially deadly swine virus, bringing the state total to 38 farms.

The South Dakota Animal Industry Board held a conference call on Oct. 7 for its October meeting. Staff veterinarian Dr. Todd Tedrow says two new hog farms in the state have confirmed cases of Swine Enteric Coronavirus Diseases.

Most of the cases in the state are the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. State Veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven says one is the porcine delta coronavirus.

Oedekoven says South Dakota has had considerably fewer cases than surrounding states such as Minnesota and Iowa. But he says the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus is still a concern because it can spread easily and can be deadly to piglets.

Cargill reports first-quarter fiscal 2015 earnings

MINNEAPOLIS – On Oct. 7, Cargill reported net earnings of $425 million in the fiscal 2015 first quarter ended Aug. 31, down 26 percent from $571 million in the year-ago period. Revenues in the first three months totaled $33.3 billion, a 2 percent change from last year’s $33.8 billion.

“Although Cargill’s first quarter was not as strong as last year, we had several areas of good performance and are optimistic about the opportunities ahead,” said David MacLennan, Cargill’s president and chief executive officer. “This year’s big crops, not just in North America but across agricultural production areas worldwide, will enhance food security after several years of weather disruptions. Our company is well positioned to connect these new supplies to growing demand.”

N.D. woman sentenced in mortgage fraud case

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A North Dakota woman has been ordered to pay back nearly $73,000 for keeping proceeds from loans and livestock that were mortgaged to the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency.

Tara Thomas, of Fort Yates, pleaded guilty to conversion of mortgaged property. In exchange for plea, the government dropped a false statements charge.

Authorities say the scheme took place between September 2008 and September 2011.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland sentenced Thomas to six months in prison and ordered her to pay $72,701 in restitution.

A public defender was not immediately available for comment.

Wheat Growers breaks ground on Kennebec facility

Groundbreaking began Oct. 15 for Wheat Growers’ state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, S.D.

Thanks to the hard work of many partners, the 40-mile Chamberlain to Presho railroad line will be rehabilitated, enabling Wheat Growers to proceed with the new Kennebec facility. Wheat Growers is proceeding with plans to build the new Kennebec facility that will be located on the rehabilitated rail line. The event was also a chance for Wheat Growers to say thanks to Rails to the Future, the South Dakota legislature, the Railroad Board and Department of Transportation.

Suspect in bison ranch standoff pleads guilty

FORT PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A Stanley County man charged in a standoff at a bison ranch north of Fort Pierre has pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

KCCR radio reports that 45-year-old Mark Taggart pleaded guilty to a simple assault charge and a weapons count. He initially had faced more serious aggravated assault charges.

Authorities say Taggart brandished a rifle at the Houck Triple U Buffalo Ranch on Aug. 5 but did not fire the gun. He was arrested without incident after a standoff that lasted about three hours. Taggart had been living and working at the ranch.

His attorney said earlier that a combination of alcohol and medication for bipolar disorder led to the incident.

Taggart is to be sentenced Nov. 4.

Administration extends comment period on Waters of the U.S. rule

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have extended the public comment period for their proposed regulation redefining waters of the U.S., identifying which waters would be subject to jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The comment period will now close on November 14.

Nebraska offers tax breaks to beginning farmers

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska offers tax breaks to beginning farmers, but anyone interested in receiving the incentives next year must apply before Nov. 1.

State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says the program offers both a tax exemption for beginning farmers and tax credits for any established farmer or rancher who works with a beginning farmer or rancher.

Beginning farmers can get an exemption on up to $100,000 of equipment or property used in farming.

To qualify for tax credits, the beginning farmer and experienced farmer must apply together, and the beginning farmer must be leasing land from the experienced farmer.

The program has helped 308 beginning farmers and ranchers and provided $6.4 million in tax credits since 1999.

Minnesota tops nation in elk farming

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota is tops in the nation when it comes to elk farming, but the Minnesota Elk Breeders Association says there’s room for growth.

The USDA Census of Agriculture shows that Minnesota leads the U.S. in farmed elk production and is home to 141 elk farms raising more than 4,200 elk.

Now the association has unveiled a new web site sponsored in part by the state’s Minnesota Grown program. It was created to highlight the shortage of elk products and the need for more elk producers.

The group’s president, Mark Lucas, says the elk industry is enjoying unprecedented demand for elk meat, velvet antler for the health supplement market and hard antler for the dog chew market. He says demand for trophy bulls and breeding stock has risen considerably as well.

Man plants seeds, ends up with 500-pound pumpkin

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota pre-school teacher says he planted a few pumpkin seeds in August with the sole purpose of showing his students how they would blossom.

But Lincoln teacher Joshua Smith tells KXMB-TV he never imagined what those seeds would turn into.

Smith ended up with two huge pumpkins: One weighed 460 pounds and the other 500 pounds. The vines were 38 feet long.

Smith tells the station he decided to move the pumpkins to Papa’s Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck to give more children the opportunity to take a look. The pumpkins are so big that Smith had to use a special sling with his boat tire to move them.

N.D. organic farmers can still get certification aid

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Organic farmers, ranchers, processors and handlers in North Dakota still have about two weeks left to apply for help paying their certification costs.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says organic producers can receive up to $750 for fiscal 2014, which concluded at the end of September. The deadline to apply is Oct. 31.

Goehring says the National Organic Cost Share Program has provided North Dakota with $99,000 for certification reimbursements.

Certification enables producers to label and sell their organic products with a federal seal assuring they were produced with recognized organic methods.