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Minnesota weighs quarantine to stop pine beetles

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota regulators have proposed a quarantine in hopes of keeping mountain pine beetles out of the state.

The beetle has devastated huge swaths of forest in the Rockies, and scientists fear the insects could threaten the majestic pines of Minnesota and other Great Lakes states someday. They’re already established in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Living specimens have not been found in Minnesota so far, but dead beetles have been found twice in wood transported to Minnesota.

Mark Abrahamson, an entomologist for the state Department of Agriculture, tells Minnesota Public Radio ( ) the proposed quarantine would ban freshly cut logs from states infested with the mountain pine beetle that have the bark still on them. He says that should be effective.

The Minnesota Forest Resources Council supports the quarantine.

Fire destroys farm shop, no one hurt

A fire that destroyed a shop on a farm near Bath was contained and did not spread to any other buildings on the property, Groton Assistant Fire Chief Tom Tietz said.

The call came in at about 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, and about 25 firefighters and 10 firefighting apparatuses from three area fire crews — Groton, Columbia and Aberdeen Rural — responded, Tietz said. The fire was contained in about an hour, and crews stayed on scene until the fire was completely extinguished at around 1 a.m. on Dec. 2, he said.

An Aberdeen Fire and Rescue ambulance was also on scene in case its services were needed, Tietz said. However, he said, nobody was injured.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Tietz said.

The address of the fire was 13232 Park Road. The property is owned by Jason Sattler.

SD bison cooperative gets $99,000 federal grant

RAPID CITY (AP) — A Rapid City bison cooperative has received a roughly $99,000 federal grant to study how to get buffalo and other traditional foods on lunch tables in American Indian schools.

The Rapid City Journal reports the Intertribal Bison Cooperative said on Dec. 2 it was awarded the grant from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Executive Director Jim Stone says the group will use the money to find ways for students in South Dakota reservation schools to eat more traditional and healthier foods. He says school lunch programs are sometimes students’ primary source of nutrition but school produce offerings don’t always have much variety.

AgBiome announces product development partnership with Syngenta

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — AgBiome LLC, an innovator in microbes for agriculture, announced an important research partnership with Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc. In the partnership, AgBiome and Syngenta bring unique strengths to discovery and development of novel, high-value trait products for protection of specific crops. Under the terms of this partnership, Syngenta funds a multi-year discovery research program at AgBiome and will select potential development candidates in its field and crop of interest based on successful technical milestones.

“We are excited to be working with Syngenta, one of the world’s leading agricultural companies, to discover new traits using AgBiome’s proprietary technologies,” said Dan Tomso, Chief Science Officer at AgBiome. “AgBiome’s ever-growing collection of microbes and sequence data, coupled with our proprietary screening capabilities, provide a powerful engine for trait discovery.”

“AgBiome is the ideal partner for this research program, and we anticipate great outcomes from the partnership,” said Patrice Selles, Head of External Collaborations and Adjacent Technologies at Syngenta. We have already enjoyed working closely with their team to structure this unique deal, which represents a true collaborative foundation, addressing the interests of both companies.”

Financial terms are not being disclosed.

USDA homeownership loans available to SD residents

HURON, S.D. (AP) – A federal home loan program geared to potential buyers in rural communities is now available to South Dakota residents.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development home loan program offers 100 percent financing with no down payment required for low and lower income individuals or families at a 3.75 percent interest rate.

State director Elsie Meeks says the loans can help improve the quality of life for South Dakota residents while assisting rural communities grow.

The loans are made directly through the USDA and are offered for a period of 30 to 38 years. The loans can go toward purchasing an existing home or new home construction.

Income qualifications apply and the loan amount is determined by the borrower’s repayment ability.

SD tribal colleges receive grants

On Dec. 3 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced $9.7 million in grants to 62 community-based and non-profit organizations, and educational institutions to conduct training, outreach and technical assistance, including $390,851 for South Dakota tribal community colleges.

The funds were made available through the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities program. South Dakota recipients are: Oglala Lakota College in Kyle will receive $145,302, Sinte Gleska University in Mission will receive $120,000, and Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC) in Sisseton will receive $125,549.

• Sisseton Wahpeton College will use the funds to enhance the SWC facility by providing funding for student housing.

• Oglala Lakota College will use the funds to purchase equipment and for renovations in nine instructional centers.

• Sinte Gleska University will use the funds to purchase student buses.

Secretary Vilsack made the announcement at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference, a gathering of leaders from the country’s 566 federally recognized tribes.

North Dakota programs get $250K in federal grants

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) – U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven say nearly $250,000 in federal grants will go toward medical research and housing assistance in North Dakota.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is giving nearly $200,000 to Krisara Engineering in Fargo for heart and vascular disease research.

And the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development is giving $50,000 to assist 11 very low-income homeowners in Pembina County in repairing their homes.

The senators announced the federal grants in statements on Jan. 3.

Apply for the NWF Jerry Minore Scholarship

The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) has partnered with BASF to award four scholarships, on behalf of the Minore Memorial Scholarship, for college students who have a personal connection to the wheat industry and a planned career path in the agriculture industry.

The scholarship is named in honor of Jerry Minore, who was a longtime friend of the wheat industry and an advocate for wheat farmers. To honor Jerry’s life and work, the Minore Memorial Scholarship will fund two $1,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The scholarship application and eligibility requirements can be found at

Worker burned by beet juice sues American Crystal

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — A man who was severely burned while working at an American Crystal Sugar plant last year has filed a lawsuit that accuses the company of negligence.

Kevin Birnbaum was a contract worker at the East Grand Forks plant when the accident happened during an employee lockout in January 2013. The lawsuit filed in Clay County District Court says Birnbaum suffered second- and third-degree burns when he was sprayed with scalding beet juice.

Birnbaum wants more than $2.5 million in compensation. KFGO-AM says Birnbaum is also seeking damages from Wanzek Construction, the designer and manufacturer of the equipment involved.

American Crystal spokesman Jeff Schweitzer says the company does not comment on pending litigation.

The agricultural cooperative corporation is owned by about 2,800 sugar beet growers in Minnesota and North Dakota.

SDDA farm loan mediation changes

PIERRE — The South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) recently made changes to its administrative rules for the Agricultural Mediation program. These rules became effective on Dec. 9.

In addition to promulgating rules for the new areas of federal lands and oil and gas mediation, changes were made to the Farm Loan Mediation program. The filing fee for farm loan mediations is increasing from $50 to $100 per party to cover the first hour of mediation. The fee for any additional hours of mediation will not change. That fee is $25 per hour per party. The new rules can be found at under “Department of Agriculture” and “Agricultural Mediation”.

Mandatory mediation is required for any agricultural debt over $50,000 before a creditor can proceed with legal action. SDDA encourages voluntary mediation if a creditor or debtor feels communication can be restored with a third party mediator.

“Mediation is a great resource for both sides looking to resolve disputes and avoid a costly legal process,” said Terri LaBrie, SDDA finance administrator. “Financial counseling is also available for our mediation clients.”

For more information on the mediation program or any of the financial programs at SDDA, call 605.773.5436 or visit

Cattle industry opposes expanding beef checkoff

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Different cattle industry groups may not agree on what needs to change in the current beef checkoff program, but they appear united in opposing an expansion of the program.

Rancher Dave Wright, who leads the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, tells the Lincoln Journal Star no industry groups are supporting the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal to expand the program.

Currently, a checkoff fee of $1 per head is charged when cattle are sold to provide money to promote the industry and increase beef demand.

The USDA is collected comments on a proposal to double the fee through Dec. 10.

Fire severely damages ND grain elevator complex

COLFAX, N.D. (AP) — A fire has severely damaged a large grain elevator complex in southeast North Dakota.

KFGO-AM reports that the fire began around 1 a.m. on Dec. 6 at the Farmers Elevator in Colfax, N.D. Flames reportedly could be seen from Wahpeton, N.D., about 25 miles south from where the incident happened.

Co-owner Don Hendrickson says the elevator’s main structure and offices have been destroyed. He adds that the elevator’s grain loading facility, as well as the chemical and fertilizer operation are intact.

Richland County officials say as many as 100 firefighters from several departments battled the blaze. Some crews are still at the scene watching for flare-ups.

Hendrickson says the bins were full as grain shipments have been slowed by ongoing rail delays.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined.

Fewer Christmas tree farms in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The number of Christmas tree farms has dwindled in Nebraska and elsewhere across the nation.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports fewer people are establishing new Christmas tree farms, while current owners are retiring and selling their property to land developers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, the number of Nebraska acres for Christmas tree production decreased from nearly 1,100 in 2002 to almost 650 in 2012.

National numbers also have seen a similar decrease. In 2002, the federal agency reported about 14,700 producers harvesting almost 21 million trees. In 2012, almost 13,000 producers harvested about 17 million trees.