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Published February 06, 2012, 10:05 AM

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Hormel ending tight confinement for pregnant pigs

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

Hormel ending tight confinement for pregnant pigs

MINNEAPOLIS — Hormel Foods Corp.’s company-owned farms are phasing out the use of small metal crates for confining pregnant hogs by the end of 2017 — a move welcomed Feb. 2 by the Humane Society of the United States, which had pushed for the change. The Humane Society has been campaigning across the country for an end to the use of gestation crates, saying they severely restrict the animals’ movements. Hormel — the maker of Spam canned meat, Cure 81 hams and Black Label bacon — is the society’s latest claimed success. Late last year, the world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods Inc., said it would stop using gestation crates at its facilities by 2017. Matthew Dominguez, public policy manager for the society’s farm animal protection campaign, says the first word his group got of Hormel’s change in policy was at the company’s shareholders meeting in Austin, Minn., recently when he asked CEO Jeffrey Ettinger when the company would stop allowing gestation crates in its supply chain. He says Ettinger replied that Hormel’s company-owned farms would phase them out by the end of 2017. It wasn’t immediately clear when Hormel made the policy change. The company’s media relations department pointed to a section of its online 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report explaining its plans. The section on hog operations was updated at some point to reflect the change since one version of the report was issued last year, but the company did not immediately respond to requests for clarification on when it made the change or whether it was in response to pressure from the Humane Society. In both versions, Hormel says the breeding sows at its company-owned farms in Arizona will be transitioning to group housing by the end of summer this year and at its farms in Colorado before 2018

Biodiesel production tops requirements

ST. LOUIS — Biodiesel became a 1 billion gallon industry, setting an all-time production record last year. That’s thanks in part to its predominant fuel source: soy biodiesel. U.S. biodiesel production exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 production requirement of 800 million gallons. In fact, production reached nearly 1.1 billion gallons, which surpassed the previous record of 690 million gallons in 2008. U.S. soybean farmers and their checkoff program helped establish soy’s role in the biodiesel marketplace, originally looking for a new use of surplus soybean oil more than 20 years ago. Today, the soybean checkoff continues to support biodiesel through research and education efforts. “As Americans, we have a need for an American fuel and the checkoff is seeing their investment start to come to fruition,” says Robert Stobaugh, soybean farmer from Atkins, Ark., and United Soybean Board farmer-director. “The checkoff marketing efforts at the state and national level helped soy become the primary source and we still have room for growth.” The industry expects biodiesel production to grow even larger in 2012. And the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard requires it to meet 1 billion gallons again next year.

Two businesses selected for value-added producer grants

BISMARCK, N.D. — USDA Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider says Dakota Pride Cooperative of Jamestown, N.D., and Bowdon (N.D.) Meat Processing were selected to receive business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant program. “This program is an effective way to increase financial returns and boost economic activity in rural America,” Schneider says. “The projects selected will support the efforts of agricultural producers, businesses and families to sell and promote their commodities to local, regional and even foreign markets.” Dakota Pride Cooperative received a $49,000 grant to expand its market reach into South Korea by marketing identity-preserved, nongenetically modified soybeans. Since 1998, Dakota Pride has been creating marketing opportunities for its members by adding value to their crops through an identity-preserved marketing system. The cooperative has grown from strictly focusing on domestic markets to capitalizing on opportunities overseas where there is a high interest in knowing where products have been produced. Bowdon Meat Processing received a $49,500 grant to help operate the plant as well as market value-added meat products. The farmer-rancher owned cooperative was formed to open a new state inspected processing facility, replacing a plant that previously closed. Farmers and ranchers will now have a plant to locally process their livestock and also to sell their products to customers for retail re-sale across the state of North Dakota. Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s website: www.rurdev.

Briefly . . .

Dairy court: A judge has ordered Hanson County, S.D., officials to either cancel building permits issued to the developer of a controversial dairy or appear in court to explain why the permits have been extended. Opponents of the proposed 7,000-head dairy asked for the order. The group that has organized into a nonprofit corporation known as Concerned Citizens of Hanson County Inc. says the permit extensions violated county ordinance. The group also is suing to revoke the proposed dairy’s water permit. County Zoning Administrator Mary Wilcox and Zoning Board member Roland Schnabel declined comment.