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Published March 05, 2012, 09:40 AM

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Lawmakers override veto on livestock bedding bill

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports, Agweek

Lawmakers override veto on livestock bedding bill

• PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Legislature has overridden Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of a bill that exempts straw and other livestock bedding from the state sales tax. The bill says sales tax cannot be collected on purchases of straw or bedding made from corn or bean plants. Lawmakers say bedding shouldn’t be taxed because it’s just an input on producing livestock. The House voted 68-2 to override the veto, and Senate followed with a 26-6 vote. Both votes were well above the two-thirds majority needed to pass a law over a governor’s objection. Daugaard says South Dakota applies its 4 percent sales tax to most goods and services to provide a reliable source of state revenue. But lawmakers say a tax on bedding would discourage dairies from locating in the state.

Ag secretary to approve consolidation of FSA offices

• WASHINGTON—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Feb. 27 informed Congress that in 90 days he plans to approve consolidation of 131 Farm Service Agency offices with other USDA service centers. Vilsack had announced the proposed closures on Jan. 9 as part of a Blueprint for Stronger Service that is supposed to save the U.S. Department of Agriculture $150 million per year in operating costs. As required by the 2008 farm bill, FSA held public meetings in every county in which an FSA office was proposed for consolidation and also invited the public to submit comments for 10 days following the public meeting, USDA said in a news release. All comments were reviewed and considered before the issuance of Visack’s notification letters to Congress, the agency said. Offices proposed to be closed in Agweek’s readership area include the Food and Nutrition Service in Pennington County, S.D., and FSA offices in Campbell, Harding, Jackson and Jerauld counties in South Dakota; the FNS and Natural Resources Conservation Service in Burleigh County, ND.; FSA office in Pine County, Minn.; and the FSA office in Treasure County, Mont., and FNS office in Lewis and Clark County, Mont.

Texas rice farmers won’t get water for irrigation

• AUSTIN, Texas — A Central Texas river authority said March 2 that Hill Country lakes fell short of levels sufficient to provide irrigation water to downriver rice farmers. That makes 2012 the first year in which the farmers will not get the water from the Lower Colorado River Authority. As of March 2, lakes Travis and Buchanan were about 3,200 acre-feet, or more than 1 billion gallons, short of the level they’d need to reach for the farmers to receive water. LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma had said March 1 that the authority did not expect to reach the 850,000 acre-feet lake levels needed to provide water to the farmers. Rice farmers have been preparing for such a situation for months. They’ve known the worst 1-year drought in Texas history had so severely depleted the Highland Lakes it was unlikely it could rain enough for them to plant their crops. Texas is one of the six largest rice producers in the country. The farmers in the Colorado River basin make up almost three-quarters of the state’s total rice acreage. At current lake levels, a small percentage of farmers, those with senior water rights along the river, will get about 20,000 acre-feet of water. The rest will not get any. The drought has eased in recent weeks with some significant rains. But most of the state still remains under some level of drought.

Vilsack: USDA to lead China trade mission in March

• AMES, Iowa — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department will lead an agricultural trade mission to China at the end of March. Representatives from 40 U.S. agribusinesses and six state agriculture department leaders are planning to attend. They include Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese, and representatives from North Carolina, Illinois, Kansas, and South Dakota. Acting Agriculture Under Secretary Michael Scuse will lead the group to Chengdu and Shanghai, two of China’s largest cities, from March 23 to 28. China moved into the top spot as the top market for U.S. agricultural goods last year after purchasing $20 billion in U.S. agricultural exports. Vilsack announced the trip in Ames, Iowa, on March 1. He says the goal of the mission is to provide U.S. participants with market information, access to government decision makers, and one-on-one meetings with business contacts, potential agents, distributers, and importers.

Briefly . . .

• Barley workshop rescheduled: A barley workshop at the Carrington (N.D.) Research Extension Center has been rescheduled and will be held on March 20. Research conducted by North Dakota State University scientists and a new risk management tool by Cargill Malt Global Risk Management will be featured. The workshop, originally scheduled for Feb. 28, was postponed after a blizzard warning in North Dakota. The workshop will begin with registration at 9:30 a.m. Registration: Linda Schuster 701-652-2951; email or Karen Hertsgaard 701-231-5384; email

• Dryer business: A North Dakota businessman has pleaded not guilty to defrauding customers out of more than $192,000. Authorities say Michael Jelle (JEHL’-ee) sold grain dryers and parts as the “Dryer Guy” in Maddock, N.D., and failed to deliver goods to five customers early last year. He is charged with theft of property. State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem late last year ordered Jelle to stop doing business in North Dakota.

• Crop losses: Crop insurance companies’ payments to farmers and ranchers for loses on their 2011 crops have reached more than $10.08 billion, National Crop Insurance Services announced Feb. 27. The figure is likely to climb higher because more than 5 percent of claims remain outstanding, said Tom Zacharias, president of NCIS, a research organization funded by the companies.