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Published July 16, 2012, 10:04 AM

Latest news

Ethanol plant waiting for federal approval, S.D. senators ask Vilsack to open CRP land for grazing.

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

McDonalds will sell more chicken, less beef

•The fast food giant that gained notoriety for its Big Mac and other burger items is turning its focus to other products as the company’s new CEO looks for ways to get more customers through the door. Citing the current economy, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson says the company will use more chicken recipes to attract budget-conscious customers. New menu items include bone-in chicken wings and cashew teriyaki salads with chicken. Thompson is highlighting chicken entrees, a cheaper alternative as beef prices remain high. Burgers are expected to get more expensive at the retail level with cattle supplies low and waning further with a second consecutive year of severe drought.

Ethanol project waiting on word from feds

•JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Connie Ova, Jamestown/Stutsman (N.D.) Development Corp. CEO, says the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol project planned for the Spiritwood (N.D.) Energy Park may be delayed while waiting for word if it meets approval of federal standards. “We’ve gotten no update on the Renewable Fuel Standards,” she says. “My gut is there will be no action on this until after the election.” The Renewable Fuel Standards are established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Plants that meet these standards are eligible for federal programs. Great River Energy, the principle developer of the project, has been waiting for RFS approval before seeking financing for the corn-based ethanol plant. If the approval is delayed until November, it is unlikely construction could start this year, Ova says.

Hundreds of dead fish found in P.E.I. brook spawns pesticide concerns

•COLEMAN, Prince Edward Island — The discovery of hundreds of dead fish in Prince Edward Island, Canada, is spawning concerns from environmentalists about the use of pesticides in the province’s agriculture industry. Dale Cameron of Trout Unlimited says more than 2,000 fish have been scooped out of a three-kilometer stretch of Barclay Brook in Coleman, Prince Edward Island recently. Cameron says that’s more than triple the amount of fish that washed up on the same shores of the brook in July 2011, though the current discovery is concentrated in a smaller area. Provincial Green party leader Sharon Labchuk says legislation that requires buffer zones between waterways and farm fields is not working. She says pesticides should be eliminated from the province’s agriculture industry, as pesticide runoff has historically been a major cause of fish kills, though the cause of this fish kill is not yet known. Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Canada says the use of pesticides should at least be reduced and the province should better enforce buffer zone regulations. Environment Minister Janice Sherry says last year’s fish kill prompted the provincial government to draft changes to regulations that she hopes will be introduced in the legislature this fall.

S.D. senators urge opening CRP acres

to haying, grazing

•SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., are asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to release Conservation Reserve Program acres for emergency haying and grazing in South Dakota because of continuing drought conditions. Both sent letters to the secretary recently, saying a dry spring, higher than normal temperatures and lack of rainfall have resulted in short hay supplies and pastureland in areas of the state as low as only 25 percent of normal carrying capacity. Thune says opening a portion of South Dakota’s more than 1.1 million CRP acres could help alleviate the worsening shortage for the state’s ranchers. He says such emergency action has been permitted for CRP acres in South Dakota in the past because of drought conditions. The South Dakota Farmers Union is also encouraging Vilsack to open the acres.

S.D. board sets hearing on dairy water permit

•PIERRE, S.D. — A state board has set a September hearing to reconsider whether to grant a water permit to a proposed large dairy operation in southeastern South Dakota. The Water Management Board last year granted a water permit to Hanson County Dairy, but opponents appealed that decision in court. Circuit Judge Sean O’Brien overturned the board’s decision in April, ruling that the board did not adequately consider whether the underground aquifer in the area could handle the amount of water to be used by the dairy. The proposed 7,000-head dairy would use an estimated 720,000 gallons of water per day. The board decided not to appeal the circuit judge’s decision, but instead will hold a new hearing on the water permit Sept. 18 to 19 in Pierre, S.D.

Nitrogen applied to 88 percent of S.D.’s sorghum

•SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says nitrogen was applied to 88 percent of South Dakota’s 150,000 sorghum acres in 2011. USDA’s Agriculture chemical usage report says only two states applied nitrogen at lower rates than South Dakota. The state averaged 1.4 applications per acre treated, at a rate of 47 pounds per acre. Phosphate was applied to 45 percent of the sorghum acreage, averaging one application per acre at a rate of 28 pounds per acre. Herbicide was applied on 89 percent of the 2011 sorghum acreage. USDA says the most widely used herbicides were Glyphosate isopropylamine salt, Atrazine, S-metolachlor and Dimethenamid-P.

N.D. emergency CRP haying and grazing authorization process clarified

•FARGO, N.D. — Dry conditions across much of North Dakota have prompted many questions about haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program land in the state. Emergency haying and grazing of land enrolled in CRP is generally intended for periods of drought or excessive moisture of such magnitude that livestock producers nationally or across wide-ranging areas are faced with culling of herds or livestock losses. Aaron Krauter, North Dakota State Executive Director for USDA Farm Service Agency, is reassuring producers that the dry conditions are not unnoticed. “Our county committees are closely monitoring local conditions, and will make requests for emergency haying or grazing of CRP as needed.” FSA county committees are responsible for assessing drought conditions in their respective counties and making requests for emergency use of CRP to the State Committee. Counties may be eligible for emergency haying and grazing of CRP if they are suffering from a 40 percent or greater loss in normal hay or pasture production and have a 40 percent or greater loss of normal precipitation for the four complete months preceding the request.