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Published August 06, 2012, 10:58 AM

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Vilsack announces new drought assistance, Canadian Wheat Board monopoly is over, USDA Farm Service Agency to close 5 Minn. offices

By: Agweek Wire Reports, Agweek

Vilsack announces new drought assistance

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Aug. 1 two new pieces of disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers impacted by the nation’s worsening drought. First, Vilsack is expanding emergency haying and grazing on approximately 3.8 million acres of conservation land to bring greater relief to livestock producers dealing with shortages of hay and pastureland. Producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency offices for additional information. Second, crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012. As a result, farming families now have an extra 30 days to make payments without incurring interest penalties on unpaid premiums. Vilsack also signed disaster designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states as primary natural disaster areas because of damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. Counties designated are in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming. More than half of all counties in the U.S. have been designated disaster areas by USDA in 2012, mainly because of drought. During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,584 unduplicated counties across 32 states as disaster areas — 1,452 because of drought — making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. Primary South Dakota counties designated as disaster areas Aug. 1: Bennett, Bon Homme, Butte, Charles Mix, Clay, Custer, Davison, Douglas, Fall River, Gregory, Haakon, Hanson, Hutchinson, Jackson, Lawrence, Lincoln, McCook, Meade, Pennington, Shannon, Todd, Tripp, Turner, Union and Yankton.

Monsanto wins Biotech patent case

ST LOUIS — A federal jury awarded $1 billion in damages to Monsanto Co., on Aug. 1, saying DuPont had willfully infringed a patent covering Roundup Ready soybeans. The eight-person jury, in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, deliberated for less than an hour after a trial that lasted more than three weeks. Monsanto maintains patent protection on Roundup Ready soybeans, the world’s most widely grown genetically engineered crop. DuPont, which owns the seed company formerly known as Pioneer Hi-Bred International, said it would appeal. More than 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene, which makes the crop resistant to the herbicide Roundup or generic versions, known as glyphosate. DuPont had attempted to develop an alternative glyphosate-resistant technology called Optimum GAT. But it decided to combine that gene with the Roundup Ready gene, saying the combination worked better. Judge E. Richard Webber agreed with Monsanto in a pretrial ruling in 2010 that DuPont could not combine the two genes. So the trial was focused on DuPont’s contention that the Roundup Ready patent was invalid because Monsanto had deceived the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by withholding information that might have prevented issuance of the patent.

Supreme Court: pesticide drift isn’t trespassing

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Supreme Court says pesticide chemicals that drift from one farm to another do not constitute trespassing under the law, reversing an appeals court decision that found otherwise. The state’s highest court issued its opinion Aug. 1 in the case of organic farmers Oluf and Debra Johnson of Stearns County, Minn., who sued the Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Co. The Johnsons alleged the co-op repeatedly sprayed pesticides that drifted onto the Johnsons’ fields, preventing them from selling their crops as organic. While the Supreme Court says the trespassing allegations won’t hold up under law, the case is still going back to a lower court for proceedings on nuisance and negligence claims.

Canadian Wheat Board monopoly is over

As of Aug. 1, the Canadian Wheat Board’s marketing monopoly on Canadian western wheat and barley is no more. Ian White, CEO of the board, says he is confident the agency will succeed under its new open market mandate ordered by the federal government. He says it will add value to farmers and streamline operations. The board now has 170 locations across the west where farmers with contracts can deliver their grain. Wheat and barley farmers in western Canada have had to sell their grain through the board since the 1940s.

USDA Farm Service Agency to close 5 Minn. offices

ST. PAUL — Five Farm Service Agency offices in Minnesota will be closed and consolidated with neighboring offices, effective this week. The specific dates and locations of the office closures are: Nicollet County office in Saint Peter: Aug. 6, and consolidated with the Blue Earth County office in Mankato; Pine County office in Hinckley: Aug. 8 and consolidated with the Kanabec County office in Mora; Waseca County office in Waseca: Aug. 8 and consolidated with the Steele County office in Owatonna; Chisago County office in North Branch: Aug. 9 and consolidated with the Isanti County office in Cambridge; Scott County office in Jordan: Aug. 9 and consolidated with the Dakota County office in Farmington. The county office consolidation plan is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Blueprint for Stronger Service.”

Clarification:

A photo caption with the “Bison mentor” story in the July 30 issue of Agweek was incomplete. It should have read: Kevin Leier and his wife, Anne, are teachers and bison ranchers near Rugby, N.D. They are pictured here with Kevin’s son, Gryphen Leier-Wangler, age 2.