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Published August 20, 2012, 11:18 AM

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USDA buys meat to help drought-stricken farmers, N.D. Waterbank acres open to haying and grazing, Agricultural drought emergency declared in N.D.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports, Agweek

USDA buys meat to help drought-stricken farmers

•WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish to help drought-stricken farmers and ranchers. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says the purchase for food banks and other federal food nutrition programs will help producers struggling with the high cost of feed. The announcement comes as President Barack Obama campaigns in Iowa, where he criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for blocking a farm bill that could help farmers cope with the drought. Obama has pledged a wide-ranging response to the worst drought in a quarter-century. His administration is giving farmers and ranchers access to low-interest emergency loans, opening more federal land for grazing and distributing $30 million to get water to livestock.

N.D. Waterbank acres open to haying and grazing

•BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has ordered that haying and grazing be immediately allowed on land contracted to the State Waterbank Program as a result of drought conditions. “The need for hay and pasture is increasingly acute,” Goehring says. “Opening waterbank land for 2012 makes more than 2,400 additional acres available to help feed livestock.” Goehring says the haying and grazing can now be conducted by the landowners without a reduction to their lease payment. Leaseholders also have the option of allowing others to hay or graze the waterbank acres. “We are notifying State Waterbank contract participants that their waterbank acres are eligible for haying and grazing upon return of the required form,” he says. “I hope that leaseholders who do not hay or graze their waterbank land will allow other livestock producers to use it.” Established by the 1981 Legislature and administered by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the State Waterbank Program is a cooperative effort of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the State Water Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and NDDA. “State law requires that the director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department consent to opening the acreage to haying and grazing,” Goehring says. “Director Terry Steinwand agrees with this decision and has been supportive and helpful in moving this forward.” The program provides participating landowners with a financial incentive to preserve wetlands through five- or 10-year agreements. During the agreement period, a participating landowner may not “drain, burn or fill or otherwise destroy the wetland character” or use the land for agricultural purposes, including cultivation, grazing or haying. The program is funded by a combination of federal and state monies and through fundraising activities. Currently, 24 leases involving 2,412 acres are contracted under the program. The program is most heavily used in eastern North Dakota; one-third of the leases are in Griggs County.

Minn. ethanol plant suspends operations

•LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — The high price and low supply of corn has idled the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op ethanol plant in Little Falls, Minn. The plant’s general manager, Dana Persson, says that until it can buy corn or sell ethanol at a better price, it’s to the company’s advantage to stop production. The co-op began operating in 1999 and has produced about 21 million gallons of ethanol per year. The cash price for a bushel of corn is currently $7.27, compared with $4.87 a bushel in November 2010.

Agricultural drought emergency declared in N.D.

•BISMARCK, N.D. — Gov. Jack Dalrymple has declared an agricultural drought emergency because of drought conditions in 50 counties, as well as five Indian reservations, in North Dakota. The declaration requires state agencies to prepare drought response support services.

N.D. property owners urged to check plants for Japanese beetle

•BISMARCK, N.D. — Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says North Dakota home and property owners should check recently purchased nursery stock for Japanese beetle infestation. “If you have bought shrubs, trees or flowers this year, please inspect the plants carefully and remove and kill any Japanese beetles you find,” Goehring says. “We do not believe this pest has become established yet in North Dakota, and we don’t want it to become a permanent resident.” He says homeowners can also contact their nursery dealer or their county extension agent for more information. A Japanese beetle recently found in Grand Forks was positively identified by the North Dakota State University Extension Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory. Later, more specimens were found in traps in West Fargo, N.D. Goehring says the apparent source of the beetles is a Minnesota nursery stock supplier. The beetle is native to Japan and was first found in the U.S. in 1916. It is now found in nearly every state east of the Mississippi River, as well as Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana. The only previous finding in North Dakota was in 2001 in Burleigh County. Information:

Agweek wants to hear from you

•Agweek is preparing an article on drought and would like to include readers’ personal experiences. The story will look, in part, at how the 2012 drought compares with past droughts such as the ones in 1988 and 1961. Please take a few minutes to write down your thoughts on the drought that you remember most and how it affected your farm, ranch or agricultural business. We’re also interested in whether evolving farming practices such as no-till have helped you withstand drought. Send the information, including your name and home town, by Sept. 1 to: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek reporter, e-mail address:; Mail address: Box 6008, Grand Forks, N.D., 58206-6008.

— Agweek Staff and Wire Reports