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Published September 17, 2012, 10:46 AM

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Guilty plea for defrauding customers, developments in SD dairy battle and flood relief grants for Minnesota farmers.

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

ND man pleads guilty to defrauding grain customers

•DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — A North Dakota man accused of defrauding agriculture customers out of more than $200,000 has pleaded guilty in state court. Authorities say Michael Jelle sold grain dryers and parts as the “Dryer Guy” in Maddock and failed to deliver goods to customers. Jelle has agreed to plead guilty to six misdemeanor counts that were originally charged as felonies. The deal calls for him to pay back about $237,000 to his victims. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem late last year ordered Jelle to stop doing business in North Dakota. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

SD landfill to take some of beef plant’s waste

•ABERDEEN, S.D. — The city of Huron, S.D., has agreed to accept some waste material from the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen, S.D. Huron will be paid $32.50 per ton of paunch, the undigested food in the belly of animals when they are slaughtered. Brown County commissioners this summer asked the plant to consider alternatives to the county landfill because of the waste’s odor. At the Huron landfill, the paunch will be included in a composting program. The $109 million beef plant being built south of Aberdeen has been delayed by numerous problems, from lawsuits to flooding. Construction is nearly done, but officials have yet to announce an opening date.

Flood relief grants offered for Minn. farmers

•Applications for flood relief grants are being accepted from Minnesota farmers who were hit hard by the June flooding. The grants, from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, are part of a disaster relief package passed by the state legislature on Aug. 24. Grants are available to eligible farmers in St. Louis, Carlton, Lake, Cook, Aitken, Itasca and Pine counties in the Northland as well as Cass, Crow Wing, Dakota, Goodhue, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Rice and Sibley counties. Losses covered include damages to agricultural buildings, feed and forage damages, equipment losses and organic and specialty crop losses. Applications can be found on the department’s website: www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/disaster/floodgrant.aspx and most must be postmarked by Oct. 24. Funds are expected to be delivered in January.

USDA buying meat again from Calif. slaughterhouse

•FRESNO, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is buying meat again from a central California slaughterhouse that’s been at the center of an animal cruelty investigation. A statement USDA issued Sept. 10 says Central Valley Meat Co.’s improved oversight for animal welfare prompted the government to reinstate purchases for federal feeding programs. Officials with the Food Safety and Inspection Service concluded recently that there was no evidence of sick cattle entering the food supply after an undercover video showed workers kicking and shocking downed cattle in an attempt to herd them to slaughter. USDA will conduct quarterly audits at the Hanford, Calif., company until it successfully completes four audits in a row. The government suspended its purchases last month after seeing the video recorded by the animal welfare organization Compassion Over Killing.

Dairy battle in southeast SD could be over

•ALEXANDRIA, S.D. — A drawn-out battle over a proposed large dairy operation in southeast South Dakota might be over, with developers of the 7,000-head Hanson County Dairy project withdrawing a request for a state water permit. The decision comes about a month after a state circuit court judge ordered the county to cancel a zoning permit it had issued five years ago because of a lack of progress on the project. South Dakota Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones says he is disappointed, and that the demise of the project is a lost opportunity for farmers, who could have made money selling crops to the dairy. Opposition groups had fought the project on both state and county levels. “It’s been a miserable fight for the last year and a half,” says Stace Nelson, a state representative from Fulton who led an opposition group. “I’m ecstatic that the people of Hanson County have some closure on this.” The state Water Management Board last year granted the proposed dairy a water permit, which the opposition group appealed in court. Circuit Judge Sean O’Brien overturned the board’s decision last spring, saying the board did not adequately consider whether the underground aquifer in the area could supply the necessary 720,000 gallons of water daily for the dairy. The state board scheduled a new hearing on the permit rather than fight the judge’s decision. That two-day hearing, which had been scheduled for this week in Pierre, will be canceled, says Eric Gronlund, a natural resources engineer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Gronlund says the dairy project can reapply for a water permit if it chooses but opponents say they doubt that will happen.

BPI sues ABC News for defamation

•LINCOLN, Neb. — Beef Products Inc. has filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC News for its coverage of a meat product that critics dubbed “pink slime,” alleging the network misled consumers to believe the product is unhealthy and unsafe. The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based company is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product. The lawsuit, filed in a South Dakota court Sept. 13, also accuses ABC News of improper interference with the relationships between BPI and its customers. BPI attorney Dan Webb says the reports led consumers to believe the beef is not meat, but an unhealthy slime unfit for human consumption. ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey W. Schneider says the lawsuit has no merit. ABC News is owned by The Walt Disney Co.

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