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Published September 24, 2012, 10:45 AM

Latest news

Ground beef recall, fatal algae in South Dakota, and Manitoba pork producers ask for federal funds.

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

Ground beef products from Alberta plant recalled in E. coli scare

•OTTAWA — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning against the consumption of several brands of ground beef from XL Foods of Alberta because of possible E.coli contamination. The beef was sold under the Kirkland Signature, Safeway, Northern Beef Products and Calahoo Meats brands in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. The recall also includes Reddi Food Solutions in Alberta and Giant Tiger in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. The agency says there have been no reported illnesses linked to the product, which is being recalled by Edmonton-based XL Foods. Consumption of food contaminated with the E. coli bacteria can cause serious and even life-threatening illnesses. The province is investigating the E.coli cases, but says it has found no link to the recalled beef.

SD animal health officials warn of fatal algae

•WAUBAY, S.D. — Animal health officials are warning ranchers about the potential of fatal algae in the Bitter Lake area of northeast South Dakota. Cattle belonging to at least one rancher in the area have died from the blue-green algae. Producers in the area are being asked to provide their livestock with fresh, clean water to drink. Bitter Lake is located south of Waubay in Day County.

Manitoba pork producers seek $130 million to deal with financial crisis

•WINNIPEG, Manitoba — A Manitoba farm group is calling for $130 million in government loan guarantees to help Canada’s struggling pork industry. Keystone Agricultural Producers says a combination of high feed costs and low prices is forcing producers out of business. Doug Chorney, president of the organization, says the situation is so bad that farmers are selling off their breeding animals because they can’t afford to feed them. He says the recent decision by Puratone, one of Manitoba’s largest hog producers, to seek creditor protection is not an isolated incident. Chorney warns family farms will be lost and hundreds of people could lose their jobs in related industries unless Ottawa and the province intervene immediately. He says pork producers in other provinces are facing the same distress.

Locked-out American Crystal workers seek jobless benefits

•BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s Supreme Court is considering whether state law allows locked-out American Crystal Sugar Co. workers to be paid jobless benefits. Attorneys for the company and more than 230 workers argued the issue Sept. 18. The high court will decide the question later. Fargo, N.D., attorney Dan Phillips represents the sugar workers, who have been locked out of their jobs since August of 2011. North Dakota law says unemployment benefits shouldn’t be paid in labor disputes. But Phillips says the language refers to strikes. He says it shouldn’t be applied when a company locks out its employees and hires temporary replacements. American Crystal lawyer Paul Zech says the Legislature hasn’t declared that locked-out workers should get jobless benefits. Zech says that’s in keeping with state policy to stay neutral in labor disputes. Brian Ingulsrud, Crystal vice president for administration, says the company is concentrating now on the sugar beet harvest. Ingulsrud says the replacement workers are doing a “fabulous job.”

Drought conditions worsen in Dakotas

•SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Drought conditions continue to worsen in the Dakotas. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows 96 percent of South Dakota is mired in some form of drought, up more than 4 percent from a week before. Nearly 88 percent of North Dakota is in drought, up about 7 percent. Conditions are worse in South Dakota, where about 45 percent of the state is in extreme drought and another 5 percent is in exceptional drought. North Dakota has no areas in either category, though more than one-fourth of the state is in the severe category. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $12 million in additional aid for 22 states, including South Dakota, to help farmers and ranchers apply conservation practices that reduce the impacts of drought.

US potato exports increase

•DENVER — The United States Potato Board International Marketing program says U.S. exports of all potatoes and potato products for fiscal year 2012 (July 2011 through June) were 1,506,557 metric tons, valued at $1. 5 billion. This was a 10 percent increase in volume and a 17 percent increase in value over the previous marketing year and a 43 percent increase from five years ago. The export volume is 65,271,616 hundredweight on a fresh weight equivalent basis. This growth was led by a 17 percent increase in exports of frozen potato products and an 8 percent increase in dehyrated exports.

CoBank launches initiatives for ag borrowers affected by drought

•DENVER — CoBank, a cooperative bank serving agribusinesses, rural infrastructure providers and Farm Credit associations in the U.S., is launching new initiatives to assist ag borrowers and others affected by the 2012 drought. CoBank’s base of customers includes hundreds of grain and farm supply cooperatives in the central region of the country, as well as customers in the protein and dairy sectors, where impacts from the drought have been the worst. CoBank’s drought relief initiatives will include expedited review and processing of any loan request stemming from the drought, as well as working collaboratively with borrowers experiencing drought-related distress on a case-by-case basis. The bank will partner with its affiliated associations to support local drought relief programs established to assist farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers within their individual service territories.