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Published October 01, 2012, 11:40 AM

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Locked-out American Crystal workers enlist their kids, USDA designates 4 additional ND counties primary natural disaster areas, Minn., Vt., Maine senators ask for federal dairy price review

By: Agweek Wire Reports, Agweek

Locked-out American Crystal workers enlist their kids

•GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Locked-out American Crystal Sugar Co. workers have called on their children to get the company to negotiate an end to the labor dispute. The company locked out its regular workers almost 14 months ago in a union contract dispute. Company officials have said they have made their final offer, but the locked-out workers want to continue negotiations. Children of the workers gathered recently to write letters to company officials and farmers who are company board members. The letters describe the impact the lockout has had on them in the hope of making the company realize it needs to end. Some of the children say the lockout has hurt their families and created worry that they will run out of food or lose their homes.

USDA designates 4 additional ND counties primary natural disaster areas

•FARGO, N.D. — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has designated an additional four counties in North Dakota as primary natural disaster areas as a result of damages and losses caused by the recent drought. Benson, Billings, Eddy and Ramsey counties were added to the list. The complete list of primary natural disaster areas is Barnes, Benson, Billings, Bowman, Cass, Dickey, Eddy, Foster, Golden Valley, Grand Forks, Griggs, Logan, Lamoure, McIntosh, Nelson, Ransom, Ramsey, Slope, Steele, Stutsman, and Traill. In addition, farmers and ranchers in Adams, Cavalier, Dunn, Emmons, Hettinger, Kidder, McKenzie, Pembina, Pierce, Richland, Sargent, Sioux, Stark, Towner, Walsh and Wells counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous to the primary natural disaster areas. Vilsack’s announcement comes as a result of a new streamlined disaster designation process unveiled this year. FSA’s emergency loans are specifically targeted toward established farm operators who have suffered significant losses as a result of a disaster and are unable to receive credit from commercial lenders. In addition to providing low interest loans, FSA works with producers to develop a farm plan and get connected to a financial management training program. Farmers or ranchers who suffer at least a 30 percent loss to production or had a physical loss to livestock, livestock products or other farm property may be eligible for emergency loans. Loan funds through FSA may be used to restore or replace essential property, pay production costs for the disaster year, reorganize the farming operation or refinance certain debts.

Biofuel Energy Corp. idles Minn. plant

•DENVER — Biofuel Energy Corp. says it is idling its ethanol plant in Fairmont, Minn., until further notice. Corn prices have been high this summer, and impacts of the drought on the Corn Belt still are being felt. Scott Pearce, CEO, notes there also has been a glut of ethanol, lowering prices for the corn-based fuel additive. Pearce says the Denver-based ethanol production company isn’t making any changes to its current operations team so that it can restart the Fairmont plant on short notice. •Another plant in Wood River, Neb., still is operating.

Minn., Vt., Maine senators ask for federal dairy price review

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is joining colleagues from Maine and Minnesota in calling for a review of minimum federal dairy price supports, given sharply increasing expenses on the farm. Sanders joined Republican Sens. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota in asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its floor price for raw milk. The senators point to rising production costs on the farm, including sharply higher prices for the corn that goes into animal feed. Corn reserves are at a 15-year low, which is attributed to drought conditions in many areas. A letter from the senators questions whether farmers can stay in business under such conditions.

Park rumbles during annual SD buffalo roundup

•CUSTER, S.D. — Nearly 1,000 bison stampeded across South Dakota’s prairie land before being corralled into pens during Custer State Park’s 47th annual Buffalo Roundup. Thousands of spectators watched Sept. 24 as 60 cowboys and cowgirls on horseback led the creatures over hills and across wide expanses of land. Park officials created the roundup nearly 50 years ago to manage the park’s bison herd. It since has become a multi-day event that draws people from as far away as Germany, Australia and New Zealand. About 250 of the buffalo will go up for auction on Nov. 17. The buffalo are bought to start or supplement herds, or to be eaten.

Ontario spots new swine flu not one linked to U.S. fairs

•TORONTO — Ontario has found a case of an infection with a new swine flu virus in a man who worked with pigs. The infection was caused by an H1N1-variant virus, which is not the swine flu virus that has been jumping from pigs to people in the United States this summer. That virus, an H3N2-variant, has caused 305 infections this year in the U.S. but has not been spotted in Canada to date. Most infections with the H3N2-variant flu have been in people who visited pig barns at state and county fairs. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, says the man is being treated in a hospital in southwest Ontario. She did not indicate whether that is a precaution or because he is seriously ill. “It’s likely an isolated occurrence,” she says. The man worked with pigs in both Canada and the United States, but it’s still unclear where he may have picked up the new virus, she says. The new virus is one that rarely spreads from animals to people, and human-to-human spread also is rare. So far, none of the man’s family or friends are showing signs of illness, King says. She stresses the discovery of the infection does not trigger food safety concerns.