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Published October 15, 2012, 10:41 AM

Latest news

Farmers Union breaks ground on new building, XL beef is allowed to reopen with limitations, and U.S. farm exports are down $1 billion.

Farmers Union breaks ground on new building

•HURON, S.D. — The South Dakota Farmers Union says it has broken ground on a new 8,400 square foot state office building. The new building in Huron will house South Dakota Farmers Union staff, along with the state office staff of the Farmers Union Insurance Agency and the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation. Construction will begin later this month, and the building is expected to be finished sometime next spring. The current two-story building, completed in 1951, will be torn down once the new building is completed. Members celebrated a groundbreaking on Oct. 11. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke says he’s been looking forward to the day for several years.

Limited operations approved for XL beef plant

•OTTAWA — The Alberta plant at the center of an E. coli scare and massive beef recall is being allowed to resume limited operations. But the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says no products will leave the XL Foods meatpacker in Brooks until the agency has approved a full reopening. “Beginning today XL Foods will be permitted to resume limited in-house cutting and further processing under strict enhanced oversight,” Harpreet Kochhar, executive director for the agency’s western operations, says. “This will allow the CFIA to review in a controlled manner the company’s improvements made to all previously addressed deficiencies.” The plant was shut down Sept. 27 during an ever-expanding recall of its beef products across Canada and more than 20 other countries, including the United States. Kochhar says the plant has been cleaned and sanitized, and condensation, drainage and ice buildup also have been addressed. He says no new animals will be slaughtered. The 5,100 carcasses to be processed are already in the plant and have been tested for E. coli. Kochhar says 99 percent are free of the bacteria. He says XL has extensive training programs for workers and holds them “in the highest regard for their abilities.” To date, 12 people in four provinces have been infected by a strain of E. coli that has been linked to the plant.

SD tops in hay

•South Dakota was the nation’s top hay producer in 2011, a newly released U.S. Department of Agriculture report says. With 8.6 million tons of hay produced in 2011, South Dakota beat out California, which took second place with 7.9 million tons, and Missouri, which took third place with 6.3 million tons. Hay produced in South Dakota accounted for nearly 7 percent of the 131.1 million tons produced in the U.S. last year. The 8.6 million tons of hay produced in South Dakota in 2011 is almost an 18 percent increase when compared with 2010, when the state was fourth in the nation. Texas, the top hay producer in 2010, was devastated by drought and fell to 10th place in 2011, with a drop in production of more than 59 percent. The 653.4 million bushels of corn harvested in South Dakota last year made the state sixth in the nation, and was an increase of nearly 15 percent when compared with 2010. The 4.95 million acres harvested for corn in 2011 in South Dakota is a state record, as is the $6.75 per bushel farmer’s received in August 2011. South Dakota also became the nation’s leading producer of sunflower seeds, the report says, overtaking North Dakota. Though the 777 million pounds of sunflower seeds produced in South Dakota in 2011 is just a 5 percent increase compared with 2010, North Dakota’s crop declined nearly 39 percent in 2011 to make South Dakota the top producer. The trend toward corn and soybeans also is to blame for the decline of North Dakota’s sunflower seed production. South Dakota’s 38,700-head bison herd remained the largest in the U.S. in 2011, followed by Nebraska and North Dakota.

Top US ag negotiator: farm exports likely down $1 billion

•The nation’s top agricultural negotiator said Oct. 9 that he expects farm exports to be down between $1 billion and $2 billion this year because of the drought. The tighter supply of grains and the resulting higher price of feed, is driving up beef and poultry costs, though not to the point that international buyers are fleeing in droves, U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator Isi Siddiqui said. The U.S. exported $137 billion in agricultural products last year, and after this year’s falloff, sales are projected to hit $143 billion in 2013, Siddiqui said. He added that he doesn’t believe a one-year dip would lead to a lasting slowdown in sales to Asia, where China is a major buyer of U.S. dairy and meat, or elsewhere. “There has been a lot of demand. The last two years our exports were at the highest levels ever,” Siddiqui said.

Ethanol industry pumps $5 billion into Minn.’s economy

•ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s ethanol industry generated more than $5 billion in total economic activity in 2011 and supported more than 12,600 jobs, according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The state’s 21 ethanol plants have the capacity to produce 1.1 billion gallons of ethanol, putting Minnesota fifth nationwide in ethanol production. According to the MDA report, ethanol added $912 million to the value of the state’s corn crop in 2011, a second record high. For every bushel of corn processed into ethanol, $2.07 was generated in additional revenue. The report also shows that for every $1 invested into the ethanol plants, more than $8 were generated for the Minnesota economy. Last year, Minnesota farmers harvested more than 1.2 billion bushels of corn and 440 million bushels were put into production of ethanol and its coproduct, distillers dried grains. The report’s author, MDA economist Su Ye, says the ethanol industry continues to have a critical role in bringing increased returns to the state’s largest agricultural crop. “The ethanol industry is an important economic driver that adds value to every bushel of corn grown by the roughly 11,000 farmers who supply it to the plants.” Ye says Minnesota exports 42 percent of its corn, while 39 percent of it is processed. In comparison, the U.S. exports 12 percent of its corn and 50 percent is processed.

— Agweek Wire Reports