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Published November 05, 2012, 10:14 AM

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ABC News asks judge to toss out 'pink slime' lawsuit, red meat production up in South Dakota, and "The Dryer Guy" in North Dakota is sentenced for defrauding farmers.

By: Agweek Wire Reports, Agweek

ABC News asks judge to toss ‘pink slime’ lawsuit

•SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Lawyers for ABC News asked a judge Oct. 31 to toss out a $1 billion defamation lawsuit filed by a South Dakota-based meat processor over a meat product that critics dub “pink slime,” saying the news organization did not knowingly disparage the company or its product. Beef Products Inc. sued ABC News Inc. in September, claiming the network damaged the company by misleading consumers into believing the product is unhealthy and unsafe. The lawsuit seeks damages under South Dakota’s defamation law, as well as a 1994 state law that allows businesses to sue anyone who knowingly spreads false information that a food product is unsafe. The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based meat processor is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product — officially known as lean, finely textured beef. The lawsuit named American Broadcasting Cos Inc.,ABC News Inc., ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and ABC correspondents Jim Avila and David Kerley as defendants. It also names Gerald Zirnstein, the U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist who named the product “pink slime,” former federal food scientist Carl Custer, and Kit Foshee, a former Beef Products Inc. quality assurance manager who was interviewed by ABC. In the motion to dismiss filed in federal court Oct. 31, lawyers for ABC News said that while the term “pink slime” may come across as unappetizing, it is not incorrect. Lean, finely textured beef is both pink and — like all ground beef — has a slimy texture, the lawyers argued.

ND businessman sentenced for defrauding farmers

•DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — A North Dakota man who pleaded guilty to defrauding farmers has been given until March 6 to repay more than $237,000 or face up to three years in prison. Northeast Central District Judge Lee Christofferson handed down the sentence to Michael Jelle last week. Jelle did business out of Maddock, N.D., as “The Dryer Guy.” He was charged in September 2011 with felony theft for allegedly collecting money from farmers without delivering grain dryers and other equipment. State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem late last year ordered Jelle to stop doing business in North Dakota. Jelle pleaded guilty about two months ago to reduced charges of misdemeanor theft.

Red meat production up in SD

•SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says commercial red meat production in South Dakota totaled 91.1 million pounds in September. The agency says that’s up 2 percent from a year ago and up 6 percent from August. Commercial hog slaughter for South Dakota totaled 415,600 during September, compared with 404,300 head the year before. The average live weight was 266 pounds, up 2 pounds from a year earlier. Commercial sheep and lamb slaughter for South Dakota totaled 300 during September. That was unchanged from a year earlier. The average live weight was 118 pounds, the same as the previous year.

Assistance available to improve quality of drainage water

•BISMARCK, N.D. — A new conservation practice called Drainage Water Management is now available for funding in North Dakota. DWM helps reduce the amount of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, negatively affecting the environment. With the advent of subsurface drainage in North Dakota, producers are seeking ways to manage the quality and quantity of drainage water. DWM is a practice that allows farmers with subsurface drainage to manage soil moisture by holding water in root zones when crops need it and removing excess water when they don’t. With appropriate management, DWM systems also may reduce the total amount of water discharge from the drainage system. Along with helping manage soil moisture, DWM can reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus passing through existing drainage tile. By reducing surface runoff and holding water in the soil, nutrients will be less likely to leave the field and be more available for plant growth and crop production. North Dakota landowners may be eligible for financial and technical assistance to implement DWM through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Assistance is available to create a DWM plan, install control structures, or manage the control structures throughout the year. To find out about DWM or other National Resources Conservation ServiceRCS conservation practices, visit a local NRCS service center.

Crop acreage reporting dates change in Minn.

•ST. PAUL — Linda Hennen, state executive director of the Minnesota U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, announced recently that some crop acreage reporting dates have been changed to be the same as those established for crop insurance. This change only applies to forage crops that are covered by an Actual Production History crop insurance policy and for all fall-seeded small grains, regardless of crop insurance coverage. Producers who have planted small grains this fall must go into their local FSA office and file a 2013 acreage certification by Nov. 15, 2013 to be considered timely filed. This date applies whether the crops are insured or not insured. Producers that have forage crops eligible for an APH crop insurance policy must also file a 2013 acreage certification by November 15.


Co-op fine: Wahpeton, N.D.-based Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative has been fined by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The sugar beet co-op paid $70,261 for polluting water in Minnesota’s Wilkin County in May 2011. Minnesota regulators say Minn-Dak took numerous actions to address the problem.

Correction: In the Oct. 29 issue of Agweek, the article “AFBF recognizes Berg” on page 15 identified Rick Berg as a U.S. Senator from North Dakota running for re-election. Berg is a Republican representative who is running for one of North Dakota’s two U.S. Senate seats.