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Published February 11, 2013, 11:01 AM

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Burned American Crystal worker critical but stable, North Dakota sheep industry sees record lows, and drought outlook shows shift in precipitation projection.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports , Agweek

Officials want seized horses put up for adoption

•BISMARCK, N.D. — Officials in central North Dakota who have asked for custody of 157 horses that were seized from a New Salem man because of alleged neglect told a judge Feb. 7 that they want to put them up for adoption. The horses were seized from Bill Kiefer after authorities found 99 dead horses on his property in Burleigh and Morton counties. On Feb. 6, those counties petitioned the court to place the animals permanently in the custody of the two sheriff’s departments. Kiefer has not been criminally charged. Burleigh County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Ubben and Morton County Assistant State’s Attorney Jackson Lofgren called law enforcement officers, veterinarians and volunteers to testify about the condition of the animals during a 2 1/2-hour hearing Feb. 7. South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick has 10 days to issue an opinion. State veterinarian Susan Keller said an investigator from her office talked to Keifer about the nutritional needs of the horses and was concerned that he did not understand the issues. Authorities eventually issued a search warrant on his property. Morton County Sheriff Dave Shipman testified that numerous dead horses were found in a pile and appeared to have been dragged out of view of the road. Others were piled up in barns and a trailer. Deputy Bryan Kirchmeier said he found an aborted fetus that appeared to have been near term. The pasture was bare, he said. Witnesses testified the horses had been chewing on fence posts and tree bark.

ND sheep industry continues to see record lows

•FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota’s sheep and lamb industry continues to see record-low numbers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in a new report that the sheep and lamb inventory on Jan. 1 totaled 74,000 animals, up 1,000 from the previous year’s record low. Breeding sheep were still a record low, at 55,000 head. Market sheep and lambs totaled 19,000, up 3,000 from a year ago. The 2012 lamb crop also was a record low, at 60,000 head and wool production was a record low 520,000 pounds, down 20,000 pounds from 2011. Meanwhile, the number of sheep and lambs in South Dakota is down from a year ago. USDA says the state’s sheep and lamb inventory on Jan. 1 totaled 275,000 animals, down 10,000 from the previous year. The breeding herd was down 5,000 head to 220,000 animals. The marketing herd also decreased 5,000, to 55,000 head.

Worker burned in American Crystal Sugar plant critical but stable

•The victim of a Jan. 29 accident in the American Crystal Sugar Co. factory in East Grand Forks, Minn., is in critical but stable condition in a Minneapolis hospital. Meanwhile, inspectors from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration arrived at the factory Feb. 6 to open an investigation into the accident. The victim, who is from the Chicago area, was seriously burned when a hot, syrupy liquid inadvertently spewed out of a large tank on him, says a co-worker with knowledge of the incident who asked for anonymity. Crystal spokesman Jeff Schweitzer says the Moorhead, Minn.-based sugar manufacturer can’t comment because the victim works for Strom Engineering Corp. in Minnetonka, Minn. Strom has provided contract workers for Crystal after the company locked out about 1,300 union workers Aug. 1, 2011 after they rejected a proposed new five-year contract. Since then, Crystal has hired about 1,000 temporary replacement workers locally, though it still retains some workers contracted through Strom, Schweitzer said Feb. 5. James Honerman, an OSHA spokesman based in the Twin Cities, confirmed in an email Feb. 6 that the agency has opened an inspection, but said little information was available yet, including how long the investigation will take.

International company establishing plant in Sioux Falls

•Glanbia Nutritionals Ingredient Technologies, a global innovator in value-added protein and flaxseed ingredients, is constructing a 40,000-square-foot cereal ingredient processing facility in Sioux Falls, S.D., which is expected to begin operations in July. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Feb. 11. Glanbia plc is based in Kilkenny, Ireland. “This is an exciting project for Sioux Falls,” says Slater Barr, president of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, which is sponsoring the groundbreaking event. “It speaks well for our community when an international corporation of this caliber recognizes the business advantages of Sioux Falls and plans a profitable future here.”

Drought outlook shows shift in precipitation projection

•A Feb. 7 U.S. Drought Monitor map continues to show improved prospects for moisture conditions in the next three months in the Northern Great Plains, compared with 2012, especially Minnesota and much of northern North Dakota. But the most recent map shows a slight decline in predicated “some improvement” in drought, compared with “likely to improve” in areas of southern Minnesota, north-central South Dakota and southern Montana, compared with an outlook forecast map released Jan. 17. Gregory Spoden, Minnesota State Climatologist at the University of Minnesota, says the federal drought outlook is similar to projections from a month ago, but a “subtle shift” in prospects for drought recovery that made southwest Minnesota look drier are a result of 90-day precipitation forecasts that were updated Jan. 31. Spoden says the forecast is for prospects in February, March and April. He says it was based in part on Jan. 17 predictions of above-normal precipitation projections for much of North Dakota (except the extreme west), northeast South Dakota and western and northwest Minnesota. Montana and much of South Dakota was projected for normal precipitation in the three months. Experts say it will take a significant amount of precipitation to improve drought in South Dakota.