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Published February 25, 2013, 09:50 AM

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South Dakota fertilizer plant approved, number of farms in the Dakotas decreases, and E. coli prompts recall of Canadian beef.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports , Agweek

Commissioners approve plant near Colton, S.D.

•SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Commissioners in South Dakota’s Minnehaha County have approved a $10 million fertilizer and seed plant near Colton, despite the concerns of some area residents about its safety. The commission voted 4-0 on Feb. 19 to allow the Eastern Farmers Cooperative to build the plant, scheduled to open in 2014. Opponents of the plant, including Doug and Louise Hanson, who live across the road from the proposed site, say possible anhydrous ammonia spills would threaten their safety. The commission upheld a decision by the planning and zoning department, which granted a conditional-use permit Jan. 28. Opponents were appealing that decision. Commissioners Jeff Barth and John Pekas acknowledge the residents’ concerns, but Barth says the plant would be served by two paved roads and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. “The location is as good as it gets,” he says. Eastern Farmers Cooperative wants to close the seed and fertilizer aspects of its older facilities in Baltic and Crooks in South Dakota and consolidate them in a structure more than two miles north of Colton. Tony VanOverschelde, Eastern Farmers’ agronomy manager, says the plant is in line with the co-op’s strategic plan to build modern fertilizer facilities in rural locations and to close aging facilities in nearby towns. Commissioner Dick Kelly says safety redundancies at a similar Eastern Farmers plant he toured in Worthing, S.D., eased his fears about potential anhydrous spills.

Hillsboro woman named executive of ND Soybean Growers Association

•FARGO, N.D. — The North Dakota Soybean Growers Association has a new executive director: Nancy M. Johnson of Hillsboro, N.D. At the organization’s Feb. 19 annual meeting in Fargo, officials introduced Johnson as their choice for a full-time executive to replace Jeff Hamre of Leonard, N.D., who had been part-time executive. Johnson, 59, has worked for agricultural magazines and advertising agencies. Most recently, she has been in a corporate writing business, working for Corn and Soybean Digest. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and she and her husband, David, raise corn and soybeans north of Hillsboro. The grower group is member-based and works on policy advocacy, while the North Dakota Soybean Council uses checkoff funds to work on research and promotion. Johnson says one of the issues the association is working on is making sure North Dakota non-oil roads are supported as a vital infrastructure to move soybeans and other crops to market. The state group also will work with the American Soybean Growers Association to put an adequate farm bill in place. She says the two groups agree on federal soybean policies. All 6,000 soybean growers in North Dakota pay the checkoff. The grower group has about 550 members. “That’s one of our focuses for the next few years, is to increase the membership support,” Johnson says.

USDA says number of farms in ND, SD decreases

•SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the number of farms in North Dakota and South Dakota decreased in 2012, but the average size of each farm increased. According to USDA, there were 300 fewer farms in South Dakota in 2012, compared with 2011. The total number of farms in 2012 was 31,000. South Dakota’s average farm size was 1,408 acres, up 13 acres from the 2011 estimate of 1,395 acres. In North Dakota, the number of farms decreased by 200 to 31,600. The average farm size in 2012 was 1,253 acres, up from 1,245 acres the previous year.

SD farmers, ranchers coping with hay shortage

•YANKTON, S.D. — South Dakota farmers and ranchers are searching for solutions to deal with the hay shortage. South Dakota State University Extension agronomy crops field specialist Larry Wagner says the issues started last summer when pastures started giving out and some people had to start feeding early in the fall. Wagner says it’s like adding a month or two to a winter feeding program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says production of all dry hay in 2012 was down 9 percent to 120 million tons — the lowest production level since 1964. South Dakota produced 4 million tons last year, a 53 percent decrease. Wagner says it’s going to be costly to bring in hay from other parts of the country — as much as $300 per ton for good alfalfa hay.

Possible E. coli contamination prompts Canadian beef recall

•OTTAWA — Some frozen beef burgers sold by Canada Safeway Ltd. are being recalled because they may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria The recall includes the Gourmet Meat Shoppe Big & Juicy Burger and the Gourmet Meat Shoppe Prime Rib Burger with a best before date of Aug. 14. Also affected are Butcher’s Cut Pure Beef Patties sold in packages of 10, 20 and 40, and also bearing a best before date of Aug. 14. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Canada Safeway say the products were distributed in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. The CFIA says the recall is the result of E. coli testing related to an ongoing food safety investigation at the facility that produces the meat. Testing will continue to see if any other products may be affected. Federal inspectors are examining retail samples of the products and received a positive response for E. coli. The investigation was sparked after two people in Ontario and Manitoba became ill and tested positive for E. coli on Feb. 13. Another E. coli scare in December 2012 caused a recall and investigation of a different brand of burgers produced by Cardinal Meat Specialists. Health officials found no evidence of contamination in the plant.