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Published March 25, 2013, 11:00 AM

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SD Agriculture Department helps beginning farmers, Charges possible after 100 cattle found dead in ND county, OMA says Canada must address antibiotic use in farming

SD Agriculture Department helps beginning farmers

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Agriculture Department says it can help beginning farmers buy land at lower interest rates through a bond program. The Beginning Farmer Bond program works through a local bank to finance a land purchase. The bond program allows a lender to get tax-exempt interest for a loan or contract sale, and that lowers the interest rate paid by a beginning farmer. To take part in the program, a beginning farmer must be a South Dakota resident at least 18 years old and have a net worth of less than $400,000. The maximum amount of a beginning farmer bond is $501,100 for calendar year 2013. The South Dakota Agriculture Department administers the program through the Value-Added Finance Authority board, which reviews applications and issues bonds for approved projects.

Charges possible after 100 cattle found dead in ND county

BISMARCK, N.D. — Prosecutors are considering criminal charges against the owner of 100 cattle found dead last week in North Dakota’s McIntosh County, at least some of which starved to death. Logan County State’s Attorney Gerald Kuhn said March 19 it is too early in the investigation to say if criminal charges will be filed, but autopsies on three of the animals showed they died from starvation. Kuhn says there are more cattle in the owner’s possession, many in poor shape and others in good condition. “We’re concerned with the cattle right now — making sure they’re getting what they need” in terms of appropriate nutrition, Kuhn says. “We’re not so concerned with whether we’re going to prosecute.” He says a check by the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department on March 19 showed there were bales of hay and water available to the cattle, but it appeared the hay didn’t support the animals’ nutritional needs. Susan Keller, the state veterinarian, said March 19 that her office began working with the county’s sheriff’s department March 11 on an investigation prompted by an anonymous tipster. She said multiple species were involved. The investigation comes in the wake of the pending case against Bill Kiefer, a Fargo investment executive and financial adviser who faces charges in Morton County District Court that are connected to the death of 96 horses, donkeys and mules found on his land, along with the seizure of another 119 malnourished animals. He faces similar misdemeanor charges in Burleigh County, where 38 of Kiefer’s horses were also seized and three discovered dead. “For us to be dealing with two back-to-back cases, it’s ironic, especially given that it’s in this legislative session, with the bill” prohibiting animal cruelty now under consideration by the Legislature, Keller says. The pending bill would make animal cruelty a felony in the state. In the case in McIntosh County — a sparsely populated county southwest of Jamestown on the South Dakota border — Kuhn says an insurance claim was filed by the owner and the insurance company investigated the claim. “In my opinion, if the owner had starved them to death, the insurance company would have said something,” he says. Kuhn says initial reports indicated that dogs had chased the cows into a barn on the property, where they suffocated and died. “I need more than what I’ve got,” to make a decision about prosecuting Kuhn says.

OMA says Canada must address antibiotic use in farming

TORONTO — The Ontario Medical Association wants the federal and provincial governments of Canada to crack down on antibiotic use in farming. The organization is issuing a call to arms on the problem of antibiotic resistance, warning the world is in danger of losing these drugs because of misuse. A policy paper drafted by the OMA says Ontario should ban the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in food animal production. Many more tons of the drugs are used in agricultural operations than in human medicine and experts say the practice is fuelling development of resistance. OMA President Doug Weir says Canada has been slower off the mark to act to protect antibiotics than countries in Europe and the United States. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has barred the disease prevention use of a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins in animal production, but the practice is not banned in Canada. Weir says Canadians do not appear to understand that if antibiotic use isn’t curbed, the world faces a future in which some infections will be incurable. “This is a serious problem. We have to take serious action,” Weir says. The position paper suggests access to antibiotics for agricultural operations should be limited to cases where veterinarians write prescriptions for the drugs. And both Ontario and the federal government should close legal loopholes that allow farmers to import large quantities of the drugs for use in their operations without surveillance or regulation. On the human health side, the OMA suggests Ontario should establish an independent institution that would use the latest scientific evidence to advise doctors on when and how to best prescribe antibiotics for their patients. The organization is also calling on the federal government to fund research and educational campaigns on the issue of antibiotic awareness.

Briefly . . .

Mistreatment charges: A New Salem, N.D., man accused of mistreating horses and mules has pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor charges in Burleigh County. Bill Kiefer earlier this month pleaded not guilty to similar charges in neighboring Morton County. Authorities seized more than 150 animals from Kiefer’s properties in the two counties in January after finding nearly 100 dead animals. Most of the seized animals have been adopted.

Honey production: North Dakota leads the nation in the production of honey for a ninth consecutive year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says North Dakota honey production last year from producers with five or more colonies totaled 34.2 million pounds, up 5 percent from the previous year. Prices for the 2012 crop averaged $1.89 per pound, the highest on record. The total value of the North Dakota honey crop was $64.6 million, up 18 percent over the year.