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Published May 06, 2013, 10:26 AM

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Worker dies in Oregon blender plant, North Dakota rancher disappears, and the deadline for specialty crop grants in North Dakota is extended.

By: Agweek Wire Reports, Agweek

Worker dies in blender at Ore. meat plant

• CLACKAMAS, Ore. — An Oregon cleaning worker was killed when he fell into a running blender at a meat processing plant, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Nate Thompson identified the worker as Hugo Avalos-Chanon, 41, of Portland. He worked for DCS Sanitation Management, a cleaning company that has a contract with Interstate Meat Distributors. Paramedics and sheriff’s deputies were called around 11:45 p.m. April 26, after Avalos-Chanon was found entangled in the machinery. Another worker had hit an emergency stop button, but it was too late, Thompson says. Firefighters returned the following day to dismantle the machine and remove the body. Cliff Young, a deputy state medical examiner, says Avalos-Chanon died from “blunt-force injuries and chopping wounds.” Thompson says investigators believe the death is a “tragic industrial accident” and do not suspect foul play. Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are examining evidence, interviewing witnesses and reviewing records. An OSHA report on the plant from last fall found machines were not locked during the tear-down process for cleaning. The inspector says an “unexpected start-up of the machine” could cause injuries. Melanie Mesaros, Oregon OSHA spokeswoman, cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “It’s way too early to say,” Mesaros says. “We’re just starting our investigation, which could take six months.” Darrin Hoy, president of Interstate Meat Distributors, says company officials are cooperating fully with investigators, but Avalos-Chanon’s death was “extremely unfortunate” and difficult to discuss. “We’re not looking forward to reliving through any of it again,” Hoy says. Mesaros says the agency inspected DCS Sanitation Management’s operations in 2001, 2002 and 2004, finding no violations.

Foul play suspected in disappearance of ND rancher

• WILLISTON, N.D. — Law enforcement officers in Williston, N.D., suspect foul play in the disappearance of a rancher and former city employee. Jack Sjol, 58 was reported missing the week ending April 26 and investigators have found evidence of a violent crime, says Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry with the Williams County Sheriff’s Office. Multiple law enforcement agencies are helping search for Sjol, including off-duty officers from the Williston Police Department. The North Dakota Highway Patrol used its plane April 29 to search the 300-acre ranch, Fry says. Sjol, a former Williston Public Works employee, last talked to his girlfriend from his home at 8:30 p.m. on April 24, Fry says. The girlfriend reported him missing at 5:30 p.m. April 25 after she had not heard from him, Fry says. There was no sign of forced entry at the home and all vehicles are at the ranch, Fry says. Investigators are not releasing details about the evidence found that indicates foul play. Anyone with information is asked to call the Williams County Sheriff’s Office at 701-577-7700.

ND deadline for specialty crop grant apps extended

• BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has extended the application deadline for grants to help promote specialty crops. The deadline was May 3, but Goehring has moved it to May 24. He says North Dakota and Minnesota have cooperated on a number of projects in the past, and the new deadline is closer to Minnesota’s closing date. The federal Agricultural Marketing Service is expected to give North Dakota about $480,000 for the grants, which can be used for developing new seed varieties, controlling pests and diseases and developing regional food systems. Grants are capped at $100,000. Specialty crops in North Dakota include dry beans, dry peas, lentils, potatoes, confection sunflowers, grapes, honey and vegetables.

ND plant variety protection case settled

•The North Dakota State Seed Department has settled a case concerning state seed law violations by a Kidder County man for an illegal sale of a protected variety. The Steele man agreed to pay the State Seed Department $6,500 in fines for illegally selling seeds of Souris oats. Souris, is licensed to the North Dakota Crop Improvement and Seed Association. Only members of the association’s Dakota Select Seeds marketing group are authorized to produce and sell Souris seeds. In addition, Souris oats is protected under the Plant Variety Protection Act, a federal law that protects the production and marketing rights of the owner. The 1994 amendments to the PVPA prohibit the sale of any farmer-saved seed without authorization from the variety owner. In addition to the PVPA violation, the sale violated several North Dakota seed laws, including labeling and seed testing requirements. In a separate settlement, he agreed to pay the North Dakota State University, which owns Souris, the sum of $15,000 for infringing on NDSU’s intellectual property rights. The total fines for this illegal sale of 321 bushels of seeds were $21,500.

Briefly . . .

Barn fire: Investigators believe electrical problems in a light fixture sparked a barn fire at a hog production facility in southeast South Dakota. The blaze broke out about 9 a.m. April 25 at Hillcrest Pork about four miles north of Parkston. Firefighters put out the flames in about 45 minutes. Fire Chief Jon Bueber says three or four hogs were burned, but the injuries were not life-threatening. No people were hurt.

Cropland loss: Devils Lake in North Dakota probably will not exceed its record elevation of 1,453.3 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The lake shrank in 2012 when drier conditions prevailed. This year’s heavy snowpack means the lake likely will grow again. If it rises 2 feet, 20,000 to 24,000 acres of cropland will be lost. Direct losses to crops are estimated at $54 million, especially with spring wheat, while the total impact on business activities in the region is estimated at $198 million, according to North Dakota State University Extension Service.

— Agweek Wire Reports

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