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Published May 28, 2013, 10:17 AM

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Ottawa takes a hardline approach toward U.S. meat labeling regulations, beef processing season ends, and hundreds of property owners in South Dakota could face a tax increase due to higher land classification standards.

SD county cracks down on farmland classification

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Officials in a western South Dakota county have made it tougher for property owners to classify their land as farmland amid concerns that some are exploiting the label to save money in taxes. Pennington County commissioners voted May 21 to set higher standards. The change will potentially raise the taxes of 466 property owners and earn the county $1.6 million more in revenue. County director of equalization Shannon Rittberger says nonfarmers are abusing the system. Some have falsely claimed their million-dollar summer homes in the Black Hills were working farms, slashing their tax bills in half. Property owners still must meet two of three requirements to get the farmland label. One now calls for the landowner to have at least 160 acres instead of 40 acres.

Ottawa threatens ‘retaliatory measures’ over new US meat labeling regulations

OTTAWA — The Canadian government is threatening “retaliatory measures” against the United States in a dispute over meat labeling that Ottawa and the World Trade Organization consider discriminatory. The U.S. government has announced new regulations on country-of-origin labeling that would track beef and hogs from livestock through the meat processing and distribution systems. Canada objects to the labeling system on the grounds that it is costly, burdensome and will lead to the “disintegration” of the North American supply chain. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says in a statement that the government is “extremely disappointed” with the regulations. Ritz says the U.S. regulations will not bring the U.S. into compliance with last year’s WTO ruling, which found the labeling system discriminated against foreign livestock and was not consistent with U.S. trade agreements. The minister says Canada is considering all the options at its disposal.

Beet processing season winds down

The sugar beet slice campaign is coming to an end in the Red River Valley. Jeff Schweitzer, spokesman for American Crystal Sugar Co. in Moorhead, Minn., says processing ended May 17 in East Grand Forks, Minn., and May 20 in Moorhead. The Crookston, Minn., factory will finish processing the weekend of May 25 and 26. The Drayton, N.D., and Hillsboro, N.D., factories will be done processing in the “first part of June,” Schweitzer says. Similarly, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, N.D., will be done processing about May 30, which will be a record processing season, says Tom Knudsen, vice president for agriculture. The previous record was the 2006 crop that was finished processing May 24, 2007. “We’ve had a fairly successful campaign,” Schweitzer says. “Beet storage has held up very well, with cold weather and a late spring. The record cold temperatures in April allowed us to take advantage.” The 2012 crop totaled 11.4 million tons with an average yield of 27.1 tons per acre. Knudsen says the processing season had seen no significant losses from spoilage, despite the late date. Statistics on American Crystal processing results won’t be available until after the last factory shuts down and reports its numbers, Schweitzer says. On the flip side, the late spring has caused delays in planting. “Last year’s crop was nearly planted by May 1 and this year, we hadn’t planted a sugar beet by then,” he says. The 2013 crop saw its first beets planted May 3. We’re at 81 percent planted and are still at a standstill because of rains that have blanketed the region for several days,” Schweitzer said on May 21. “When our shareholders will get in the field is anyone’s guess.” Some pockets of the growing area received 8 to 9 inches of rain. Minn-Dak is about 99 percent done with planting for the 2013 crop, Knudsen says, but a total of some 1,000 acres of stragglers still may be planted. The region had received 2 to 3 inches of rain, with considerable ponding by May 22. The company expects to plant about 120,000 acres, up from about 115,500 acres last year, when producers harvested 26.7 tons per acre of beets, tying the 2010 record high, but this time with a higher sugar content as a result of the drier summer.

ND APUC funding 6 projects this quarter

FARGO, N.D. — Six projects are getting a total of about $332,000 in funding this quarter from the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission. APUC funds developers of North Dakota farm products. It’s a program of the North Dakota Commerce Department. The largest grant this quarter is going to Mandan-based Cloverdale Foods. The company is getting $101,000 for promotional work. Great Plains Processing of Fargo is getting $81,000 to help market specialty crops in new areas of the state. Another large grant is going to Velva, which is getting $61,000 to research a potential livestock auction.

Deadline approaching for Syngenta Sugarbeet Scholarship applications

GREENSBORO, N.C. — June 14 marks the final day to apply for the 2013 Syngenta Sugarbeet Scholarship in which ag-focused students from sugar beet-growing regions will be eligible to receive one of five $1,500 scholarships toward college. “Syngenta continues to invest in what matters to our customers, starting with the future leaders of the sugar beet industry,” says Tyler Ring, Syngenta product head for sunflower, sugar beet and wheat genetics. Students interested in applying for the scholarship must meet the following criteria: be current high school seniors or college freshmen, sophomores or juniors; be majoring (or intending to major) in an agriculture-related field; will be attending college during the 2013 to ’14 school year; attend school or live in one of the following sugar beet-growing regions: Region 1: Idaho, Washington and Oregon; Region 2: North Dakota; Region 3: Minnesota; Region 4: Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Montana; Region 5: Michigan; and be involved in 4-H, FFA or the sugar beet industry. Information:

— Agweek Staff and Wire Reports