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Published July 01, 2013, 10:36 AM

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North Dakota ag commissioner says rail companies responsible up to delivery; Oregon agency blames pesticide for bee kill; Indiana grain elevator blast kills 1 worker.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports, Agweek

Goehring says rail companies responsible up to delivery

• BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says farmer advocates must be vigilant about making sure railroad companies don’t try to get farm input suppliers to shift the burden of liability insurance on incoming anhydrous ammonia and other products before off-loading. Goehring says he investigated claims this spring that a North Dakota fertilizer retailer hadn’t shipped in anhydrous ammonia because of a perceived new insurance burden. The company manager reportedly told his board members Canadian Pacific Railway had asked the company to carry liability insurance on undelivered products to two locations for up to $100 million. Goehring says CP had enforced no such requirement, but had been supportive of a similar, unsuccessful effort by Union Pacific Railroad elsewhere in the country. That attempt was snuffed by federal regulators, Goehring says. “They cannot ask a processor or shipper to carry the liability insurance on the product they’re shipping,” Goehring says, but adds that even the attempt means the situation “bears watching.” Steve Strege, executive vice president of the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, says railroads can impose liability responsibility on lands next to tracks that elevators either lease from the railroad or that elevators own but operate under a track agreement. NDGDA, in 2003, got the Legislature to limit the amount of insurance a railroad can require on those properties, under those circumstances. He says “common carrier obligations” mean railroads are responsible until they deliver to a destination, but can seek to change rates to cover those risks.

Ore. agency blames pesticide for bee kill

• WILSONVILLE, Ore. — Oregon officials say a pesticide is to blame for the deaths of tens of thousands of bumble bees in a shopping center parking lot southwest of Portland. The Oregon Department of Agriculture says tests on bees and foliage showed the deaths are “directly related to a pesticide application on linden trees” that was meant to control aphids. It says an investigation is under way to see if the application of the pesticide Safari violated the law. The Agriculture Department, the City of Wilsonville, neighboring towns and some local landscape contractors have covered the sprayed trees with netting in an effort to prevent further insect deaths. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has upped its estimate of the bee kill to 50,000. Spokesman Scott Black calls that a very conservative number.

USDA bans snack foods, sugary drinks in schools

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 27 effectively banned the sale of snack foods such as candy, cookies and sugary drinks, including sports drinks, in schools, making it harder for students to avoid the now-healthier school meals by eating snacks sold in vending machines. “Parents and schools work hard to give our youngsters the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, and providing healthy options through school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars will support their great efforts,” says Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary. The new rules were required under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed by Congress in 2010 with broad bipartisan support. The law, supported by Michelle Obama and drafted with an unusual level of cooperation between nutrition advocates and the food industry, required USDA to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools.

Ind. grain elevator blast kills 1 worker

• UNION MILLS, Ind. — An explosion June 24 inside a grain elevator killed a worker at a sprawling northwest Indiana farm co-op, authorities say. The cause of the blast at the Union Mills Co-op remained unknown several hours after the blast. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration were among the agencies sending investigators to the scene. It wasn’t clear where the victim, James Swank, 67, of Union Mills, was at time of the blast, but he might have been loading grain into train cars with two other workers, according to Maj. John Boyd of the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department. All other employees were accounted for and no other injuries were reported. Swank died from multiple blunt force trauma, says John Sullican, LaPorte County Coroner. It may have been a grain dust explosion, he says.

SD governor says exports key to ag growth

• PIERRE, S.D. — Increased exports will play a key role in the continued growth of South Dakota’s agricultural industry, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said June 26 at the annual Governor’s Ag Development Summit. “We need to continue to remember most of our buyers are out there, not back here,” Daugaard said. About 200 people attended the summit, which featured discussions on how to expand the South Dakota ag industry. Subjects ranged from providing loans to helping beginning farmers and ranchers to promoting more processing of agricultural products within the state. Daugaard said South Dakota has increased its total agricultural exports from $535 million in 2008 to $691 million in 2012. Daugaard has led trade missions the past two years to China, where South Dakota’s ag exports have grown from $8 million in 2008 to $54 million last year. He noted South Dakota recently gained dairy operations and a cheese plant.

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•MF Global: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulated MF Global, announced civil charges against MF Global chief executive Jon S. Corzine on June 27, claiming he failed to prevent a lower-level MF Global employee from transferring customer money to banks and clearinghouses. The agency also announced a lawsuit against that employee, Edith O’Brien, who oversaw the transfer of customer money from the firm’s Chicago office. Corzine has indicated that he will fight the charges.

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