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Published July 22, 2013, 10:02 AM

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The Northern Beef Packer's plant in Aberdeen, S.D., delays employee paychecks, plans have been approved for the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., and North Dakota's congressional delegation is pressuring the Risk Management Agency to clarify some of its policies on prevented plant insurance.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports,

ND delegation pushes RMA on prevented plant

• FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota’s congressional delegation kept the pressure on for the Risk Management Agency to clarify policies that would disqualify some farmers from receiving prevented plant insurance payments. The issue could be large in a year when the Farm Service Agency says one in five acres in the state may have been unplanted because of untimely spring moisture. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., says he has met with U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary nominee Krysta Harden and Risk Management Agency administrator Brandon Willis. Willis says 2012 won’t “automatically be considered an abnormally dry year for the purpose of the one-in four-rule,” which intuitively would allow for benefits. Growers should work with their insurers on a “case-by-case basis to make the determination,” Willis says. The RMA earlier had said 2012 would not qualify for prevented plant calculations because it was “abnormally dry.” Hoeven, insurance companies and farmers complained that 2012 should count for the calculation because it was a bumper crop year, despite being dry in parts of the cropping season. Willis also says the agency is “committed to clarify and simplify the one-in-four rule by this fall so there will be no confusion regarding coverage and eligibility in the 2014 crop year.” Hoeven had complained that “normal weather conditions” are too subjective. Willis agreed to visit North Dakota in August to update farmers and hear their concerns on that and other RMA policies. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also met with Harden and pressed her to improve the policies. “With 4.4 million acres prevented from planting in North Dakota, it is imperative that the RMA get the crop insurance policies right so all growers receive the coverage they paid for,” Heitkamp says. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., issued a statement, saying the federal government should be a “better partner” in clarifying the one-in-four year planting rule, in light of “serious questions about its interpretation.”

SD Agriculture Department reorganizes

• PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota’s Agriculture Department is reorganizing some of its resources to better meet the needs of the diverse industry in the state, from timber production in the southwest to corn in the southeast. The department is splitting up its Division of Agricultural Development into four regions, each overseen by a supervisor. Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch says the department in the past has focused on having specialists for various agricultural fields, such as dairy and livestock. He says that resulted in a revolving list of state employees whom farmers dealt with. Lentsch says maintaining a level of consistency and providing a single voice a community can turn to with agricultural needs was the driving force behind the new regional structure.

Struggling SD beef plant delays paychecks

• ABERDEEN, S.D. — The Northern Beef Packers plant in the city of Aberdeen, S.D., is delaying worker paychecks because of financial woes. Northern Beef issued a statement reading: “Due to ongoing delays with securing additional funding, Northern Beef Packers has notified its employees that payroll will be delayed July 19. The company is making every effort to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.” The slaughter plant laid off 108 of its 420 workers in April because of a lack of working capital. Officials said they hoped to hire back the workers by late July. The plant started up last fall after years of delays ranging from financial problems to lawsuits to flooding. It hopes to eventually process 1,500 cattle a day from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, but it has put the ramp-up plans on hold while it tries to raise another $20 million to go with the $150 million that enabled the plant to finally start operating.

Plans approved for Corn Palace renovation

• MITCHELL, S.D. — The Mitchell (S.D.) City Council has approved plans for a $7.2 million renovation and expansion of the city’s Corn Palace tourist attraction. Council members voted 7-0 to approve the two-phase plan, which includes color-changing domes, larger murals and a walk-out balcony above the marquee. Architectural designs will now be created. The plan’s first phase involves improving the current Corn Palace at a cost of $4.1 million. Construction could start next year. The city recently sold $13.9 million in bonds, of which $6.5 million was earmarked for the Corn Palace project. The $3.1 million second phase involves renovating the City Hall building, which is connected to the north side of the Corn Palace and will be vacated when a new city hall is built in another area. The original Corn Palace in Mitchell was established in 1892 when settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building. The third and current building was completed in 1921. The corn decorations are stripped each year and new murals are created. It takes about 275,000 ears of corn to decorate the building, which attracts about 200,000 tourists each year.

Ardent Mills picks Denver area for headquarters

• DENVER — The new flour milling joint venture of ConAgra Foods Inc., Cargill and CHS Inc. has chosen Colorado for its headquarters. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office says Ardent Mills is expected to have a presence in the Denver area starting in 2014, pending final approval of incentive packages. State officials estimate the operation could bring 250 jobs. Ardent Mills brings together the flour milling companies ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling, which is a joint venture of Cargill and CHS. Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra and Minneapolis-based Cargill will each have a 44 percent stake in Ardent Mills. St. Paul-based CHS will own 12 percent.


• SD anthrax: South Dakota state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven is urging ranchers to take steps to protect their cattle after a case of anthrax was confirmed in a calf in Turner County. It is the state’s first confirmed case of the livestock disease this year. Anthrax bacteria spores lie dormant in the ground and can become active under extreme weather conditions such as flooding and drought. Oedekoven says much of South Dakota has the potential for an outbreak, and outbreaks can kill a large number of animals in a short time. Cattle can be vaccinated against the disease.