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Published August 26, 2013, 10:14 AM

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A Minn. farmer has been found guilty of improper food handling, S.D. lawmakers have rejected proposed rules on the sale of raw milk, and fields in central and eastern Minn. are drying out, according to University of Minnesota Extension educators.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports,

Minn. farmer improperly handled and sold food • ST. PAUL — Two recent legal decisions have found a Stearns County, Minn., farmer improperly handled and illegally sold food without a license. A Stearns County jury recently found Alvin Schlangen guilty of five misdemeanor counts of food handling and storage, including failure to have a food handler’s license, improperly storing eggs at the correct temperature and misbranding food. The charges stemmed from a Minnesota Department of Agriculture investigation that began in 2009 when Schlangen was found to be illegally selling raw milk, meat, poultry and other food products at a farmers market in Minneapolis and other locations. In another legal proceeding against Schlangen, MDA compliance officers visited a Minneapolis warehouse on multiple occasions from 2009 to 2011 and found Schlangen selling unpasteurized dairy products, items lacking proper labeling or without labeling, custom processed meat labeled “Not for Sale,” improperly refrigerated eggs and milk, and moldy fruit. On each occasion, MDA offered Schlangen the opportunity to purchase a food handler’s license and he refused. MDA issued orders to bring Schlangen into compliance with food laws and regulations. Schlangen appealed those orders and the case went to an administrative hearing at which Schlangen’s defense attorneys contended he is not in the business of selling food commercially and doesn’t need a food handler’s license. But an Administrative Law Judge recently issued findings stating it was undisputed that Schlangen offered for sale a variety of foods, including unpasteurized milk and butter, and continues to do so. These findings are now final. In the Stearns County jury trial, Schlangen was fined $300 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, but the sentence was stayed on the condition he doesn’t commit similar offenses.

Testing shows no spread of bovine TB from Texas cow • BISMARCK, N.D. — Extensive field and laboratory testing indicates that tuberculosis found in a beef cow in south-central North Dakota has not spread to other animals. Susan Keller, North Dakota state veterinarian, says the animal was identified in May, as a result of a trace-out investigation in Texas. The disease was confirmed by National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. An additional 33 suspect animals from the herd were also slaughtered as a normal precaution and are being tested at the laboratory. “Culture results are still pending on samples taken from suspect animals, but the preliminary report says no suspicious lesions or TB-like organisms have been identified.” Keller says. “The remaining animals in the herd will undergo further testing to meet federal requirements.” Keller says once the three whole-herd tests are completed and if no additional bovine TB is found, the quarantine can be lifted. The second whole-herd test will begin in late summer and be finished early fall. The third test will be conducted this winter. Keller says the owners of the herd and neighbors have cooperated fully in the investigation. North Dakota has been recognized as “TB-free” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 1976. The state’s last reported case of bovine tuberculosis in a herd was in 1999.

Ottawa seeks WTO help to change COOL rules • OTTAWA — Ottawa is again going to the World Trade Organization to try and get the United States to change its country-of-origin labeling rules on beef and pork imports. The WTO has already ruled in Canada’s favor in the long-standing dispute, and Ottawa has issued a list of possible retaliatory measures it is prepared to institute. But Trade Minister Ed Fast says he will not go to the retaliatory stage until the WTO compliance panel authorizes it. The U.S. amended its so-called COOL regulations on beef and pork after the WTO ruled against the rules last year. But Fast says the recent amendments are still afoul of the WTO ruling on the issue and will further hinder the ability of Canadian cattle and hog producers to freely compete in the U.S. market. In June, the government released a list of goods from the U.S. subject to punitive taxes if Washington does not change its COOL regulations. Washington first imposed its country-of-origin labeling system in 2008, a move the U.S. Department of Agriculture says is designed to help consumers make informed decisions about food choices. The labeling system cut Canadian cattle shipments to the U.S. by 50 percent within a year and cut the export of slaughter hogs by 58 percent.

Fields turn dry in central, eastern Minn. • MINNEAPOLIS — Cornfields and pastures are drying out in parts of central and eastern Minnesota, and some cattle producers are starting to thin out their herds to cut costs. Some areas haven’t seen significant rain in weeks. Dan Martens, a University of Minnesota Extension educator, says corn and soybeans are wilting and hay field and pasture growth has halted. Another extension educator, Troy Salzer in Carlton County, says many beef cattle producers there have started feeding expensive hay or other forage to their livestock. Salzer says he knows of several cow-calf producers who have already started marketing yearlings. The abnormally dry swath extends in an arc from southwest Minnesota to eastern Minnesota north of the Twin Cities. Elsewhere, Minnesota farmers expect their second-largest corn crop in state history.

SD lawmakers reject rules on raw milk sales • PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota legislative committee has rejected proposed state rules that would govern the production and sale of raw milk. The Rules Review Committee voted 3-2 to send the proposed rules back to the state Agriculture Department for more work. Sen. Mike Vehle, of Mitchell, says some committee members think the Agriculture Department has not done enough to determine what financial impact the proposed rules would have on farmers who produce raw milk for sale. Raw milk producers argue the rules are unnecessary and would require them to spend a lot of money. The proposed rules would cover the production, testing and labeling of raw milk offered for sale. State officials say the proposed rules provide a reasonable framework to ensure raw milk sold in South Dakota is safe.