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Published September 03, 2013, 09:57 AM

Latest news

A federal trustee has asked a judge to convert the Northern Beef Packers plant's bankruptcy into a Chapter 7 liquidation, a N.D. man has plead guilty to three counts of starving cattle, and an elderly N.D. man was killed in a tractor fire near Minto.

By: Agweek Wire Reports,

ND man pleads guilty to starving cattle

• BISMARCK, N.D. — A McIntosh County, N.D., man accused of starving to death more than 100 cattle has acknowledged it in order to avoid a trial. James Schnabel, 44, pleaded guilty Aug. 23 to three of the four counts against him of overworking, mistreating or abandoning animals. The judge suspended jail time and part of the fine. But Schnabel will have to pay more than $1,300, do 80 hours of community service and allow his operation to be monitored during two years of probation. Felony criminal attempt and theft of property charges, as well as a misdemeanor charge of committing a fraudulent insurance act, were dropped.

Trustee wants Chapter 7 bankruptcy for SD beef plant

• SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A federal trustee asked a judge Aug. 27 to convert a troubled South Dakota beef processing plant’s bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 liquidation. Assistant U.S. trustee James Snyder says in a petition that he thinks Northern Beef Packers, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, is “administratively insolvent” based on company reports and statements. “Based on currently available information, it appears the plant represents the only asset by which debtor may generate funds to pay creditors,” Snyder wrote. Northern Beef had been trying to obtain post-petition financing so it could proceed with hiring an investment banking firm to pursue a sale of the plant. Snyder says Northern Beef withdrew its financing plan and has not filed a replacement motion. The change from Chapter 11 protection is necessary to protect the interests of creditors and the estate and to prevent further delay and default, he says. Land for the $109 million plant was first secured in 2006, but the company wasn’t able to slaughter its first animal until late 2012 and has since struggled to reach anywhere near its production target of 1,500 head per day. Feedlot operators in the region are hoping someone can buy and reopen the $109 million facility. South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association vice president Todd Wilkinson says ranchers want to make sure the case results in an operating facility in Aberdeen that can process their cattle. Wilkinson says it’s critical if the state is ever to move forward on the South Dakota Certified Beef program.

Midwest hot, dry spell brings back drought worries

• DES MOINES, Iowa — A growing season that began unusually wet and cold in the Midwest is finishing hot and dry, renewing worries of drought and its impact on crops. Experts say corn and soybeans may not have enough moisture in dry areas to develop to full weight, which could reduce this year’s harvest. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Aug. 29 shows lack of rain has caused drought conditions to expand in parts of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, and most of Minnesota and Wisconsin. It also shows that abnormally dry conditions have expanded in eastern Iowa and South Dakota. Rain eased drought in portions of northern Nebraska, but much of the western half of the state remais in extreme drought. Drought also expanded in portions of Texas, Louisiana and southern Arkansas.

Man gets jail time for neglect of Minn. horses

• FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — The caregiver for six horses that were found dead, and 11 more neglected, at a farmstead near Vergas, Minn., last winter has been sentenced to one year in jail. William Vance Tompkins, 19, of Owasso, Okla., had been entrusted with the horses’ care by his mother, Penny Fick, and her husband, Bill Fick, of rural Vergas, while they temporarily resided in Montana. The Ficks still face charges in the case. Tompkins was sentenced in Otter Tail County District Court to 365 days in jail, with 284 days stayed for one year, for one gross misdemeanor count of mistreating animals. In exchange for his guilty plea, a felony count of mistreating animals was dismissed, along with three misdemeanor counts. He was also placed on unsupervised probation for one year, and may not have any unsupervised contact with animals. Bill and Penny Fick are both charged with mistreatment of animals. Tompkins is willing to cooperate in their prosecution, according to court records. Court hearing2s are scheduled Oct. 3 for Penny Fick and Oct. 17 for Bill Fick.

Briefly . . .

• Licensed buyers: The North Dakota Public Service Commission says farmers should make sure they’re doing business with licensed and bonded grain buyers. Commissioner Randy Christmann says many legal protections provided to farmers depend on selling to licensed buyers. Christmann says if people sell grain to unlicensed buyers and don’t get paid, the only recourse may be civil action.

• Tractor death: Walsh County, N.D., authorities say 79-year-old Charles Slominski of Ardoch was found dead at the scene of a reported tractor fire near Minto, Aug. 26. Minto fire crews extinguished the blaze one mile east of Interstate 29 and less than a mile south of Walsh County Road 15. Firefighters then discovered the body of the driver inside the cab. The body has been sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Bismarck. The incident is under investigation.

• CHS merger: CHS Inc. and Dakota Plains Cooperative, a full-service agribusiness headquartered in Valley City, N.D., have been in discussions about entering into a merger transaction and now seek approval from the members of Dakota Plains Cooperative and the CHS Board of Directors. Integral to this effort is close examination of opportunities to enhance agronomy assets in the east central area of North Dakota. Plans under discussion include constructing three new fertilizer plants within the Dakota Plains trade area to take full advantage of the proposed fertilizer manufacturing facility in Spiritwood, N.D., currently under review by CHS. A series of informational meetings for Dakota Plains patrons are being scheduled for September to bring more information to area growers.