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Published October 14, 2013, 10:55 AM

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A ND farmer sues USDA, American Crystal ends reports and a SD couple sentenced to jail for neglect.

By: Agweek staff and wire reports, Agweek

ND farmer accused of violation sues USDA

• FARGO, N.D. — A North Dakota farmer accused of illegally draining wetlands is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture for back benefits. Leonard Peterson, of LaMoure, says a ruling that he violated wetland conservation regulations was not supported by the evidence. He’s seeking nearly $136,000 in USDA benefits. Peterson says he was told by a federal conservation official he was “doing nothing wrong” by grading land between wetlands in August 2009. Peterson says he wanted to make it easier to move farm machinery in the area. USDA denies that Peterson was given the OK for the project and says the ruling was based on substantial evidence. The government is asking that the suit be thrown out of federal court.

American Crystal ends reports

• Followers of one of the Red River Valley’s biggest companies no longer will be able to find its quarterly financial reports on its website. American Crystal Sugar Co. stopped filing reports with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission this summer when the SEC told the company that, as a member-owned cooperative, it did not have to follow requirements of publicly traded companies, says Brian Ingulsrud, vice president for administration. He says shareholders would get more benefit from the cooperative’s administration focusing on other tasks. “There’s time and resources involved in filing these reports,” he says. The quarterly reports detailed the company’s costs, profits and other indicators of its business performance. They also played a part in the company’s 20-month lockout of its union workers, who cited the data in the reports as evidence of the harm they say the lockout was doing to the company. Ingulsrud says that was not a part of the decision to stop filing.

SD couple sentenced to jail for horse neglect

• RAPID CITY, S.D. — A western South Dakota couple convicted of neglecting horses last winter have been sentenced to jail. Don Harwood was given a five-year term and his wife, Terri, a one-year term. They each will be on probation for several years after their jail time. Magistrate Judge Shawn Pahlke gave Don Harwood a lengthier jail term because he did not cooperate with a presentence investigation and because of his criminal record, which includes drug and driving under the influence convictions. Law officers in January seized 69 horses at the Harwoods’ Rapid Valley home. Authorities say the horses did not have food or water. A jury in August convicted the Harwoods on nine counts each of inhumane treatment of an animal.

Deer disease now being found in ND cattle

• BISMARCK, N.D. — A fatal disease that has struck North Dakota’s deer population this year is now being found in cattle. Cattle cases of epizootic hemorrhagic disease — commonly known as EHD — have been reported in several counties, according to State Veterinarian Susan Keller. Ranchers, particularly in southern and southwest North Dakota, should be looking for symptoms in their herds, including excessive salivation, swollen tongues, mouth ulcers, fever, reproductive problems and lameness, she says. “It is important for producers to work with their veterinarians to determine the cause of illness or death,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. The disease also has been found in deer in Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming this year.

ND man ordered to pay in grain bin scam

• FARGO, N.D. — A Langdon, N.D., man has been placed on probation and ordered to pay $20,000 for his role in a scheme to fleece farmers. Lance Schill pleaded guilty in June to money laundering. Authorities say he advertised himself as a licensed grain bin dealer and then used advance money farmers gave him to build his own home. Prosecutors say when farmers started to complain about the status of their orders, Schill told them the materials were ready to be picked up in Fargo but he was busy with other jobs. A second count accusing Schill of mail fraud was dropped in exchange for the guilty plea on the money laundering charge. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced Schill to 18 months of probation, including four months of home confinement.

Nitrogen plant developers get early loan OK

• The Grand Forks (N.D.) Growth Fund Committee gave preliminary approval Oct. 9 for a $250,000 loan to a company planning a large fertilizer plant near the city. Northern Plains Nitrogen will use the loan and other financing to buy 320 acres northwest of Grand Forks for $1.7 million. Company representatives plan on breaking ground in 2015 and starting production in 2017. The $1.5 billion plant will employ 135 workers when it is in operation. A proposal outline provided by city staff states the plant will produce as much as 2,200 tons of ammonia per day, and more than 600,000 tons of nitrogen annually. The growth fund loan will be combined with an $850,000 bank loan, a $250,000 North Dakota Development Fund loan and $350,000 of the company’s equity. City council member Bret Weber says the project seemed like “an appropriate use” of the growth fund, but wondered if its success depended on the committee approving the loan. The city’s Jobs Development Authority will hold a public hearing and consider approving the loan Oct. 21.

Briefly . . .

• Farm bill: The U.S. House approved the formation of a farm bill conference committe late in the afternoon Oct. 11. It was expcted to name conferees Oct. 12, after Agweek press time.

• Snowstorm helpline: Anyone impacted by the recent western South Dakota snowstorm can call 2-1-1 or 877-708-4357 for any storm-related concerns. Producers living in Harding, Perkins, Ziebach, Shannon, Jackson, Jones, Bennett and Mellette counties will need to call 877-708-4357 to reach the helpline. The helpline can answer questions regarding animal removal from agricultural properties, documentation of livestock losses, livestock identification and provide contact information for other assistance programs. Producers experiencing emotional distress can also call for support or to find counseling resources. Agencies needing volunteers and individuals interested in volunteering to help should dial 2-1-1 or call 877-708-4357 for assistance.

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