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Published November 11, 2013, 11:16 AM

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A delegation goes abroad to investigate biotech development, South Dakota's state vet updates blizzard livestock death numbers and Washington State's GMO food labeling measure is defeated.

By: Agweek staff and wire reports, Agweek

Delegation explores biotech development

• MINNETONKA, Minn. — To advance the global sugar beet industry, representatives from the grower-supported American Sugarbeet Growers Association and Syngenta met with industry leaders during a weeklong trip to the UK, Switzerland, Sweden and Russia. The trip helped solidify relationships with Russia and further the acceptance of biotechnology by other producing nations. This development could benefit consumers and growers around the globe. During their visit, the group met with representatives from British Sugar to discuss the state of the industry in the EU. They also toured Syngenta facilities in Sweden and Switzerland, and met with Syngenta leadership and researchers to discuss future innovations for the sugar beet industry across all geographies.

SD state vet updates blizzard livestock deaths

• RAPID CITY, S.D. — Many of the thousands of South Dakota cattle that perished in an Oct. 4 blizzard died of congestive heart failure brought on by stress, says State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven. Oedekoven also has released updated totals on livestock deaths from the storm that dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the western part of the state. His office has verified the deaths of 13,977 cattle, 1,257 sheep, 287 horses and 40 bison — more than 15,500 animals, he says. Many of the animals died after being pummeled by rain, snow and unrelenting winds, according to Oedekoven. “At least they were not lying in water and their lungs were full of fluid,” he says. “There was a common thought or misconception out there — that they must have breathed all that in. That it must have settled in their lungs.” That is not the case, he says. Rain drenched the livestock for 12 to 18 hours before the blizzard’s strong winds and wet snow delivered the killing blow. “Those cows likely got hypothermic. They were cold,” Oedekoven says. Oedekoven says he thinks there are still ranchers who have not reported their losses from the storm.

Measure on labeling GMO foods defeated

• SEATTLE — Voters in Washington state have rejected a ballot measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. The campaign over Initiative 522 drew millions of dollars from out of state and was one of the costliest initiative fights in state history. Had voters approved I-522, Washington would’ve been the first state to put in place labeling requirements for genetically modified foods. The opposition raised $22 million to defeat the measure. Money came from Monsanto Co., DuPont Pioneer and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which collected millions in donations from the nation’s top food companies.

Minn. turkey to receive presidential pardon

• BADGER, Minn. — A Minnesota turkey and his alternate will head to the White House for the national Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony this year. John Burkel, a Badger, Minn., turkey farmer, is the National Turkey Federation’s 2013 chairman. The two turkeys will make the trip to Washington, but only one will be pardoned on Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. “Now, as we get closer, we’re going to do a lot more table top exercises where you got to pick them up at this presentation and put them up on a table, of course, for the president to do the pardoning ceremony itself,” Burkel says. “There’s certain birds that will cooperate better than others. I already have a good idea which two are going but we’ll see as we go along here.” After the ceremony, he says, both turkeys will go to George Washington’s farm in Mount Vernon where they will live out their natural life.

Canada’s ag minister sees hope in meat dispute

• Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is sounding confident about his efforts to persuade the U.S. to scrap its country-of-origin meat labeling policy, known as COOL. Ritz spoke in Chicago at the North America Meat Association conference. He says the ground has shifted and 100 senators and congressmen have come onside. The policy increases costs and makes it more difficult for U.S. companies to buy Canadian products. Ritz says the policy is hurting plants in the U.S. and Canada and is threatening retaliatory tariffs on everything from cattle to bread to orange juice. Ritz is hoping the policy will be repealed via a farm bill.

Lucas opposes dairy supply management

• WASHINGTON — House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., now opposes the provision in the proposed Dairy Security Act that the dairy farmers call market stabilization and the dairy processors, who oppose it, call supply management, according to a Texas newspaper. “Lucas said he does not support the supply management component included in the language passed by the Senate, calling it a ‘controversy that needs to be worked out,’” The Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported Nov. 2. A House Ag Committee spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the report. Lucas supported the Dairy Security Act when House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., presented it to the committee. The measure passed in the committee and was part of the farm bill that came to the House floor, but Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., succeeded in passing an amendment to remove the market stabilization/supply management feature. Lucas did not vote for the Goodlatte amendment. A source close to Lucas says he considers the matter an issue for Peterson and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has been vigorously opposed to the program, to resolve. Peterson says recently that he will fight against inclusion of the Goodlatte amendment in the dairy title, and that if the conference committee will not accept the full Dairy Security Act, he favors reauthorizing the current dairy program including the Milk Income Loss Contract program with rates that were established in the 2008 farm bill. Meanwhile, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who is also a conferee on the bill, told the Greeley [Colo.] Tribune that he favors the House version.

Briefly . . .

• Loan adjusters: The Montana Farm Service Agency is looking to hire more loan adjusters. They will work primarily with the noninsured crop disaster assistance program, which helps producers of noninsurable crops hurt by natural disaster. Several loan adjusters with the Montana FSA retired recently, and the agency is looking for replacements, says Jennifer Cole, the agency’s public affairs specialist. Applications for the 2014 crop year are due Dec. 2 and can be found at any FSA county office in Montana or at

• Propane delivery: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order Nov. 6 allowing trucks hauling propane and anhydrous ammonia to deliver to farmers beyond normal operating times allowed by the state. Dayton says late maturing corn in the Upper Midwest means farmers are working long hours later in the year, creating the need for supplies to be delivered past normal hours of service.

— Agweek Staff and Wire Reports