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Published January 20, 2014, 10:41 AM

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Northern Beef Packers’ state loan cancelled, Cargill, USDA check for meat contamination after Iowa plant ammonia leak and barn, antique equipment lost in fire near Crookston, Minn.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire Reports,

Northern Beef Packers’ state loan cancelled

• Northern Beef Packers in Aberdeen, S.D., won’t receive a $5 million loan from the state Board of Economic Development. The board voted on Jan. 14 to cancel its loan commitment. The company, which filed for bankruptcy in July, had never received funding through the loan, Nathan Lukkes, deputy commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, tells Agweek. Northern Beef Packers originally received the commitment for $5 million in state funds on Jan. 28, 2010. Typically, the commitment is only for 12 months, Lukkes says. Northern Beef Packers subsequently received several extensions on the $5 million commitment, the most recent in February 2013, he says. The extensions, which are not uncommon in such cases, were approved because the company continued to make progress toward completion, Lukkes says. But the situation changed after the February 2013 extension was approved, he says. “Given the progression of the bankruptcy proceedings and the subsequent sale of the plant in December, GOED deemed it prudent to bring the matter before the board to consider withdrawing the commitment,” he says. Northern Beef Packers’ main creditor, California-based White Oak Global Advisors, bought the company late last year.

Cargill, USDA check for meat contamination after Iowa plant ammonia leak

• Cargill Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are trying to determine if some meat products were contaminated by an ammonia leak that closed the company’s Ottumwa, Iowa, pork packing plant on Jan. 10, a company spokesman says. Two workers were hospitalized and an undisclosed number of other employees were evacuated during the overnight shift after an ammonia leak was detected at 2 a.m. CST. Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller says the spill was contained to the roof of the plant. An ammonia pipe was damaged, but no other equipment was damaged by the leak, says Cargill spokesperson Michael Martin. Ammonia is used in the refrigeration systems of meat processing plants. USDA officials were unavailable for comment. The pork processing plant closed early on Jan. 10 after the leak was detected and remained shut until Jan. 18, Martin says. “Cleanup is not going as quickly as they hoped it would,” Martin says, adding that Cargill’s hazardous materials response team is handling the clean-up. The Ottumwa plant processes 18,000 to 19,000 head of hogs daily and employs 2,400 workers.

Barn, antique equipment lost in fire near Crookston, Minn.

• A fire Jan. 13 destroyed a barn full of equipment, including antique farm implements, near Eldred, Minn., south of Crookston. The farm belongs to Allan Dragseth, an area sugar beet farmer and antique farm equipment collector. It was one of two fires that Crookston Fire Department responded to within four hours Jan. 13. When the alarm came in, some 27 firefighters were still on the scene of a fire at the Irishman’s Shanty in south Crookston. The barn fire was about 10 miles south of Crookston. The 40-by-60-foot barn contained a tractor with a snow-plow attachment and other equipment, as well as antique farm equipment, according to Dragseth, who is active with the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Museum, located in Crookston. “There were several pieces of equipment that eventually was going to be taken to our sugar beet museum,” he says, adding that the majority of his equipment was stored in another building and was not damaged. Damage estimates were not immediately available. The causes of both fires are under investigation.

Peterson asks EPA to keep renewable fuel requirements

• WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency chief Jan. 15 to change her mind and retain current requirements of renewable fuel content. The EPA under Administrator Gina McCarthy has proposed significant reductions in the amount of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, that are used in the country. Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, hosted a meeting Jan. 15 with McCarthy and others. “I appreciate Administrator McCarthy’s willingness to meet with us and hope the agency’s final rule will take the concerns of our constituents into account,” Peterson said. “The rural economy has been one of the few bright spots in recent years, largely because the RFS (renewable fuel standards rule). Reducing the RFS would not only have a negative impact on jobs and the rural economy, it would also halt advances in the next generation of renewable fuels.”

Briefly . . .

CSP extension: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has extended the deadline for farmers and ranchers to apply to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program until Feb. 7. NRCS originally announced that applications for the fiscal year 2014 CSP sign up would be due by Jan. 17. The additional three weeks will provide interested farmers and ranchers an extra opportunity to submit their initial applications. Producers compete to get into the program, and successful applications are those that offer the highest conservation and environmental benefits.

Smoldering soybeans: The Jamestown (N.D.) Rural Fire Department responded to a fire at Gavilon Fertilizer LLC at 10:20 a.m. Jan. 14. According to Fire Chief Rick Woehl, some soybeans in a dryer had begun smoldering and very little to no damage was done aside from some burnt beans. “There were a couple of hot spots,” he says. “They basically just opened the vents and drained the soybeans out.” Five units and 14 firefighters were on the scene for about 30 minutes.

Meat recall: Cloverdale Foods, a company based in Mandan, N.D., is recalling more than 2,660 1-pound packages of Seattle Mariners Beef Franks because of an ingredient not found on the label. A statement from Cloverdale Foods says the product is made with milk, a known allergen, and the milk was not declared on labels. The recall affects packages distributed to Washington, Montana and North Dakota with the “use by” dates of Feb. 21 or March 13. Cloverdale discovered the problem during an internal label review and brought it to the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Cloverdale says in a news release. There have not been any reports of adverse reactions. Consumers with questions can contact Cloverdale Foods Consumer Relations at 800-669-9511, ext. 406, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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