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Published February 03, 2014, 10:56 AM

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Failure to seize horses ends in botched rescue, R.D. Offut fire damage estimated at $4.5 million, former American Crystal president dies and ND co-op files petition for shuttle train rate,

By: Agweek Wire Reports,

Failure to seize horses ends in botched rescue

• FARGO, N.D. — The planned rescue of up to 40 reportedly malnourished horses Jan. 25 from a Kathryn, N.D., ranch was thwarted when the horses’ owner apparently sold the animals before deputies could seize them and turn them over for adoption. The Barnes County Sheriff’s Office arranged for a horse rescue organization based in Mandan to pick up the horses, which were to be seized from the owner, Ginger Helland, who was charged Jan. 9 with animal neglect after eight of her horses starved to death. But when deputies arrived at Helland’s pasture near Kathryn, the horses were gone and the deputies were told they had been picked up by a horse trader from Bismarck, Sheriff Randy McClaflin says. The county hadn’t yet served Helland with a court order to seize the horses because deputies planned to do that when the rescuers showed up with trailers to take them away, the sheriff says. The sheriff says that, to his knowledge, none of his deputies told Helland the horses were to be seized. She might have assumed that was coming in light of the investigation, he says. Jaden Huntley of Bismarck, who trains and raises saddle horses, says Helland called him and offered to sell him the horses. He says he picked up 25 horses and had not been told of the eight horses that starved earlier. Helland, who did not return a reporter’s message seeking comment, told Huntley that she was getting divorced and wanted to sell the horses. Two of the horses were old and one was thin, but the others looked healthy and well fed, Huntley says.

R.D. Offut fire damage estimated at $4.5 million

• PERHAM, Minn. — A fire that destroyed an R.D. Offutt Co. potato warehouse Jan. 21 near Perham, Minn., caused an estimated $4.5 million in damage, according to Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt. Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office and R.D. Offutt’s insurance company were scheduled to arrive Jan. 29 to begin their official inspection and determine a final damage estimate. The warehouse that burned Jan. 21 was northwest of town on Otter Tail County Highway 80. No injuries were reported. Each of Otter Tail County’s 17 fire departments responded, along with three crews from Becker County, bringing together a Perham Fire District record of 20 departments and 130 firefighters. The combined forces used almost 1.2 million gallons of water in the fight, Schmidt says.

Former American Crystal president dies

• Ronald G. Hayes, 77, died Jan. 24 in Evansville, Ind. He served as president and CEO of American Crystal Sugar Co. from 1986 to 1991. Hayes came to American Crystal as vice president of operations and succeeded Charles Shamel. He was followed by interim president Al Bloomquist and then Joe Famalette in 1992. Hayes served during the company’s ill-fated Duofiber effort — a move to diversify Crystal out of refined sugar by marketing a beet pulp food product for General Mills “Benefit” cereal and other products. The project itself was marked by equipment fires and the product failed in the marketplace. Later, American Crystal refocused on sweetener markets, including the ProGold LLC corn sweetener plant, which was leased to Cargill.

ND co-op files petition for shuttle train rate

• FARGO, N.D. — James Valley Grain LLC of Oakes, N.D., on Jan. 29 filed a petition with the federal Surface Transportation Board for an order compelling BNSF Railway Co. to offer a shuttle train rate at a planned $30 million elevator site near Verona, N.D. JVG is asking the STB for expedited action to order BNSF to “immediately establish direct, nondiscriminatory rates and other terms for the transportation of grain in shuttle train service from Verona to Pacific Northwest destinations reflected in BNSF’s shuttle-train” tariff. The co-op says it has already invested in land acquisition and design costs, and says it wants to build the elevator to handle 2015 grain. JVG says that for two years it tried to obtain “BNSF-direct nondiscriminatory through shuttle rates — the same rates BNSF has long-provided to seven nearby shuttle facilities” including those at Casselton, Kindred, Oakes, Bernard and Edgeley in North Dakota and two elevators in Breckenridge, Minn. “By all appearances, BNSF’s thinly veiled purpose with its rail offerings is to make the proposed JVG-Verona facility uncompetitive with shuttle-train elevators it serves directly, such as the elevator at Valley City, N.D. (located 42 highway miles north of Verona) in hopes of inducing JVG’s farmer-members who are located near Verona to truck their grain 40 to 50 miles further north to Valley City — thus enhancing BNSF’s revenues by cutting RRVW out of the movement,” the petition says. BNSF has 20 days to respond to the case.

Energae receivership settlement reached

• FARGO, N.D. — A tentative settlement has been reached in a receivership petition against Energae LP of Clear Lake, Iowa. Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, District Judge James Drew on Jan. 28 cancelled a Jan. 29 court trial in Mason City, Iowa, because of the settlement. The case had been filed by Clifton Hylden of Park River, N.D., his son, Joel Hylden and Lee Laaveg of Spencer, Iowa. A similar receivership petition by other Hyldens was filed last August and settled. Also on Jan. 28, Drew said a separate settlement had been reached in the case of a Texas woman is asking for an emergency restraining order against Darrell D. Smith, who had been raising funds for Energae and related companies. Gloria Hammon, Henderson, Texas, alleged that Smith conducted unauthorized transfers of Hammon’s money to Energae LP. Hammon alleged Smith and his attorney, Kathryn Barnhill, had contacted her directly, even though she is represented by a lawyer. In March 2012, Smith — on behalf of Energae — tried to get North Dakota farmers to raise sugar beets for making ethanol in a defunct Alchem Ltd. corn ethanol plant in Grafton, N.D. Since then, Smith has lost insurance and securities licenses in Iowa.

Briefly . . .

• Propane hotline: Minnesota has established a hotline for propane problems or questions. Propane is in short supply in the Upper Midwest, which pushes prices to record-high levels. Gov. Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency. The hotline is 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 651-297-1304 or 800-657-3504. Experts from the state Commerce Department are staffing the hotline in the Minnesota Emergency Operations Center. About 250,000 Minnesota homes use propane fuel for heat, as well as businesses and farmers. Most of the homes that use propane are in rural areas.

— Agweek Staff and Wire Reports