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Published April 07, 2014, 09:45 AM

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Atlanta firm to pay fine for robocalls made on behalf of NDFB, MF Global customers to recoup $6.7 billion as final payout starts and Minn beef check-off increase rejected.

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

Atlanta firm to pay fine for robocalls made on behalf of NDFB

• BISMARCK, N.D. — An Atlanta-based company that made robocalls on behalf of the North Dakota Farm Bureau to gauge support for three candidates in the race for state agriculture commissioner has agreed to pay a $500 fine for violating a state law prohibiting such calls, the attorney general’s office says. The company, Concentric Direct LLC, immediately accepted responsibility and indicated it wasn’t aware of the law that requires robocalls to be preceded by a live operator who must obtain consent from the person called, says Parrell Grossman, director of the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division. Pete Hanebutt, director of public policy for the North Dakota Farm Bureau, says the group hired Concentric Direct to conduct a poll “to test each of the candidates and the issues in the ag commissioner race.” Hanebutt says he told Concentric Direct “to do their due diligence to find out what the laws were here.” The North Dakota Farm Bureau supports rural Warwick nurse and farmer Judy Estenson over current Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring for the Republican Party’s endorsement. The other candidate for the office is Democrat Ryan Taylor. The company had made roughly 300 robocalls, Grossman says. Violators can face a fine of up to $2,000 per call. Concentric Direct agreed to immediately suspend the calls and pay a $500 fine.

MF Global customers to recoup $6.7 billion as final payout starts

• NEW YORK — Former customers of MF Global Holdings Ltd.’s bankrupt brokerage will recoup all $6.7 billion they are owed following the completion of a payout that will begin on April 4, its trustee says. Nearly 26,500 former commodities and securities customers of the MF Global Inc. brokerage will share in the payout, which will be made over the next several weeks, says the trustee, James Giddens. The payout comes nearly 2½ years after the parent company, once run by Jon Corzine, who had previously been a co-chairman of Goldman Sachs and governor of New Jersey, filed for Chapter 11 protection. It often takes customers and creditors of bankrupt companies years to recoup all or some of their money. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the Wall Street bank that filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008 is returning $17.9 billion to creditors, boosting its payout so far to $80.4 billion in five distributions. In November, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn in Manhattan approved a plan to fully repay MF Global customers, including with money once earmarked for unsecured creditors who were not customers. Some of the money going to former customers has come from settlements with one time MF Global counterparties JPMorgan Chase & Co. and CME Group Inc. Additional funds may be received from a British unit, MF Global UK Ltd., Giddens says. Giddens says 24,020 former U.S. commodities futures and options customers would recover $5.4 billion. He says another $880 million would go to 2,047 former foreign commodities futures and options customers, and $376 million would be returned to 428 former securities customers.

Minn. beef check-off increase rejected

• MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — On April 1, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced the proposed referendum by the Minnesota Beef Research and Promotion Council that sought to increase the existing beef check-off had been rejected. Sixty-three percent (960) of the 1,525 voting producers voted against the referendum with just 37 percent (564) voting in favor. Passage of the referendum would have increased what Minnesota cattle producers are required to pay through the beef check-off by $1 — an expected collection of nearly $700,000 per year. This would have been in addition to the mandatory $1 per head check-off currently collected on cattle sold in the state. The rejection by Minnesota cattle producers to shoulder another $1 per head in check-off remittance puts to rest the issue for at least one year. According to Minnesota Administrative Rules, if a referendum fails, the MDA commissioner is prohibited from issuing another referendum on any promotional order on the same agricultural commodity until one year has elapsed.

Surveying Minn.’s organic farmers

• ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is asking organic farmers about a range of topics from planting to promoting. Minnesota’s 700 certified organic farmers were mailed the Survey of Minnesota Organic Farms in mid-March. The survey asks them to share their experiences and ideas in 27 questions addressing profitability, production costs and challenges, research needs, marketing and outlook. This survey is intended to keep Minnesota’s organic farmers at the front of their field in one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the food industry. “The insights organic farmers share will help us focus programs and resources on areas that make a difference to their bottom line,” says MDA organic program administrator Meg Moynihan. “Organic market demand is very strong, and we want to do all we can to help existing and new organic farmers capitalize on that fact.” Certified organic farmers who did not receive a survey in the mail can contact Moynihan at 651-201-6616 to request a copy. Surveys must be returned to the MDA by April 15. For more information, contact Michael Crusan, MDA Communications at 651-201-6629, michael.crusan@state.mn.us.

Briefly . . .

• Animal neglect: The Nobles County (Minn.) Attorney’s Office filed charges April 1 against Joan Mary Moore of rural Reading after the remains of horses were discovered recently on her farm. Moore has been charged with 11 counts of felony animal neglect. Each felony count alleges that she neglected a horse and that the animal died as a result. The maximum penalty for each felony count is two years imprisonment or a $5,000 fine. She has also been charged with additional counts of animal cruelty at a lesser level regarding horses that are still alive.

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