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Published May 05, 2014, 10:06 AM

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Woman gets 3 years for theft from elevator, USDA is uncertain whether PED cases have peaked and yields are up and prices are down on South Dakota farms in 2013.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire reports, Agweek

Woman gets 3 years for theft from elevator

• GREGORY, S.D. — A Gregory woman was sentenced April 28 to three years in prison for stealing from the Gregory Farmers Elevator. Judge Kathleen Trandahl sentenced Melissa Vosika, 30, to five years in the South Dakota Women’s Prison, but suspended two years, for the conviction of altering corporate records, says prosecuting attorney Sandy Steffen. Vosika, who was sentenced at Gregory County Courthouse, also received two two-year prison sentences for forgery and an attempted embezzlement. Those sentences will run concurrently to the three-year sentence. Vosika, the former business manager of the Gregory Farmers Elevator, was accused in December 2012 of stealing more than $17,000 from the business between May and September 2012. She was originally charged with 14 counts — seven counts of embezzlement, three counts of altering corporate records, three counts of forgery and one count of attempted embezzlement. She pleaded guilty to three of those counts in March. Her first parole eligibility will be in January.

USDA uncertain whether PEDv cases peaked

• It is unclear whether the incidence of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) has peaked, says Joseph Glauber, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief economist. USDA is still working with state agencies and industry groups on details of the mandatory reporting protocols for PEDv that were announced on April 18, Glauber says. U.S. hog prices could rise by 15 to 25 percent and consumer prices for pork by 10 to 12 percent as a result of PEDv, which has killed some 7 million piglets in the U.S., according to the National Pork Producers Council. But because consumer demand for pork has so far not slipped in response to rising prices, the industry is poised for a strong financial year, NPPC President Howard Hill says. Hill says hog slaughter this summer could fall by more than 10 percent relative to 2013 because of the PED. U.S. pork production likely will fall 6 to 8 percent in the third quarter, he says.

Yields up, prices down on SD farms in 2013

• South Dakota farmers had better yields in 2013, but dealt with lower prices when it came to selling their crops, according to a report released April 30 by the South Dakota Center for Farm and Ranch Management at Mitchell Technical Institute. Yields for corn went up 77 percent from 2012 levels. Soybean yields were up 59 percent from the previous year. But the difference was felt with harvest prices. In 2013, the average harvest price for corn was $3.85 and $12.15 for soybeans. That was down 45 percent from $7 for corn in 2012 and $15 for soybeans, a 19 percent drop. MTI Farm Management Program Instructor Will Walter says the low prices follow a nationwide trend. He says expenses put into crops for the coming year are the chief item to watch. The costs were most apparent regarding the return over cost per acre for corn, which was the lowest it has been in six years at $107.69 per acre. In 2012, it was $304.81. Walter says seed, fertilizer and pesticides are the easiest places where costs can get away from a farmer. For the first time in four years, soybeans provided a higher return per acre than corn. The average acre of soybeans brought $190 per acre, while corn was at $108 per acre. Alfalfa was the state’s most profitable crop in 2013, mainly because of the adequate rainfall in the state, the hot weather and a strong demand for hay. The crop brought an average of $327 per acre. Wheat had lower yields and lower prices to produce a substantial drop in return per acre. Winter wheat, after a great year in 2012, showed a 64 percent drop in return per acre at $114. Spring wheat experienced a 77 percent decrease with a return per acre of just $34. Oats, a smaller player in recent years, obtained a $142 return per acre in 2013 from the fields represented in the program, which is based on about 90 participants in the school’s Farm Business Management program across the state.

Canada rejects grain bill amendment

• On May 1, the speaker of Canada’s House of Commons rejected a bill amendment that would allow the government to force railway companies to compensate shippers for expenses incurred because of railways’ failure to deliver service. The amendment was part of a broader Conservative bill, by which the government would set minimum levels of grain shipments by rail to avoid the huge crop backlogs that have hurt farmers’ cash flow this winter. Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled that the amendment was outside the scope of the legislation. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the government still has options. “These Parliamentary games are simply an unfortunate speed bump and will not deter this government from amending (the bill) to include service level agreements with penalties,” Ritz says. “We look forward to the continued support of the House as we move this important legislation through Parliament.” A record-breaking harvest and frigid winter have overwhelmed Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., which move Canada’s crops from country elevators to port.

Hearing focuses on rural development

• At her first hearing as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation Subcommittee Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., highlighted the potential for multijurisdictional regional planning in rural America. The 2014 farm bill will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development division to use federal funds for planning across regional lines rather than just within one county or one small town. Dawn Keeley, executive director of the Red River Regional Council in Grafton, N.D., was one of several officials to address the importance of regional development strategies. Keeley talked about “key foundations,” including leveraging private and public partners and resources, program integration and vibrant rural communities that promote farming and ranching. She talked about three current projects: Vision West North Dakota, Western Area Water Supply Project and the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategic Plan for Northeast North Dakota. “It is my hope that we will create and support development opportunities that will assure that the rising economic tide in North Dakota lifts all ships (regions) in the state.”


• NAAJ winner: Agweek Staff Writer Jonathan Knutson won two awards in the 2014 North American Agricultural Journalists writing contest for work published in 2013. He received honorable mentions in the Column and News categories.