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Published May 12, 2014, 09:38 AM

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Hoeven invites the U.S. ag secretary to North Dakota, BLM seeks a wild horse and donkey care facility and Manitoba spud growers talk with Simplot.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire reports, Agweek

Hoeven asks US ag secretary to visit ND

• WASHINGTON — The Republican senator from North Dakota has asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to come to the Peace Garden State. Sen. John Hoeven and Vilsack met May 7, when Hoeven asked the secretary to gather input from farmers and ranchers on the implementation of a new farm bill and other agricultural issues important to North Dakota producers. Hoeven says it is important for Vilsack to be informed on concerns during the bill’s application. “He also needs to hear their concerns about conservation compliance and the (Environmental Protection Agency’s) Waters of the United States rule, which could impose burdensome requirements on producers,” Hoeven says. The rule would place under regulation by the EPA all waters that are currently used, were used in the past or could be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce. Hoeven strongly opposed the rule, saying producers could be at risk of liability because of it. Hoeven has asked the agency to withdraw the rule, calling on Vilsack for help.

BLM seeks wild horse, donkey care facility

• WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management is soliciting bids for short-term hold facilities to house wild horses and donkeys. The BLM needs to accommodate at least 200 animals for a one-year period, with a renewal option for four extensions, officials say. The burros and horses were removed from overpopulated herds roaming public rangelands. The agency is looking for facilities in 17 states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. Each facility must provide humane care, officials say. The animals will remain in the facilities until they are adopted or can be transported to long-term pastures. The solicitation period will open June 2. For more information, visit Forms can be found by clicking the “Search Public Opportunities” tab. Parties must enter reference number L14PS00389 in the “Search Criteria” space. After clicking “Search,” the solicitation information should appear.

Manitoba spud growers in talks with Simplot

• Keystone Potato Producers Association based in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, has yet to complete negotiations with Simplot Canada II over a contract for 2014 production. Dan Sawatzky, manager for the association and a negotiator for the potato producer organization, says negotiations are expected to end soon. The association completed talks with McCain Foods Canada on April 25, with undisclosed price terms. Sawatzky says the growers are concerned but aren’t yet panicked because very few potatoes have been planted in the region. Simplot cut volumes by about 10 percent from last year. McCain is expected to be down 20 percent. Manitoba is Canada’s second-largest potato growing region, with about 70,000 acres grown in the province in 2013, on about 63 farms. About 55,000 of those acres are for processing and the rest for fresh, chip and seed markets. North Dakota negotiations with Simplot reportedly were completed about three weeks ago. Chuck Gunnerson, president of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, says he doesn’t have firsthand knowledge but understands volumes could be down 2 to 3 percent in North Dakota. Last year, McCain handled a total of 8.4 million hundredweight at plants in Portage La Prairie and Carberry in Manitoba. Simplot’s plant handled about 5.4 million hundredweight. About 80 percent of potatoes processed in Manitoba are exported to the U.S. In a related matter, Cavendish Farms of Jamestown, N.D., has reduced its contracts with Manitoba growers to 305,000 hundredweight for 2014, Sawatzky says. That’s down from 613,000 hundredweight in 2013 and from as high as 1.8 million several years ago. Cavendish has been able to source more of its product locally, Sawatzky says. Freight adds cost from Manitoba, but Sawatzky says recent shifts in the exchange rates between the two countries might allow some business to return to Canada “not only with Cavendish but with overall volumes.”

Goehring applauds BNSF track projects

• North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring on May 7 applauded BNSF Railway’s enhancement of its track infrastructure in North Dakota because it will help get grain to market. Goehring says regarding a $160 million project to install double track between Minot, N.D., and Glasgow, Mont. “This announcement will certainly help, but we need to remain focused on helping farmers get their product to market in a reasonable time frame,” Goehring says. Work began on that project last year. On Feb. 4, BNSF made an announcement of $5 billion in investments for the year, system-wide, including $400 million in North Dakota. The double tracking was part of that announcement, says Amy Casas, a BNSF spokeswoman. The distance between Minot and Glasgow is about 270 miles, a key route for trains bound for important Pacific Northwest grain ports. BNSF will construct about 50 miles of double track in North Dakota this year in phases. A recent North Dakota State University study says the delays in rail shipments had cost North Dakota farmers an estimated $66 million in reduced payment for grain during a four-month period this winter. Farmers also had worried about whether the railroad could keep up bringing in fertilizer for spring planting season needs, but a slow planting season as a result of cold, wet weather has taken some of that pressure off this year.

Minn. county approves hog barn

• WORTHINGTON, Minn. — Nearly two weeks after neighbors raised a stink over a proposed hog confinement building east of Adrian, Minn., by Son-D-Farms, Nobles County commissioners on May 6 accepted a recommendation from the planning commission to move the development forward. Son-D-Farms plans to construct a hog finishing barn with a concrete pit below, an office, load-out chute and generator shed on the site where there is currently no livestock. The site was selected because there is a need for fertilizer on land Son-D-Farms owns in that area. Commissioners accepted the recommendation of the planning commission with one addition to the conditions placed on the permit. That condition includes that a level 2 land application inspection be presented to Nobles County Environmental Services at each feedlot license renewal. A checklist will be provided by environmental services.