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Published July 21, 2014, 10:15 AM

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North Dakota seed spud insurance trial is delayed to Dec.1, Fargo, N.D., is among two national finalistists for a genotype lab location and agriculture groups want to limit rail costs with late cars.

By: Agweek Staff Reports, Agweek

ND seed spud insurance trial delayed to Dec. 1

• The federal trial for farming brothers Aaron Scott Johnson and Derek Martin Johnson of Northwood, N.D., has been delayed to Dec. 1. The Johnsons are accused of adding chemicals to potato seed production to fraudulently receive crop insurance compensation. The trial initially was set to start July 15 in Fargo, N.D., but the Johnsons and their lawyer asked for more time to prepare. Prosecutor Nick Chase earlier said the court case could take seven to 10 days. The case was filed in January 2014 and more allegations were added in April. Prosecutors said from 2002 to 2010, the Johnsons and their Johnson Potato Co. received indemnity payments totaling more than $2 million, as well as crop disaster payments. They allegedly falsely reported that stored crops were damaged from soft rot, including $159,000 for the 2006 crop. They raised irrigated potatoes in the Cooperstown, N.D., area and nonirrigated potatoes elsewhere. The Johnsons allegedly applied Rid-X, a chemical for dissolving solid materials in septic systems, as well as spoiled and rotten frozen potatoes to their stored crop in order to speed up deterioration. They are also accused of placing heaters in the warehouse.

Fargo, ND, among 2 national finalists for genotype lab location

• FARGO, N.D. — Fargo, N.D., and Decatur, Ill., are the two finalists in a process to determine the location of a National Agriculture Genotyping Center, selected by the National Corn Growers Association. The NCGA is expected to do site visits in August, pick a site in September and have the facility up and running by early next year, according to the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, which organized the bid for the lab. Richard Vierling, the NCGA research and development team head, says the research facility would involve some up-front investment, but would bring millions of dollars to either community’s economy. The new lab is supported through a public-private partnership involving the NCGA, as well as the Los Alamos National Lab and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo. If Fargo wins the bid, the center would be on the campus of North Dakota State University. The NDCGA, which is vying for the lab with the support of the congressional delegation, says the community’s advantages include NDSU and the Agricultural Research Service Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center, which together host 14 public crop breeding programs. NDSU has built an extensive new greenhouse and is completing construction and certification for its greenhouse lab, which can be used to study the most high-security crop diseases. Greg LaPlante, research manager for the NDCGA, says the lab would probably involve three to seven employees in the first couple of years, but would ramp up after that. He says it would probably lease lab space in an ARS facility on the north side campus, and perhaps expand into other facilities. Decatur’s site would be at the Richland Community College campus, according to the Decatur Herald & Review newspaper. Wherever it is located, the genotyping center would create tests that would allow farmers to monitor and detect corn diseases in one test. Current tests allow labs to identify only one or two of about 18 corn diseases at a time. The center’s mobile test kits would allow farmers and agronomists to take a leaf sample and identify diseases before symptoms are visible to the human eye, according to proponents of the center. Other tests developed would apply to other crops, as well as animals, with food safety applications. NDCGA Executive Director Tom Lilja says North Dakota’s bid includes $2.3 million: $1 million from the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council; $200,000 from the North Dakota Soybean Council; $100,000 from the Agricultural Products Utilization Council; and an $800,000 request through the North Dakota State Department of Agriculture.

Ag groups want to limit rail costs with late cars

• FARGO, N.D. — The North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Corn Growers are among 23 organizations nationwide filing comments on rate case complaint procedures with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. The action is “the largest combined filing by farm organizations in years,” according to the joint news release by the two groups. NDFU President Mark Watne tells Agweek that while elevators and grain users traditionally filed STB cases, the comments are the first step to establish the right of farmers and ranchers to do the same. He says the case was initiated in Montana because delays in shipping by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific railways have been costing farmers 30 to 80 cents a bushel in increased market basis. If allowed to file a case with the STB, the groups would ask for some mechanism that would prevent railroads from excessive increases in rail rates for grain at a time when service is poor. Watne says elevators will have to pay more of a premium in secondary markets to guarantee car availability. Those premiums are “going through the roof” at $7,000 to $8,000 per car, he says. The extra cost will mean farmers will be paid less for their grain. Producers are concerned about the ability and willingness of BNSF and CP to deliver last year’s crop to market in time for this year’s harvest, says Tom Lilja, executive director of the NDCGA. “Timely corn deliveries are needed for ethanol production and for feedlots supporting livestock and meat production,” he says. “Thousands of shipments are behind schedule. Harvest and planting can’t wait for railroads to resolve their service problems.” Farmers Union organizations from Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin are involved. The National Corn Growers Association and state organizations from North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota, as well as Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, the South Dakota Wheat Commission and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, are also involved.

BNSF commits to car increase

• The Surface Transportation Board on June 20 required weekly reporting of rail delivery performance by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific railroads. The weekly report was not yet filed by press time on July 18. U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.,on July 18 said BNSF Executive Chairman Matt Rose had committed to spot 450 cars a day and planned to offer more shuttles this fall than in 2013 to relieve past-due ag shipments. Hoeven asked rail officials to come to North Dakota to hear directly from commodity groups. He said he expects a meeting to happen in the first two weeks of August.

Briefly . . .

• Manitoba spuds: For the second year in a row, Manitoba had the biggest decline in potato planting in Canada, Statistics Canada says. Manitoba farmers reported seeding only 63,384 acres of spuds in 2014, according to a July 17 report. That’s down 9.4 percent from the 70,000 acres seeded in 2013 and follows a 7.9 percent decline in 2013 from the previous year, the agency says. Prince Edward Island farmers reported the largest increase in seeded acreage — up 1.7 percent to 90,500 acres. Nationally, the number of seeded acres is down about 2 percent to 348,221 acres from 355,338 in 2013.