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Published August 11, 2014, 10:28 AM

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The federal government OKs a new Minnesota propane facility, North Dakota producers report livestock loss from algae poisoning, and Moscow bans western food imports.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire reports, Agweek

Federal government OKs new Minn. propane facility

• REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a storage facility that could ease a second straight winter propane shortage in Minnesota. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., says the corps approved the 1-million-gallon facility at “record speed,” so it will be ready for this fall’s harvest. But Klobuchar says the facility will only make up a third of the propane transportation capacity lost when the owners of a pipeline decided to no longer move propane through it. She says shortages are expected again this year. “This still is a major challenge,” she says. The project is at the Dooley Petroleum facility in Benson in west-central Minnesota. The new storage will be in addition to 1.5 million gallons Dooley already has available. Last winter, propane supplies were short for a variety of reasons. Those shortages sent propane prices soaring. Some Minnesotans had trouble obtaining the fuel, which is used to dry grain, heat livestock facilities and heat homes.

ND producers report livestock loss from algae poisoning

• DICKINSON, N.D. — Livestock producers throughout North Dakota have reported losing livestock to toxic water caused by blue-green algae poisoning. A news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency office in Dickinson did not specify how much livestock was lost to the poisoning. Algae, which is a bacteria, is present in most water. The bacteria blooms and spreads throughout the water, making it toxic and sometimes deadly. This usually occurs after heavy rainfall and prolonged periods of hot temperatures. Producers in western North Dakota became concerned about algae poisoning after a drought in 2012. North Dakota State University officials took samples from wells, ponds and rivers in several counties in southwest North Dakota. They found some water was “as good as the tap water in Fargo,” but other bodies of water were so toxic they advised producers to stop using it, says NDSU lab research specialist Michelle Mostrom. Producers can be considered eligible for the farm bill program benefits only if it is the first time during a normal grazing period that livestock have been lost while drinking water from a pond concentrated with blue-green algae. For more information, contact FSA Stark County Executive Director Peter Solemsass at 701-225-2931 or peter.solemsaas@ nd.usda.gov.

Moscow bans Western food imports

• Moscow banned imports of most food from the West on Aug. 7 in retaliation against sanctions over Ukraine, a stronger-than-expected measure that isolates Russian consumers from world trade to a degree unseen since Soviet days. Moscow imposed a one-year ban on all meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the U.S., the 28 European Union countries, Canada, Australia and non-EU member Norway. Russia has become by far the biggest consumer of EU fruit and vegetables, the second biggest buyer of U.S. poultry and a major global consumer of fish, meat and dairy products. President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to adopt the measures in retaliation against Western countries, which imposed sanctions on Russia’s defense, oil and financial sectors over its support for rebels waging an insurrection in east Ukraine. Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov acknowledges that the measures would cause a short-term spike in inflation, but says he saw no danger in the medium or long term. Russia would boost imports from other suppliers such as Brazil and New Zealand. White House economic adviser Jason Furman says the measures would hurt Russia’s own economy. The U.S. Treasury says it was prepared to tighten its own sanctions on Russia further if Moscow continues aiding the Ukrainian rebels. The EU’s executive Commission has set up a task force and scheduled a meeting for Aug. 14 to discuss the ban and its effects.

RRV sugar beet crop looking small, late

• MOORHEAD, Minn. — Sugar beet cooperative leaders say early indications are for a smaller sugar beet yield than earlier expected in the Red River Valley. Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal Sugar Co. vice president for agriculture, says the Moorhead, Minn.-based farmer-owned cooperative initially had planned for a 27-ton crop, but earlier this season had been expecting a 25-ton crop because of excessive June rains. But the first samples of the season taken Aug. 6 indicate a crop of about 22 to 23 tons per acre. American Crystal’s prospects are for a 2014 crop that is 15 to 20 percent below target yields, Ingulsrud says. He says the crop could turn out better, and could even use some rain. Most fields have adequate plant populations, but a late planting season and cool weather seem to have affected the crop’s potential. Ingulsrud says the co-op hopes to start the factories sometime between Aug. 28 and Sept. 11, with harvest starting three days before the factory start-up. The traditional pre-pile harvest start is Sept. 1, but occasionally has been moved into mid-August for extraordinarily large crops. Tom Knudsen, vice president of agriculture for Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, N.D., says his company took samples in mid-July and saw “what we expected but not what we wanted” — a 17-ton-per-acre crop. That was based on damage from June and early July rains. “Since that time, it’s dried out and things are looking better,” Knudsen says, speculating that upside potential is for a 20-ton crop. “Now it’s time for a splash” of rain, Knudsen says. The conditions indicate fall processing won’t start until Sept. 17, which would extend sugar processing into early April 2015. Knudsen says that plan will still offer some flexibility if the company encounters the unexpected “explosion” of yield that caught it and others by surprise in the fall of 2013. Officials from Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative were not immediately available for comment.

Briefly . . .

• Swine flu: Three pigs tested positive for swine flu at the North Dakota State Fair, according to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. The state Department of Health and Department of Agriculture confirmed that the pigs carried the H3N2 virus strain, which can be transmitted to humans. The Department of Agriculture inspects all animals displayed at the State Fair, according to a release. This is the first time an influenza virus has been found in swine at the State Fair. The pigs have recovered from the incident, state veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller says. The health division is not sure which strain the pigs contracted, she says, adding the virus’s source has been undetermined.

— Agweek Staff and Wire Reports

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