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BERNADOTTE TOWNSHIP, IL

Western Illinois residents raise concern over hog facility

Residents in rural western Illinois are trying to stop a leading U.S. pork producer's plan for a massive hog facility.

Bernadotte Township residents sent letters to state agriculture officials alleging errors and omissions in Professional Swine Management's plan for its 20,000-hog confinement, Runway Ridge Farms LLC., the Chicago Tribune reported. The residents said it didn't account for nearby structures, wells and creeks.

Fulton County commissioners passed a resolution Dec. 13 urging the state to halt action on all new large confinements in the county until the Illinois law governing such operations is reformed. The resolution is only symbolic because state law doesn't give local communities much, if any, power over the issue.

Professional Swine is considering how or whether to respond to the opposition coming out of Bernadotte Township, and has put on hold construction of Runway Ridge.

MOORHEAD, MN

MN counties want delay in implementing buffer law

Minnesota county officials want to delay a law designed to prevent agricultural runoff from polluting lakes and streams. While there is wide support for the concept of buffers, county officials contend there is confusion and questions about the law.

The buffer program, a signature issue for Gov. Mark Dayton last legislative session, is set to take effect in November. The idea is that 50-foot strips of permanent vegetation will filter runoff — mostly soil, fertilizer and chemicals from farm fields — before it reaches rivers and lakes.

Roseau County Commissioner Jack Swanson, the past president of the Association of Minnesota Counties, said a key concern among county officials is who will pay to implement and enforce the measure. The Legislature included $10 million in the tax bill to help counties cover the cost, but Dayton vetoed the bill, leaving the program unfunded.

If counties choose to not enforce the buffer law, that responsibility would fall to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

LELAND, IA

Man hospitalized after being rescued from grain bin

Authorities say a man has been hospitalized after being rescued from a grain bin in northern Iowa.

The Winnebago County Sheriff's Office says emergency crews were sent to a Leland property around noon on Dec. 29, 2016. They worked for more than an hour to get the man out of the bin. He was taken to a Mason City hospital for treatment.

His name hasn't been released.

WILLISTON, ND

No-till study showing benefits, if farmers stick with it 

A long-term study into the pros and cons of no-till farming has found that it's easy to get producers to try the practice, but difficult to get them to stick with it.

Nesson Valley Irrigation Research Farm in North Dakota is in the middle of an eight-year research project on cropping systems and tillage practices. The project is led by Bart Stevens, a research agronomist in irrigated cropping systems who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He said if farmers stick with no-till methods long enough, they can reap the benefits of fewer inputs, less labor and ultimately, better soil.

Stevens said the main advantage to no-till systems is a long-term effort to protect soil from erosion, as well as the degradation of organic matter that tilling causes. When soil is aerated, microbes take off, munching up all the carbon much faster than they otherwise would. That leads to a loss in soil quality that drags yields down over time.

"Research has shown there is a five to 10-year transition period, during which the soil ecosystem adjusts to no-till management," Stevens said. "During that time, no-till fields may require higher inputs and/or produce lower yields compared to conventional practices."

His study results have shown that yields for corn, soybean, sugar beet and barley have not been substantially reduced by no-till systems, but some inputs such as fertilizer and labor have been lowered.

Fulton County has at least five of the facilities.

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