Midwest Briefs

Wisconsin State Farmer
Midwest briefs


USDA orders Missouri food pantry to toss 905 pounds of meat 

A food pantry in Marshfield has been forced to throw away more than 900 pounds of frozen hamburger meat processed at a plant that wasn't federally certified.

The Springfield News-Leader reports U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors were visiting Gibson's Packing Co. in Seymour last week when they noticed the Webster County Food Pantry paid for the processing of some meat. They then drove to the food pantry and instructed workers to toss the meat.

Pantry director Jerry Nehl says nothing was wrong with the meat except where it was processed. Nehl, who has been with the food pantry for 24 years, says the plant donated the meat to the food pantry without knowing about the federal regulations.

The food pantry serves about 225 families each month.


Judge denies Tyson's request for new trial in pay dispute 

A federal judge has rejected Tyson Foods' request for a new trial in a case that awarded $5.8 million to thousands of employees seeking back pay at the company's pork plant in Storm Lake, IA.

Tyson lawyers filed a brief in June saying a new trial was necessary to address liability and damages issues and ensure workers included in the suit are entitled to a share of the award, according to the Sioux City Journal.

Storm Lake employees sued Tyson in 2007 to collect back pay for the time they spent putting on and taking off protective work clothes and equipment before and after their shifts. Tyson did not keep complete records on how much time workers spent on dressing up and down, so employees had to prove the damages based on the expert's statistical inferences of how long employees had to spend getting ready.

U.S. District Judge John Jarvey said in his ruling that the payment method ensures workers not entitled to damages won't receive a portion of the award. Workers receiving an award are required to have worked 40 hours per week and earned at least $50 in damages.

The Supreme Court upheld the award in March, despite Tyson's appeal.


Corn disease, weather affect crop yields in Kansas 

A corn disease that is new to the heartland is infecting Kansas crops and may be contributing to this year's decline in yield.

The USDAs APHIS confirmed the presence of bacterial leaf streak in a swath of land from Pratt County to Edwards County in late August, according to The Hutchinson News. Justin Gatz, a Preston-area farmer and crop consultant, said the disease is probably a factor in this year's lower yield, but weather also had an impact.

"It might be one of those deals we see it this year and we won't see it again — just because of the weather conditions we had this year," said Gatz, who added that because the disease is bacterial, fungicide won't work to kill it.

Edwards County farmer David Wood said other crops are doing well, but his corn yield potential has fallen by 40 to 60 bushels an acre compared with last year.

The federal department began a survey of cornfields across the region after the disease was discovered in samples submitted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2014, Kansas State University said in a statement. The disease is thought to have occurred on corn in South Africa, but it has been more widely associated with gumming disease of sugarcane, according to the statement. It is unknown how it entered the U.S.

The disease has been found in about a dozen states, including Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma.


Iowa company recalls cookie dough sold to other firms 

 An Iowa company is recalling the cookie dough it sold to Blue Bell Creameries and other food companies because it may be contaminated with listeria bacteria.

Dough-maker Aspen Hills notified customers about the recall on Oct. 9, but it wasn't immediately clear whether any of this cookie dough had reached consumers because the Garner, IA, based company doesn't sell directly to consumers. Aspen Hills did not say the companies or states where the dough was sold.

Aspen Hills' cookie dough was implicated in last month's Blue Bell recall because the Texas-based ice cream-maker said its tests confirmed the presence of listeria in the product.

Aspen Hills spokesman Jon Austin said the cookie dough was voluntarily recalled because the company found lapses in its food safety system — such as inadequate documentation and failure to wear proper uniforms — that could have allowed the product to become contaminated.

Austin said no illnesses have been linked to the company's products and none of the cookie dough it is recalling this week tested positive for listeria. The recall includes 22,000 cases of cookie dough made between July 15 and Sept. 30.