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LITTLE ROCK, AR

Bill to ban junk food purchases with food stamps in Arkansas 

Food stamps could not be used to buy junk food in Arkansas under a bill filed for the coming legislative session.

The bill by Republican Rep. Mary Bentley of Perryville calls for the state Department of Human Services to ask for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps.

The bill does not specify what foods would be prohibited and calls for DHS to come up with a list, but Bentley told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2hdHkNH ) says her idea would include items such as chips, sodas and candy bars.

The Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association has already met and agreed to oppose the bill.

The Legislature convenes Jan. 9.

SPOKANE, WA

2 employees file lawsuit against Yakima Valley dairy 

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Two dairy workers have sued DeRuyter Brothers Dairy, Inc. of the Yakima Valley, contending they work long hours without rest breaks, meal periods or overtime pay.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed Thursday in Yakima County Superior Court by Columbia Legal Services on behalf of Jose Martinez-Cuevas and Patricia Aguilar, who milk cows for DeRuyter.

Officials for the dairy, based in Outlook, Washington, declined to comment Friday morning.

The diary has a herd of over 5,000 cows.

In the lawsuit, employees allege they work nine to twelve hours a day, six days a week, without paid rest breaks, meal periods, or overtime pay. In their complaint, the workers maintain that a state statute excluding them from the protection of Washington's overtime law is unconstitutional.

CHINA, ME

Authorities probe cow incidents at farms in China, Clinton

CHINA, Maine (AP) — Authorities in Maine are investigating whether reports of cows being released at farms in China are related to a similar incident that occurred in Clinton.

Kennebec County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Moody tells The Kennebec Journal (http://bit.ly/2h9zPoD ) a farmer reported Tuesday he discovered that some of his cows had been released from a pen. One lock was discovered broken and another was missing.

Moody says an incident occurred "in the last week or so" in which an unspecified number of cows were released from a pen at a farm.

He says authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the China cases are linked to a case in Clinton, where hundreds of cows were released from their pen at a farm last week.

Police are looking into possible suspects and motives.

HELENA, MT

Judge sides with beef producers in checkoff case 

A U.S. magistrate judge is siding with independent beef producers in their challenge over the way beef is marketed in Montana.

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America challenged the fact that half of the $1-per-head federal tax on cattle sales collected in Montana is used by the privately incorporated Montana Beef Council.

The Montana Beef Council collects the checkoff dollars and sends half the money to the Cattlemen's Beef Board, a national promotional group.

Public Justice attorney David Muraskin, who represented the group in its complaint against the USDA and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, argued independent producers were being forced to subsidize the council's promotions, which do not distinguish between domestic and foreign beef.

U.S. Magistrate John Johnston recommended that U.S. District Judge Brian Morris grant a preliminary injunction to prevent the Montana Beef Council from keeping checkoff money without prior consent from individual ranchers.

Since 1985, beef producers have paid the checkoff fee to promote the marketing and consumption of beef. The Montana Beef Council received more than $870,000 in beef checkoff money between October 2014 and September 2015, the complaint said.

The group argued its producers comply with the United States' rigorous safety and quality standards, but have no standing to encourage the Montana Beef Council to market beef raised in the U.S. separately.

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