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CLINTON, ME

Police: Youths suspected in mass cow release

Police say they've interviewed at least one person of interest after hundreds of cows were let out of their pens at a Maine farm last month.

Police say about 150 cows were released at Misty Meadow Farm in Clinton on the night of Nov. 29 or early Nov. 30. Farm workers rounded up the cows and got them back into their pens.

Hours later, police say roughly 500 cows were released and discovered by the next shift of workers. One cow fell into a drainage hole, broke its neck and died.

Police say other acts of vandalism were also done at a nearby farm.

Police Chief Stanley Bell tells the Morning Sentinel  they believe the culprits are youths or late teenagers. An investigation remains ongoing.

PORTLAND, ME

'Best If Used By' labels will reduce food waste, USDA says 

The USDA says food sellers who use product dating labels should switch to the phrase "Best If Used By" to help reduce confusion and food waste.

Consumers are less likely to find such labels confusing than other widely used ones such as "Sell By" and "Use By," the agency said this week.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued the new guideline Wednesday as part of an effort to cut back on food that gets thrown out when it could be eaten or donated. The agency estimates 30 percent of food is lost or wasted, either at the retail or consumer level.

Different labels are aimed at consumers and retailers. The "Sell By" is designed to inform retailers of the date by which a product should be sold, but it does not mean a product is unsafe to consume after the date. "Use By" is directed at consumers and means the quality of the product is likely to go down faster after the date. It does not mean an expired product will necessarily make a person sick. Instead it suggests a date by which a product should be consumed for best possible quality.

WAGNER, SD

Wagner farmer finds stolen boat while combining corn 

Police in Wagner got a break in one of their cases when a boat turned up in a sea of corn.

Farmer Seth Fischer was combining corn east of Greenwood when he saw something reflecting light. He went to investigate and came across the boat. The Daily Republic reports that the boat and a trailer were two of the items stolen from storage sheds in Wagner last month.

No arrests have been made in the case. Wagner police are asking anyone with information to contact them.

STARKVILLE, MS

MSU: Rice farmers can get same yield with 1/3 less water

Some rice farmers can use much less water and get the same yield by flooding their fields at the start and end of the season, and letting them dry out a bit in between, Mississippi State University researchers say.

That's a radical change from recommendations across the Rice Belt to keep two to four inches of water in the fields, irrigation specialist Jason Krutz said in a news release. Instead, he recommends letting fields dry until water is 4 inches below the soil surface, then re-flooding them.

He said that can cut water use 30 percent without hurting yields.

MSU's tests were on high-clay soils, which probably make up about half of Mississippi rice fields, Krutz said in a telephone interview.

He says he believes Arkansas researchers will study its use in silt-loam soils like those in south Louisiana and parts of Arkansas.

The "alternate wetting and drying" or AWD technique saved an average of $50 a season across fields ranging from 20 to 80 acres, he said.

It saves more money in wet years than in dry years, agronomy graduate student Lee Atwill said.

"By allowing the fields to go dry to 4 inches deep, we're able to capture that rainfall when it happens," Atwill said in a news release. "In a continuous flood environment, we lose a lot of water to the tail ditch because it spills over since our paddies are already full."

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