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DES MOINES, IA

Iowa inventory of hogs and pigs reaches record 22.4 million 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the number of hogs and pigs on Iowa farms has reached a new record high.

As of Dec. 1 Iowa had 22.4 million hogs and pigs, the largest inventory ever reported. That is up 1 percent from the previous quarter and 7 percent higher than the same date a year ago.

Iowa is the nation's leading hog producer by far. North Carolina had 9.3 million head, Minnesota was at 8.3 million and Illinois had 5.1 million as of Dec. 1. The national inventory was 71.5 million, 4 percent higher than a year ago.

CLAY CENTER, NE

Report: Lack of oversight at animal research site

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says a federal livestock research facility near Clay Center should improve oversight of animal welfare and be more transparent with its research.

The Lincoln Journal Star reported that the federal department's Office of Inspector General found no evidence of systemic animal abuse in its audit of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, but criticized the facility for not prioritizing animal welfare policies.

The report calls on the USDA's Agricultural Research Service to establish new policies and oversight for treatment of research animals as well as a formal process for reporting abuses.

The investigation came in the wake of a 2015 New York Times article that alleged a longstanding culture tolerant of animal neglect and abuse as researchers sought to generate bigger profits for the livestock industry.

COLUMBIA, MO

Judge rules in favor of opponents of Missouri hog farm

A judge has ruled in favor of a group of people attempting to stop a large hog operation in Callaway County.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green sided with Friends of Responsible Agriculture, who had cited a state law that requires a four-person majority of the Missouri Clean Water Commission had to approve Callaway Farrowing LLC to construct the animal feeding operation on 20 acres near Kingdom City.

The commission had approved the hog farm by a 3-2 vote because two of the seven commissioners were banned in July 2016 from discussing and voting on the matter after an unauthorized visit to the proposed site, the Columbia Missourian reported.

The operation was first proposed in May 2014, and would have been operated by Eichelberger Farms of Wayland, IA.

DES MOINES, IA

Judge orders $425,000 restitution in corn conspiracy

A federal judge said that a naturalized U.S. citizen from China who pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal seed corn must pay the U.S. companies that made the seed $425,000.

Mo Hailong, 47, was living in Florida when he was arrested in December 2013. In his plea agreement with federal prosecutors in January, he admitted to being part of a conspiracy to send stolen DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto seed corn from fields in Iowa and Illinois to China, where scientists planned to reverse engineer it to reproduce its genetic traits.

U.S. seed companies invest millions of dollars into research to develop seed traits that improve plant yields and resists pests and disease.

The Dec. 19 judgment in U.S. District Court in Des Moines ordered Mo to pay each company $212,500 in restitution, as well as forfeit farms near Monee, IL, and Redfield, IA, to the U.S. government.

He also must turn himself in within 90 days to begin serving his three-year prison sentence.

ST. PAUL, MN

MN wants to expand bug quarantine in the northeast 

State agriculture officials are recommending an expansion of a proposed emerald ash borer quarantine in northeastern Minnesota.

The state Agriculture Department in September issued an emergency quarantine for the southeastern portion of St. Louis County, after a second infestation of the tree-killing bug was discovered in Duluth.

The agency is now recommending the northeastern corner of Carlton County also be included. A public comment period runs through Jan. 15.

Quarantines limit the movement of firewood and ash material out of an area. Under the proposal, 15 of Minnesota's 87 counties would be fully or partially quarantined for the invasive insect.

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