Ag Briefs: Energy companies propose two WI solar facilities

Wisconsin State Farmer


Companies propose two WI solar facilities

A pair of energy companies is asking state regulators for permission to build two new solar farms in Wisconsin.

Chicago-based Invenergy and Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources asked the Public Service Commission Thursday for permission to build the farms at a cost of about $390 million.

Invenergy wants to build in Iowa County. NextEra wants to build in Two Creeks and Two Rivers. According to the commission, the farms will have the capacity to generate a combined 300 megawatts at any time. Renewable energy advocacy group Renew Wisconsin says that's enough electricity to run 67,000 homes for a year.
Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Madison Gas and Electric would purchase the energy.

PSC spokesman Matthew Spencer says the commission is reviewing the applications. It's unclear when a decision might come.


Prosecutors look into alleged inhumane pig slaughter

Utah authorities are investigating concerns that a butcher shop inhumanely killed two pigs. Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead said his office is looking into Tooele Valley Meats after receiving word of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report referred by animal welfare activists People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The USDA report documents an incident last week in which a shop employee spent 15 minutes trying to kill a hog with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. It took the employee four attempts to kill the animal and at one point they ran out of ammunition.

The USDA had documented a similar incident in March.


Big farms win victory in SC Supreme Court

The South Carolina Supreme Court has refused to change a decision last year that allows big farms to use billions of gallons of water.

The court ruled on May 31 that it will not change its ruling upholding a 2010 law that allows large farms to take river water without obtaining a permit from the state.
Residents in Bamberg, Darlington and Greenville counties had said the law favors large farms over the needs of others.

The court had said last year the law had not hurt anyone by depriving them of water.
An attorney representing the residents, Amy Armstrong, said she was disappointed with the ruling.


Farmer disciplined for failing to pay foreign workers

Federal labor officials say a Kentucky farmer has been disciplined for failing to properly pay foreign workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor said that Christopher Lee Smith has been barred from applying for certification to request temporary foreign workers under visa program for three years. He also has been fined more than $35,000.

Investigators say Smith, who owns a farm in Glasgow, failed to reimburse workers for transportation and for their visa expenses. Investigators said Smith did not pay workers the required minimum wage and failed to pay them on time.

Investigators found Smith owed $58,820 in back wages to 14 employees.


Milk crisis to close Dean Foods plant, cost jobs

The milk crisis at Dean Foods is forcing dairy farmers out of business and will eliminate more than 60 jobs at a Kentucky plant.

The Courier Journal reports union officials have confirmed the Louisville plant is one of seven closing after Dean was cut loose from Walmart. Walmart will no longer buy Dean's milk for its Great Value brand.

In May, employees were notified of the closure this fall and 19 farmers were told contracts with Dean expired in June.

The newspaper reports waves of change in the milk industry have been building for years. Exports are leveling from a post-recession surge and alternatives like almond milk are gaining ground. But it says Walmart's decision to open its own super-sized dairy processing facility in Indiana has triggered a tsunami-sized effect.


Washington apple growers worry about tariff retaliation

Washington apple growers are anxiously watching the reaction of export markets after the Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe, Mexico and Canada.

Mexico is the biggest foreign market for Washington apples, and has said it would impose tariffs on U.S. apples in retaliation.

The Spokesman-Review says Washington exports between 12 million and 15 million bushels of apples a year to Mexico, worth about $215 million last year. That's according to Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.

Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represents part of eastern Washington, says she is "greatly disappointed" by the announcement to go ahead with tariffs, and strongly opposes Trump's decision.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called the tariffs reckless.


Alabama farmer charged with stealing crop insurance money

 An Alabama farmer has been charged with stealing crop insurance money and federal prosecutors want him to repay more than $919,000.

The Dothan Eagle reports Dexter Day Gilbert was charged Thursday in U.S. District Court with illegally receiving funds from the federal Agriculture Department's insurance program to compensate farmers for crop losses caused by natural disasters. Court records say Gilbert received payments to which he wasn't entitled between February 2016 and January 2017.

A plea hearing in the case has been scheduled for June 11.

Court records say prosecutors believe Gilbert wasn't the only person involved in the crime. Prosecutors are asking that Gilbert forfeit $919,551 if he's convicted.