Ag Briefs: Activist group advertises for undercover investigator

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer


Activist group advertising for undercover investigator

About a week after Iowa's ag-gag law was struck down over free speech violations, a national animal rights group is advertising for an investigator to work undercover in Iowa livestock and meat processing facilities.

Mercy For Animals, a Los Angeles animal welfare group, is advertising online for an Iowa-based undercover investigator to work at "factory farms, hatcheries, livestock markets and slaughterhouses" to catch possible animal abuse.

The California group said it routinely advertises for undercover investigators, and didn't target Iowa because of the federal court ruling last week.

Mercy For Animals has no immediate investigations planned, given how recent the ruling is, said Lindsay Wolf, the group's vice president of investigations.


Hemp sees high interest from Minnesota farmers, city leaders

Organizers of Minnesota's hemp program say they have been inundated with calls from farmers, municipal leaders and producers looking to invest in the newly legal crop.

Hundreds of Minnesota farmers have expressed interest in growing hemp in the month since Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill , thus removing hemp from the federal controlled substances list. The new legislation, which legalized industrial hemp and removed legal hurdles for growers, comes as farmers face low prices for traditional crops such as corn and soybeans, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Farmers are hopeful that hemp could return a high profit per acre, given that it can be processed for a wide variety of uses "from textiles to construction materials, food to medicine," said Margaret Wiatrowski of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

She's been fielding many of the phone calls seeking information on industrial hemp.
"I get calls a lot from county commissioners and local economic development authorities in various rural areas who are really eager to get more information and potentially invest in processing facilities in their area," Wiatrowski said.

But Wiatrowski is cautioning potential growers to find buyers in advance because hemp doesn't have the same ready markets and processing infrastructure as established crops.

Only a handful of companies in Minnesota buy hemp grain right now, she said.

Minnesota started its hemp pilot program in 2016, two years after President Barack Obama signed a farm bill allowing farmers to grow hemp under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state. The project welcomed 41 new hemp growers last year.

The recent farm bill lets states set up a plan to regulate hemp to ensure it all contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its high.
Minnesota is working to submit a plan to the USDA to regulate hemp in next year's growing season. The plan allows growers to plant this spring, but they must also work with state inspects to sample THC content.


Michigan man known for farm's pit-spitting event dies at 88

An agricultural tourism pioneer who founded a cherry pit-spitting competition that drew international competitors and attention to southwest Michigan has died at the age of 88.

Herb Teichman launched the International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship in the 1970s as a lark, but also to mark the region's tart cherry harvest. The "Pit Spit" became a popular attraction and the 45th annual event was held last summer.

Teichman and his wife, Liz, owned Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm near Eau Claire. He opened the farm for pick-your-own fruit harvests and later founded the competition.

His daughter, Lynnell Sage, tells the South Bend Tribune that her father "liked seeing other people enjoy the farm" and "wanted to share the beauty that is here."

A local funeral home says Teichman died Monday at a hospice center.


United Cooperative acquires WS Ag Center Darlington

United Cooperative President & CEO, David Cramer, announces the acquisition of the assets at WS Ag Center: Darlington & Cuba City, Wis. WS Ag Center Inc.

“We are not only buying a business, we are acquiring the opportunity to serve a broader range of quality producers, and add new services to their existing offerings”, remarks Cramer. “As a cooperative, United Cooperative returns its profits to its members, helping grow local economies throughout Wisconsin.”

The purchase of WS Ag Center provides United Cooperative with a state-of-the-art agronomy facility and 15 employees that are focused on helping producers maximize their investment in a variety of agricultural inputs. “We are also pleased to welcome many of the WS Ag Center employees into the United Cooperative family,” says Cramer. The acquisition provides a new footprint in southwest Wisconsin, expanding United Cooperatives ability to provide quality services to producers.

United Cooperative is a full-service cooperative offering feed, grain, agronomy and energy services to patrons throughout much of Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and upper-Michigan.


Sale of troubled dairy farm goes forward

A federal bankruptcy judge has allowed the proposed sale of the troubled Lost Valley Farm to proceed despite objections by Oregon agencies over who will clean up the dairy's wastewater and manure.

A court-appointed trustee recently entered into an asset purchase agreement for Canyon Farm LLC to buy the dairy's land, equipment, property and water rights for $66.9 million, the Capital Press reported this week.

The state Department of Agriculture and state Department of Environmental Quality objected last week to the sale, questioning who will be responsible for cleaning up the property to avoid potential environmental harm. The Boardman dairy farm has approximately 47 million gallons of liquid manure.

Officials say the dairy has been out of compliance with its wastewater permit since it began operations in 2017. 


Perdue recalls chicken nuggets

Perdue is recalling more than 68,000 pounds of chicken nuggets because they may be contaminated with wood.

The gluten free Organics Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets were produced on Oct. 25 and were sold at stores nationwide. They have a UPC bar code of 72745-80656 and the establishment number of P-33944 in the USDA inspection mark.

The USDA says Perdue received three complaints that wood was found in the nuggets.
The USDA says there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.