Ag briefs: Bill forcing ag businesses to report slavery stalls in Senate

Wisconsin State Farmer


Calves perish in Washington Co. fire

A heat lamp is being blamed for a shed fire in the town of Barton that killed eight calves over the weekend.

According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, rescue workers responded to the report of a fire around 2 a.m. Sunday, March 17 for a fully engulfed building near Ridge and Townville roads.

Other cattle that had been outside on pasture at the time of the fire escape injury. Damage to the building is estimated at around $200,000. The contents inside the structure was deemed a total loss.


Bill forcing ag businesses to report slavery stalls in Senate

Senate Bill 5693, called the “Washington transparency in agricultural supply chains act,” failed to come up for a vote in the senate this week after sparking outrage among the agribusiness community across the state, calling the measure "offensive".

Authored by Democratic Sen. Rebecca Saldana, retailers and food makers with an annual sales of more than $200M doing business in Washington would be required to report actions they have taken to eradicate slavery, peonage and human trafficking, as well as post any employment violations by their ag suppliers on their website.

Saldana told the Capital Press that she was tying to draw attention to the worldwide problem of human trafficking and said there was no "mal-intent" behind the bill. However, growers and advocacy groups say it essentially accuses the industry of slavery, despite the heavy regulations and requirements they have with both domestic and foreign workers.


Judge grants extension of settlement talks in soybean suit

A federal judge has approved an extension of settlement talks in a lawsuit claiming a soybean seed company purposely sold faulty seeds to black farmers in Mississippi.

U.S. District Judge John Fowlkes had set a Friday deadline for mediation talks in a lawsuit filed in Memphis, Tennessee, by a handful of black farmers against Stine Seed Co. A court filing Friday asked Fowlkes to extend the deadline by three weeks. He later granted the request.

The suit alleges Stine conspired with a seed salesman to sell defective seeds to the farmers because they are black. The suit claims the good seeds the farmers thought they had bought from Stine were replaced by inferior seeds before delivery.

Adel, Iowa-based Stine says allegations including discrimination and fraud are baseless and irresponsible.


Officials seize 1M lbs. of pork amid virus concerns

Federal authorities say 1 million pounds of pork products allegedly smuggled from China have been seized at a New Jersey port.

Troy Miller, field operations director for the Customs and Border Protection in New York and New Jersey, says it's the largest agricultural seizure ever made in the United States.

Officials feared the meat could be contaminated with African swine fever virus, which has killed more than a million pigs in China. It's not dangerous to humans, but officials say an outbreak in America could cause $10 billion in damage to the pork industry in just one year.

Officials say the pork was smuggled over several weeks in containers where it was hidden by packages of noodles and laundry detergent. They say the meat was "primarily cured," and the cargo containers were not refrigerated.


Cattle kills prompt removal of Mexican gray wolves

Two endangered Mexican wolves have been removed from the wild and are undergoing testing to determine if they're behind a string of livestock deaths in southwestern New Mexico, marking the latest wrinkle in the strained effort to return the predators to the American Southwest.

The two young female wolves were recently captured in an area of the Gila National Forest where ranchers had reported a dozen instances of cattle being killed over a four-month period.

An order also was issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling for the removal of a third wolf in hopes of curbing the predation. The order allows for wildlife managers to use lethal force if necessary, but biologists want to avoid that if possible.

Wildlife managers initially tried to capture the wolves earlier this year during an annual aerial survey but were unsuccessful. Two more livestock kills were reported and then the female wolves were caught in the area, officials said.

Environmentalists have asked that the animals be released and that the removal order be cancelled for the third wolf, citing the difficulty the program has had in growing the population over the last two decades.

Officials have said their cautious approach to management of the population — from releases and relocations to removals and the fostering of captive-born pups in wild dens — is primarily centered on building up the genetic diversity of the wolves in the wild.