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BISMARK, ND

School district owed $23K from unpaid lunches

Bismarck school officials are trying to determine how the district accumulated $23,000 in unpaid student lunches over 10 years. 

Bismarck School Board President Matt Sagsveen told The Bismarck Tribune the matter will be discussed at a meeting Monday. 

"I'm not sure I have all the information I need right now," he said. "Obviously, with that amount of money, it raises concerns, so I think we, as a board, should hear some of the details on how that debt has accrued and then we can talk about how we want to collect it." 

District Superintendent Tamara Uselman says many of the accounts with a negative balance are from former students and it's likely that what's owed will be covered by the district's general fund. The unpaid lunches are from 1,110 families. 

The district's child nutrition department is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

WHITE PLAINS, NY

Family farm first dairy farm to receive Validus certification

Dannon announced that McCarty Family Farms, one of the dairy farmers that provide milk used to make the Dannon portfolio of brands and products, has become the first dairy to successfully complete all four audit areas of Validus certification: animal welfare, environmental, on-farm security and worker care.

McCarty Family Farms is a fourth-generation producer that operates dairy farms in western Kansas and Nebraska.  

“We are proud of this accomplishment and of the teams that worked long and hard to achieve all four certifications,” said Ken McCarty, co-owner of McCarty Family Farms. “We believe this brings value to the Dannon products that are made with our milk. We truly believe that together we can change the world for the better and this is a step towards that.”  

Validus is an independent certification company that works with farmers and food companies to ensure food is produced using socially responsible, on-farm production practices. In each of the four areas, farmers must meet strict guidelines set for that certification, which is given only after extensive on-site audits.

LINCOLN, NB

Governor, ag groups highlight importance of U.S. - Mexico trade

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a boon for America’s farmers and ranchers, and we must maintain a strong partnership between the U.S. and Mexico, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and national and state grain industry leaders told Mexican officials on May 18 at a press conference.

“Bilateral trade with Mexico has helped grow agriculture in our state over the years,” said Governor Ricketts. “Mexico is Nebraska’s largest export market for corn, dairy, sugar, and sweeteners, and second largest market for soybeans, wheat, sorghum, and distillers grains. All of this combined accounts for thousands of Nebraska jobs. I’m encouraged by local and national discussions to expand trade, and am committed to helping grow our trade relationship with Mexico so we can continue to grow Nebraska.”  

Approximately 20 percent of U.S. corn and corn co-products are exported. Mexico is the largest market for U.S. corn. In 2016, U.S. corn exports to Mexico totaled 13.3 million metric tons (523.5 million bushels) of corn, valued at $2.5 billion. The U.S. also exported 1.9 million metric tons of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a byproduct of ethanol.  

As a result of NAFTA, corn is exported to Mexico without tariffs or duties. Under the agreement, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively.

LINCOLN, NB

Yellow field peas flourishing in Nebraska

A legume that is generally considered a fringe crop in Nebraska has taken root in the state and is flourishing.  

Planted in March, the yellow field pea has been growing in popularity with dry-land farmers who practice no-till farming in the semiarid region west of North Platte, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.  

"Wheat, corn and soybeans just don't hack it anymore," farmer Steve Tucker said.  

In recent years, peas have gone from being planted on only a few Nebraska farms to covering about 55,000 acres in 2016. Last year was the first year the crop got popular enough in Nebraska to be included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service reports.  

Tucker said one reason peas are growing in popularity is the development of a market for them. He said that while farmers planted them in the 1990s, they just sat in bins or were fed to cattle.  

The development of health-food and pet-food markets has created a need for peas, which are a source of high protein. Peas are often used in non-dairy shakes and in foods marketed as free of gluten, dairy, nuts or soy.  

Peas are also frequently used in the U.S. government's foreign food aid distribution program. 

USDA figures show that Nebraska farmers planned to plant 45,000 acres of peas this year.  

PALOMINO VALLEY, NV

Wild horses could be sold for slaughter

President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls for saving $10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the U.S. West without the requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won't be resold for slaughter.

Wild-horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of protection for an icon of the American West and could send thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as food.

They say the Trump administration is kowtowing to livestock interests who don't want the region's estimated 59,000 mustangs competing for precious forage across more than 40,000 square miles of rangeland in 10 states managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The budget proposal marks the latest skirmish in the decades-old controversy pitting ranchers and rural communities against groups that want to protect the horses from Colorado to California.

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