National briefs: Farm to honor Tom Brady with corn maze

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


Massachusetts probing what killed thousands of honeybees 

The Massachusetts’ Department of Agricultural Resources is investigating a massive honeybee kill that has almost entirely wiped out a hive of 80,000 bees. 

A representative from the department was in Rehoboth over the weekend to take samples to determine the cause of the bees’ deaths.  

Wayne Andrews, vice president of the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association, says as many as 60,500 bees have been killed.  

Eric Pilotte, president of the Bristol County Beekeepers Association, says it seems similar to pesticide contamination cases he has seen. Andrews says it is probably the biggest bee kill he has seen in his career.  

A Department of Agricultural Resources spokeswoman says they are actively investigating the case. 


$50M settlement approved for DuPont mercury contamination

Chemical company DuPont will pay about $50 million under an environmental settlement that aims to make up for decades of mercury pollution one of its factories released into the South River in Virginia.

A federal judge approved the deal between Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont Co. and the state and federal government last week. Court documents say it's the largest natural resources damages settlement in Virginia history.

It includes more than $42 million for natural resource restoration projects, including fishing improvements and land protection. The company will also restore a fish hatchery, likely to cost $7 million to $8 million, and reimburse some government assessment expenses.

Officials have said mercury from a Waynesboro plant seeped into the South River and flowed downstream to the South Fork Shenandoah River and Shenandoah River.



Farm to honor Tom Brady with corn maze in his image 

A Massachusetts farm is honoring Tom Brady with a corn maze designed in his image. 

Sauchuk's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in the town of Plympton said Sunday that its 10th corn maze will feature the New England Patriots' star quarterback. 

The maze will open Sept. 16. The design has been unveiled on the farm's Facebook page. reports the crops won't be fashioned into the shape of Brady until closer to the farm's opening day. Farm owner Scott Sauchuk plants and grows the corn, which he says is a 90- to 100-day process. A company will then spend one day chopping the corn into the desired shape. 

Sauchuk says the decision was based on the Patriots' Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons earlier this year. 


Arkansas governor gives initial OK to herbicide ban 

Arkansas' governor gave initial approval on June 30 to temporarily banning the use and sale of an herbicide that's prompted hundreds of complaints and a federal lawsuit claiming it's caused widespread damage. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson forwarded the 120-day ban on dicamba to a legislative panel, which must also approve the restriction before it can take effect.

The Plant Board approved the emergency rule last week. Dicamba is a relatively inexpensive weed killer but it can drift and damage nearby row crops, such as soybeans and cotton, in addition to fruit and vegetable farms and ornamental trees. 

Hutchinson said he was concerned that more limited options weren't fully debated, but said he believed the number of complaints over the herbicide's use warranted emergency action. He said he wants a task force formed to look at dicamba, problems with its application, and longer term recommendations.

The Plant Board has received more than 500 complaints in 21 counties about dicamba use so far this year. 


Scientists to unveil new tool to map bees around farms 

Scientists with the University of Maine say they have developed a new tool to allow blueberry growers to get a handle on how many bees they can expect to see around their fields. 

The tool is called "BeeMapper." The university plans to unveil it on Wednesday at Blueberry Hill Farm in Jonesboro as part of the UMaine Cooperative Extension's annual Wild Blueberry Summer Field Day. 

UMaine doctoral candidate Brianne Du Clos (doo-CLOH') led development of BeeMapper. She says it will give farmers a better understanding of predicted abundance of wild bees in the landscapes that surround their crop fields. 

The university says farmers can better budget for honeybee hives if they know the numbers and types of wild bees in the areas around their fields. 


Arkansas agency closes Pine Bluff rice mill 

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has closed a Pine Bluff rice mill after the company laid off 35 workers without notice while defaulting on $10 million in state loans. 

The "cease and desist" notice issued to Southwind Milling Co. prohibits the movement of rough rice in or out of the mill, department spokesman Adriane Barnes told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Barnes said the company will remain closed until it secures more bonds or finds more cash capital and can comply with the state Public Grain Warehouse Act. Barnes said the department's decision to close the facility was prompted by "financial deficits" found in company records when it sought to renew its state license to store grain. 

A new management team arrived in January, which expanded the payroll and costs, according to former employee John Workman. Workman was in charge of Southwind's sales team when he was laid off on June 12. 

Workman said the company was a small competitor in Arkansas' rice industry. Arkansas is the largest rice producer in the U.S.