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Published March 17, 2014, 09:49 AM

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Black and Gold Farms acquires Dawson Farms, ND tightens requirements on swine and FUELS Act clears unnecessary regulation.

By: Wire and Staff Reports, Agweek

Black Gold Farms acquires Dawson Farms

• GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Black Gold Farms, an industry leader in Irish potato production, has recently acquired a significant amount of additional sweet potato acreage. This acquisition includes all facilities and real estate from Dawson Farms, the largest sweet potato grower in the mid-south, located near Delhi, La. While Black Gold Farms has been growing sweet potatoes for four years for the processing industry, this acquisition will allow it to considerably expand its volume of processing potatoes, as well as provide an entrance into the table stock sweet potato arena. The Dawson Farms Delhi team will join the Black Gold Farms Oak Grove, La., team immediately. “This acquisition complements not only our sweet potato acreage we now grow near Oak Grove, La., but it also is a great complement to our red potato production in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Texas,” says Gregg Halverson, president and CEO of Black Gold Farms.

ND tightens requirements on swine

• BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s state veterinarian says additional requirements are now in place to prevent the spread of a deadly virus affecting pigs. “All swine entering the state, except those for immediate slaughter, must be accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection,” says Susan Keller. “All swine imported into North Dakota for breeding or feeder purposes must be officially and individually identified.” Keller says the discovery of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) in North Dakota, industry concerns and the upcoming exhibition season led the State Board of Animal Health to strengthen the existing requirements and to put new rules in place. “Any pigs brought into the state for exhibition must be officially and individually identified by one form of permanent and one other form of approved official use tag,” Keller says. “At the same time, a certificate of veterinary inspection is now required for all intrastate movement of pigs, except those headed for slaughter.”

FUELS Act clears unnecessary regulation

• WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives has passed legislation cosponsored by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., to prevent farmers and landowners from being forced to comply with a costly Environmental Protection Agency regulation. The Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act addresses an Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rule that requires certain fuel storage facilities to be structurally altered for compliance. The SPCC rule was first published in 1973, but in 2009, the EPA began applying it to farms with fuel tanks as small as 1,320 gallons. The rule requires the farmer or landowner to construct a containment facility, such as a dike or a basin, to retain 100 percent of the fuel in the container. “The FUELS Act scales back the drastic scope of this regulation by raising the exemption level to a more reasonable amount, ensuring small farming operations with above-ground tanks of less than 10,000-gallon capacity won’t be affected,” Cramer says. “It also allows farmers with above-ground tanks between 10,000 and 42,000 gallons to self-certify for compliance instead of paying a third party. Our agriculture producers are more than capable of managing this risk, just like they manage countless others in their daily operations.”

ARS patents enzyme to fight Cercospora

• FARGO, N.D. — U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists in Sidney, Mont., have patented an enzyme to help fight fungal diseases, including Cercospora leaf spot in sugar beets. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has identified an enzyme, laccase, that attacks the toxin that causes Cercospora. The enzyme is from the fungus Laetisaria arvalis. It is being licensed for potential commercial development through the ARS Technology Transfer Office in Beltsville, Md. To be used by farmers, a commercial company would need to reliably mass produce the virus with sufficient shelf life, says Robert Lartey, who worked on the discovery with TheCan Ceasar-Ton at the Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory. The researchers are working on seed coatings and sprays. Fungal diseases such as Cercospora can cut 30 percent of the value of a beet crop. It’s possible that the good fungi might someday fight diseases in barley, a rotational crop with sugar beets in Montana.

Mechanical failure caused ethanol plant fire

• FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Investigators determined that a mechanical failure caused a fire and explosion March 10 at a corn-ethanol plant in Fergus Falls, Minn. A hydraulic pump that controls the damper in the dryer building of the Green Plains Renewable Energy plant failed, according to Fergus Falls Fire Chief Mark Hovland. The failure caused higher-than-normal temperatures in an attached chamber where hazardous emissions are destroyed. A fire started in the chamber, and smoke from the fire was drawn into the dryer building, causing a smoke explosion. The explosion tore apart the building, Hovland says. No one was injured in the fire or subsequent explosion. Green Plains officials are still assessing the damage, which plant manager Anthony Hicks says is “significant,” but no dollar amount was given.

Briefly . . .

Commissioner candidate: A North Dakota cattle rancher and former state senator who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2012 announced March 13 that he will be running for state agriculture commissioner. Ryan Taylor is seeking the Democratic-NPL Party endorsement. The post is currently held by Doug Goehring, a Republican, who faces a challenge for the GOP endorsement. Taylor writes a column for Agweek.

Farm bill: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he is pleased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture staff’s efforts to implement the farm bill in the first 30 days since President Barack Obama signed it, but his view of the process will depend on whether farmers and ranchers can sign up for disaster assistance programs on April 15, as he and Obama have promised. Because livestock producers who experienced losses last year when livestock disaster assistance had expired, Vilsack has ordered that those applications be ready on April 15.

Johnson re-elected: The National Farmers Union on March 10 re-elected Roger Johnson, a former North Dakota agriculture commissioner, as its president and elected Kansas Farmers Union President Donn Teske as vice-president.