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Published March 24, 2014, 09:49 AM

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U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson will seek reelection, CHS expands further into Canada and Mont. Hail Board raises coverage and premiums.

By: Agweek staff and wire reports, Agweek

US Rep. Collin Peterson will seek re-election

• MOORHEAD, Minn. — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson announced March 17 that he plans to run for re-election. Peterson, a Democrat from Detroit Lakes, Minn., will seek his 13th term in Congress in November’s election. He’ll likely face state Sen. Torrey Westrom, a Republican from Elbow Lake who has announced his plan to seek his party’s nomination to face Peterson — a 24-year veteran who hasn’t been in a close election since 1994. Peterson represents Minnesota’s sprawling 7th District, which covers much of western Minnesota. Early in the election cycle, he has been one of the top targets of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He had been vocal for months about his frustration to pass a farm bill, which is part of the reason some political observers had speculated the moderate Democrat might not seek another term.

CHS expands further into Canada

• U.S. farm cooperative CHS Inc. says it has agreed to buy 16 Canadian farm retail outlets from Agrium Inc. and plans to further expand its business in Canada. The deal includes eight stores that sell seed, chemicals and fertilizer to farmers, as well as eight ammonia tank businesses, located in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the two biggest wheat- and canola-growing Canadian provinces. The purchase bulks up CHS’ modest Canadian holdings, which currently consist of three retail stores and small offices in Winnipeg and Calgary. The St. Paul-based company is interested in buying or building more farm retail stores, grain-handling sites and fuel sales locations in Canada, says John McEnroe, executive vice president of CHS country operations. CHS’ interest in Canada grew with the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s grain marketing monopoly in 2012 and the once-powerful farmer-owned grain pools in the past decade, McEnroe says. A fertilizer plant that CHS is building near Shelby, Mont., which is expected to open this spring, will supply some of the Canadian outlets, McEnroe says.

Mont. Hail Board raises coverage, premiums

• HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Hail Board has voted to expand coverage, including a slight increase in premiums on hail insurance. At producers’ request, and with the authority granted in House Bill 189, the board voted unanimously to increase per-acreage coverage on nonirrigated land from $50 to $75 and on irrigated land from $76 to $114 or a 50 percent increase in coverage. “Producers were looking for increased coverage and the legislature granted the board authority last session. The board was happy to provide the coverage and unanimously pass the motion,” says Board Chair Gary Gollehon. In addition, the board unanimously approved a 5 percent premium rate increase. For a producer with a 10 percent rate, the new rate would be 10.5 percent. The hail board covered 1,046 losses totaling more than $14 million from 2013 hail events, a record for the program’s 98-year history. The board also authorized the department to negotiate for reinsurance to protect farmers if Montana has another extreme hail year. For more information about state hail insurance, contact the Montana Department of Agriculture’s hail program at 406-444-2402.

CHS nitrogen plant valued at $2.04 billion

• CHS Inc. and the Stutsman County (N.D.) Commission have agreed on a value of $2.04 billion for the planned Spiritwood nitrogen fertilizer plant, with a value for taxation of $1.33 billion. Now that a value for taxation has been agreed upon, CHS will negotiate with taxing entities about possible property tax exemptions, including representatives of Stutsman County, the Jamestown Rural Fire District and Barnes County North. Consultant firm Thos. Y. Pickett & Co. provided the estimated value for the planned property, excluding land and personal property, through analysis of information provided by CHS. Pickett’s results were reviewed by CHS, which then discussed them with Pickett representatives. The total value includes $701 million in plant machinery and equipment, which is not taxable in Stutsman County.

NDSA announces Atlas relief payout

• The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association has awarded close to $200,000 in assistance to North Dakota and South Dakota ranch families by way of its Aid for Atlas Disaster Relief Fund. Dumping more than 2 feet of snow in some areas of southwest North Dakota and northwest South Dakota during the first week of October, the storm led to the deaths of thousands of cattle, sheep and horses in the region. Of the approximately $193,000 raised by way of the fund, about $163,000 was provided to North Dakota producers. The North Dakota Stockmen’s Foundation also contributed about $30,000 to the South Dakota Ranchers Relief Fund. Contributions were collected from private individuals and businesses, civic organizations and church groups from around the region, as well as nationwide. Five county Farm Bureaus also have donated nearly $4,000 to the North Dakota Farm Bureau Foundation to assist those impacted by the blizzard. Combined with more than $7,500 sent in January, the South Dakota Farm Bureau Cares fund will receive $11,500 from members of North Dakota Farm Bureau.

BNSF’s ag traffic worsens slightly

• John Miller, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway agriculture group vice president, on March 20 released the company’s sixth weekly podcast to report on rail performance, in the face of criticism about delays. In the podcast, Miller reported that past due cars increased slightly in the previous week, but that the “rate of increase has been reduced. Companywide, nonshuttle cars that were past due increased by 4.4 percent to 15,343, and days-late increased to 22. North Dakota accounted for 48 percent of all past due cars throughout BNSF. The state increased 2.3 percent for the week to 7,474, but average days late declined 4.5 percent to 21.4. Other weekly performance statistics: South Dakota, 1,300 cars past due (up 1 percent), 25.9 average days late (up 19 percent); Minnesota, 1,463 cars late (up 12 percent), with 23.3 average days late (unchanged); Montana, 3,322 cars late (up 4.6 percent), 25 days late (up 7 percent). Miller reported the average turnaround time for 110-car shuttle trains had declined slightly to 2.1 turns per month systemwide, with Pacific Northwest turns the same as the previous week at two per month, and 2.5 per month to the Gulf of Mexico. Elevator operators have said a normal turnaround time for shuttles is three times a month.

— Agweek Staff and Wire Reports