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COL Bjerum selected Minnesota Beef Queen

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ann Bjerum, daughter of Michael and Audrey Bjerum of Mountain Lake, was crowned 2004 Minnesota Beef Queen Saturday at the Minnesota State Cattlemen's/Cattlewomen's Annual Convention in Bloomington.

Nichole Hodapp, daughter of Mark and Deb Hodapp of Adrian, was named 2004 Minnesota Beef Princess.

Bjerum is a senior at Mountain Lake High School and plans to major in agricultural education, ag communications and animal science at Iowa State University. She was sponsored by the Cottonwood County Cattlemen's Association.

Other candidates were Brittney Eis, daughter of Dave and Lori Eis of Wabasso; Amber Leaf, daughter of Randy Leaf, Hill City; Amanda Longhenry, daughter of Allen and Vicky Longhenry, Nassau; Katie Mack, daughter of Tim and Marie Mack of Zumbrota; Amanda Moe, daughter of Steve and Becky Moe of Brainerd; and Lucy Wulf, daughter of Dave and Nancy Wulf of Morris.

Fick honored by state beef group

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Emery Fick was named Minnesota State Cattleman of the Year at the association's annual convention in Bloomington late last week.

Fick operates a crossbred cow-calf operation near Lake City.

Fick raises soybeans, corn, alfalfa and field peas.

Also honored was Clem Regnier of Canby. Regnier posthumously received the association's Outstanding Service Award. He was an auctioneer for cattlemen's events for more than 15 years.

Civil lawsuit alleges farm subsidy fraud

MINNEAPOLIS -- Seven people, some of whom own an operation listed as a top receiver of U.S. farm subsidies in Minnesota, face a civil lawsuit alleging that they defrauded the federal government of more than $4 million in subsidies from 1996 to 2002.

According to the complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court, the owners of Peterson Farms in Wendell conspired to circumvent farm program limits by creating shell entities and claiming them as distinct farming operations, when in fact there was only one farm company. Named in the complaint are: Lamont Peterson, Owen Peterson, Vernon Peterson and Shirley Peterson -- operating as Peterson Farms; Alan and Corwin Peterson -- operating as Division III Farms; and Rebecca Van Vickle -- operating as Keywest Farms.

Kevin Duffy, a Thief River Falls attorney representing Lamont Peterson, denied that Peterson or his family did anything wrong.

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LRP available for Minnesota producers

Livestock Risk Protection insurance for swine was introduced in July 2002 in Iowa. The product was tested there and has now expanded and approved in all counties in Minnesota for 2004.

Coverage began to be written for farmers Nov. 17.

LRP protects swine producers from a drop in price below and pre-determined coverage price. The insurance policy doesn't protect against other perils such as mortality, disease or other causes of death.

LRP for fed and feeder cattle has also been developed but isn't available in Minnesota. Livestock Gross Margin insurance was also tested and is bit different.

Groups detail water-improvement plan

ST. PAUL -- A diverse group of organizations is putting the finishing touches on a legislative proposal to upgrade the quality of the state's lakes and rivers, many of which are polluted. That strategy carries a huge price tag: an estimated $75 million to $100 million a year.

Outlining how the state should conduct and pay for the effort, the group -- which includes public, private, business, agricultural and environmental groups -- is proposing a broad fee or tax: All homeowners would pay $36 a year and businesses $150.

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"We thought a flat rate was the right way to start out," said Craig Johnson, a lobbyist for the League of Minnesota Cities, one of about 60 groups involved.

Whether Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislators go along with that approach is unclear.

Devils Lake outlet project gets push

BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota's Water Commission agreed Dec. 5 to spend $19 million in a push to complete a Devils Lake outlet next year, with hopes of pumping water from the lake in the spring of 2005.

The commission, which includes Gov. John Hoeven and Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, voted Dec. 5 to endorse the expenditure for the outlet, which will divert water from west Devils Lake to the Sheyenne River.

About $9 million has already been approved for outlet work. The new authorization bumps the total expense so far to $28 million.

Previous estimates have pegged the cost at $25 million, but permit requirements and some inflationary costs have raised the sum, said Dale Frink, the Water Commission's top engineer.

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