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COL Court upholds farmers' suit against BASF

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota farmers who were part of a class-action lawsuit against herbicide maker BASF Corp. could receive their cut of a $59.5 million judgment by years end, if a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling stands.

The appeals panel last week upheld an earlier court decision viewed as unfavorable to the New Jersey company.

BASF has a month to decide whether to ask the state Supreme Court to get involved. If the ruling stands, Minnesota farmers stand to collect about a quarter of the jury award, said their attorney, Douglas Nill. The case involves farmers from several states who alleged that BASF charged sugarbeet farmers higher prices for the same herbicide than it charged soybean farmers.

A jury in Ada found in 2001 that BASF committed consumer fraud. Last year, a Norman County District judge denied a BASF request to oversee payments in the verdict from a New York account.

Land O'Lakes reports $2.05 billion in sales

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ARDEN HILLS, Minn. -- Land O'Lakes is reporting first-quarter net sales of $2.05 billion and net earnings of $24.3 million. That compares to first-quarter 2004 sales of $2.01 billion and net earnings of $45.1 million.

Company officials said depressed egg prices was the key factor in the earnings decline. Land O'Lakes' Dairy Foods Value Added, Feed, Seed and Agronomy businesses all met or exceeded expectations for the quarter.

Land O'Lakes officials said the cooperative made progress in paying down debt, portfolio management and the strengthening of its brands and branded businesses.

Land O'Lakes reported $118 million in prepayments on term debt during the quarter, continuing its focus on debt reduction and balance sheet strength.

Chicken barn proposal nixed near Castalia

CASTALIA, Iowa -- An application by the manager of Postville meat processing plant to build a broiler chicken confinement near Castalia has been rejected by state environmental officials.

Sholom Rubashkin is the manager of Cottonballs, the company that proposed to build the broiler facility in Winneshiek County. Rubashkin also is the manager of Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville.

Cottonballs had proposed four production barns that would turn out 200,000 chickens every six weeks.

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State gfficials said the company's application scored 380 points on its application. A score of 440 is needed for approval.

"There were a number of technical issues that gave this application a lower score on the master matrix, along with concerns about the size of the manure storage facility," said Sara Smith, the reviewing DNR engineer.

Distance to water sources and shallow bedrock that increased the risk of groundwater contamination also were cited by Smith.

Rubashkin can appeal to the Environmental Protection Commission or to an administrative law judge within 14 days.

Soybean producers elect directors

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. -- Several soybean producers have been elected to the Soybean Research &; Promotion Council board of directors.

Election winners include Michael O'Leary, Danvers, District 4; Robert Kirchner, Brewster, District 7; Douglas Proehl, Winthrop, Districts 5 &; 6; and Scott Singlestad, Waseca, District 8.

Each has been elected to serve a three-year term, to invest and administer the state's portion of the national soybean checkoff.

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The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council is made up of an elected board of 16 soybean producers. The council's mission is to invest soybean checkoff dollars in well-defined research, marketing, education and commercialization programs.

Xcel searching for more fly ash sites

ST. PAUL -- Xcel Energy Inc. is searching for more sites to store its fly ash waste from one of its power plants, after residents in West Lakeland Township expressed opposition to setting up a landfill there.

Xcel also formed an advisory committee to help choose the location for the ash, from the Allen S. King plant in Oak Park Heights.

Residents in West Lakeland Township voiced possible health and environmental concerns after the company announced last fall it would set up a landfill there. Two additional sites in West Lakeland are now being considered, as are three sites in Lake Elmo and properties in May Township and Stillwater Township, said Xcel project manager Darrell Knutson.

The ash is a byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity. Xcel said it is not hazardous.

The King plant produces about 50,000 tons of ash per year, although that could double in 2007, after a $385 million refurbishing.

Select Sires hires Terri Smith

PLAIN CITY, Ohio -- Select Sires has hired Terri Smith as its sales and marketing specialist.

Smith's main responsibilities will be coordinating the photo program and producing promotional materials on a national and member cooperative level. Smith will be based in Plain City.

Select Sires is comprised of 10 farmer-owned and controlled cooperatives.

Water association receives USDA grant

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a $3.1 million grant to the nonprofit National Rural Water Association for continuation of the Source Water Protection Program.

The initative educates farmers in 33 states -- including Minnesota and Iowa -- about steps they can take on their land to help prevent water pollution.

"These funds provide resources for voluntary pollution prevention that will help purify drinking water for residents in thousands of communities across the country,'' said Mike Yost, associate administrator of USDA's Farm Service Agency.

EQIP listening session set May 5

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service is seeking public comment on national priorities and emerging issues for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

A national public listening session will be held May 5 from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. in Room 107A of the Whitten Building in the USDA Building in Washington.

Speakers can register at the door. Both written and oral comments will be accepted at the session; with written comments accepted through June 5.

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