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COL Johne's disease research gets $8.8 million

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture will contribute $8.8 million to two international research collaboratives seeking to control and eliminate Johne's disease in cattle, sheep and goats and porcine reproductive and PRRS.

"These grants will support critical research, education and Extension activities to develop practical applications against these diseases,'' said Ann Veneman, U.S. ag secretary.

The diseases cause more than $800 million a year in economic losses.

Deal reached over technology exchange

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service has signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Seed Trade Association to promote better exchange of seed technology.

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"This partnership will ensure that quality native seed is available for future conservation efforts,'' said Bruce Knight, chief of the NRCS. "Native seed supplies are essential and must be available for conservation program participants.''

The NRCS Plant Materials Program selects plants that are important to conservation efforts and develops planting technologies that make the plants more effective in solving conservation concerns.

Gretenhart named Foremost director

BARABOO, Wis. -- Keith Gretenhart has been named director of sales and marketing for Foremost Farms USA's ingredient division.

Gretenhart worked for Rietschle-Thomas in Sheybogan before joining Foremost Farms last month. Foremost Farms, headquartered in Baraboo, Wis., operates 20 manufacturing facilities and one milk transfer station for its 3,700 dairy farmer-members in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

Garrett new West Liberty Foods president

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa -- A 24-year poultry industry veteran has been promoted to president of West Liberty Foods.

Ed Garrett has been the company's senior vice president and chief operating officer. He now will oversee a company that is expanding its plant in Mount Pleasant and updating its operations in West Liberty and Sigourney.

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"It's a very aggressive company that's moving forward," Garrett said. "We will want to continue to meet and exceed our customers' needs." The company processes and packs meat and cheese products for stores and restaurants.

West Liberty Foods employs more than 1,500 people at its three locations, including 1,100 in West Liberty, Iowa.

Mitchell new CEO for Newsham Genetics

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Brent Mitchell is the new chief operating officer for Newsham Genetics.

Mitchell will be responsible for overseeing all facets of the company, including business product development, finance, sales and marketing. He will continue to be based at Newsham's West Des Moines office.

Kellogg reports higher quarterly earnings

DETROIT -- Kellogg Co. said April 22 that its first-quarter earnings grew 34 percent over last year, beating Wall Street estimates.

The world's largest cereal producer said the increase was fueled by sales growth of 11 percent, which it attributed to brand-building investment and product innovation, and came despite higher commodity and benefit costs.

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"This truly was an outstanding quarter in every respect," chairman and chief executive Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement. "We were able to significantly exceed our original forecasts for earnings and cash flow."

Net income was $219.8 million, or 53 cents per share, for the January-March period, up from $163.9 million, or 40 cents a share, a year ago.

Sales rose 11 percent to $2.4 billion from $2.15 billion a year ago. Excluding currency translations, sales increased 6.5 percent -- Kellogg's highest growth rate in five years, the company said.

Mad cow testing called too expensive

WICHITA, Kan. -- If government regulators allow Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to test all its cattle for mad cow disease, it would start a "domino effect" resulting in other countries and domestic consumers insisting on 100 percent testing, a competitor said.

Steve Hunt, chief executive officer of Kansas City-based U.S. Premium Beef, said that the cost to the industry would be almost $1 billion a year -- a cost that the industry cannot expect consumers to cover.

Hunt, who heads the nation's fourth-largest meatpacking plant, told reporters during a news conference hosted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association that food safety is not a free-enterprise matter.

"This is not an issue of big versus small. Let us be clear, the long-term costly effects of this issue ... will be borne by the smallest of us all, the farmers and ranchers of this great country," Hunt said.

Corps moves ahead with river upgrade

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proceeding with a $2.3 billion expansion of locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers said Monday.

The corps will ask for congressional approval to begin design and engineering to replace seven locks in Missouri and Illinois.

"The sense of urgency comes from the fact that the system out there right now is limping along," Flowers said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

The corps started pursuing new constructions more than 10 1/2 years ago, but the project stalled after a whistleblower in 2000 accused the agency of manufacturing a case for a costly lock and dam expansion. In December the national Academy of Science argued for delaying construction along the river in favor of simply managing barge traffic better.

Iowa farm numbers on the decline

HASTINGS, Iowa -- Although the Hawkeye State is still a national leader in agricultural production, the number of individual farms continues to drop.

Annual figures released by Iowa State University and the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service indicate the ag industry generated $10.8 billion in 2002 -- third highest in the nation. But the number of farms declined by 600 that year.

The unpredictability of prices and rising health care costs are challenges for family farmers such as Bret and Karen Seipold, who farm north of this southwest Iowa town.

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