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COL Nebraska's beef production hits skids

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- Nebraska's beef production declined more than 20 percent in July compared to numbers a year earlier.

The decline echoed tight cattle supplies across the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nebraska's beef cattle during July was 581,700 head, compared to 727,700 head in July 2003.

Nationwide, beef production was at 2.1 billion pounds, 14 percent below the previous year. Beef cattle nationally for the month totaled 2.79 million head, down 15 percent from July 2003.

Beef cow and calf inventories have been on the decline for eight years, said Dillon Feuz, a beef marketing specialist for the University of Nebraska Extension Service in Scottsbluff.

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One factor compounding the low supply is recent price hikes in beef.

Organic Valley big business in La Farge

LA FARGE, Wis. -- It's not exactly where you'd expect to find a corporate headquarters, tucked in a tiny village 40 miles from the nearest interstate.

But a cooperative started 16 years ago by seven farmers looking for better milk prices has thrived in rural western Wisconsin. Organic Valley has grown into the nation's largest organic co-op, with sales of $156 million last year, up 25 percent from the previous year.

CEO George Siemon is in jeans and bare feet as he enthusiastically pitches Organic Valley and its milk, cheeses, butter, eggs and meats to potential clients, referring often to the co-op's farmer-centered mission statement.

"We have built a culture here to keep thinking about the farmers and the mission," said Siemon, one of the original group that founded the co-op.

The rapid growth meant Organic Valley could give this village of 775 an even bigger boost by building its new $5.9 million environmentally friendly headquarters here. Sticking with a struggling community despite its location fits the co-op's mission, executives said.

AgStar announces patronage allocation

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MANKATO, Minn. -- AgStar Financial Services has announced a patronage allocation of nearly $23 million to more than 12,000 client-owners. The non-qualified allocation is based on individual client business with AgStar.

The allocation is a percentage of earnings set aside for future retirement, dependent on achieving established capital targets of the company.

AgStar has allocated $81 million in patronage and distributed nearly $7 million in patronage refunds and dividends to their client-customers since 1998.

Headquartered in Mankato, AgStar operates mostly in Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin and is owned by more than 12,000 stockholders.

Better Business Bureau wants probe

DES MOINES -- The Better Business Bureau is asking federal regulators to investigate the egg industry over a labeling campaign the organization contends misleads consumers into thinking hens are treated humanely.

The bureau said last week that it has asked the Federal Trade Commission to probe United Egg Producers, the industry's largest trade group, over its "Animal Care Certified" logo.

The logo adorns cartons containing eggs from hens that are confined in tiny cages, have their beaks clipped and are forcibly starved, the bureau said in a statement.

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"It conveyed the message to consumers that the eggs ... were produced by hens raised under caring and humane conditions when that was not the case," the statement said.

Mitch Head, spokesman for Atlanta-based United Egg Producers, said the group will defend its logo. He said the Animal Care Certified standards do guarantee better conditions for chickens than in the past -- a fact that even opponents have acknowledged.

The issue arose after a complaint from Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group.

Bureau officials said referring such complaints to federal regulators is a rare step.

Nebraska's beef production declines

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- Nebraska's beef production declined more than 20 percent in July compared to numbers a year earlier.

The decline echoed tight cattle supplies across the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nebraska's beef cattle during July was 581,700 head, compared to 727,700 head in July 2003.

Nationwide, beef production was at 2.1 billion pounds, 14 percent below the previous year. Beef cattle nationally for the month totaled 2.79 million head, down 15 percent from July 2003.

Beef cow and calf inventories have been on the decline for eight years, said Dillon Feuz, a beef marketing specialist for the University of Nebraska Extension Service in Scottsbluff.

"As we continue to work through calves and yearlings, the fact is that in the U.S. there are just not as many cattle to come to market," Feuz said.

Wendy's reports good milk sales

DUBLIN, Ohio -- A month after it introduced healthier Kids' Meal options, Wendy's International said the milk drinks and fruit cups are selling well.

Weekly sales of the 8-ounce, single-serving plastic milk bottles hit 1 million for the first time, the suburban Columbus-based restaurant chain said last week.

Families eating at Wendy's can substitute the reduced fat white milk or lowfat chocolate milk for soda at no extra charge. Mandarin oranges can also be substituted for fries.

Wendy's said the fruit cups are selling at about 425,000 per week.

Before Wendy's introduced the new Kids' Meal options, it sold about 65,000 paper cartons of milk per week, the company said.

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