While Agriculture Department officials are considering how to resurrect a program that funded research and marketing projects for the pork industry, some farm-related groups are celebrating its demise.
"As it is currently structured, the pork checkoff has helped create expansion of corporate pork giants, and has done little to reward independent producers," said Brian Harris, a marketing director for the National Farmers Organization.
The group is pleased with a Michigan federal judge's decision finding the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act unconstitutional.
Known to hog farmers as the checkoff program, it charges pork producers 40 cents for each $100 value of hogs sold. Money raised by the program is used to pay for research and marketing that benefits the pork industry.
Its most publicly known use is to fund the "Pork, The Other White Meat" advertising campaign.
But Harris said the program provides benefits only to meat packers, processors and exporters.
"We support promotion of our product, but promotion that is fair and focused on the real needs of independent hog producers," he said.
The program must come to an end by Nov. 25, unless a federal appeals court is willing to overturn the ruling of U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen, who ruled the fee too arbitrary to justify.
Harris said the National Farmers Organization would support a measure by which farmers get to vote on whether they should fund such a marketing and research program.
They also would want elections to be held periodically so that farmers would have continued input on the issue.
"Had the checkoff remained a voluntary program and producers had continued to provide major input into the development of the program, I don't think the industry would be in the economic condition we're in right now," Harris said.
Thirty-three farm and irrigation groups in Nebraska want to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service, which recently designated 560 miles of river in the state as critical habitat for the piping plover -- an endangered bird.
The Nebraska Habitat Conservation Coalition said this week it would sue the federal government for violating the Endangered Species Act.
Officials are upset that sand bars in the rivers were included in the designation. They say sand bars are exempt from legal protection because they are not permanent landmasses.
Officials also say it is questionable whether the designation will provide any real protection for the bird, especially when considering the economic costs incurred by the restrictions.
Decatur, Ill.-based Archer Daniels Midland Co. is buying out the interest of Dow Chemical Co. in a joint venture that produced ethanol for international markets.
ADM was partners with Union Carbide Corp., which is wholly owned by Dow, in the World Ethanol project. Officials say the two companies will continue to run the project for two more years, after which ADM will take full control.
Dow wants to get out of the ethanol manufacturing business. ADM wants to shift the manufacturing process to facilities it operates in Peoria, Ill., and Clinton, Iowa.
The New Zealand Agriculture and Forestry Ministry is reviewing spray techniques because of problems with its expanded painted apple moth aerial spray.
West Auckland residents complained en masse to the ministry after an Oct. 23 spraying operation, which irritated them because of the low level at which aircraft flew overhead while spraying the pesticides.
Government officials say the spray was technically successful. But they are willing to make some changes keep the public happy.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday drought conditions eased in Oklahoma and south-central Kansas but remained strong in western states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
The Drought Monitor also noted "abnormally dry" weather conditions in much of the Plains states and placed the region under a drought watch.
Officials said rain and snow showers expected in the Rockies, the Plains, the Midwest and East are too isolated to have much effect on long-term precipitation levels.
Grain futures were mostly higher at the close Thursday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybeans rose on larger-than-expected weekly export sales and dry weather in parts of Brazil.
Corn rose on solid export sales figures from the Agriculture Department.
Wheat fell on the effect of Brazil's recent ban on U.S.-grown wheat.
Oats traded higher.
Soybeans: Nov 5.65 1/4 up 8 1/4, Jan 5.66 1/2 up 8 1/4, Mar 5.62 1/4 up 9 1/2, May 5.55 1/2 up 9 1/4.
Corn: Dec 2.47 1/2 up 1 1/2, Mar 2.52 up 2, May 2.54 3/4 up 2, Jul 2.56 up 1 1/2.
Wheat: Dec 4.02 1/4 off 4 1/2, Mar 3.99 3/4 off 3 1/4, May 3.67 off 4, Jul 3.29 up 3 1/2.
Oats: Dec 2.05 1/4 up 1/4, Mar 1.99 1/2 up 3/4, May 1.90 1/2 unch, Jul 1.79 up 1 1/2.