Rocky Mountain Ag Notebook: Walmart settles with listeria victims; Hemp lawsuit in Ky.; Mini goats in The Springs? | TheFencePost.com

Rocky Mountain Ag Notebook: Walmart settles with listeria victims; Hemp lawsuit in Ky.; Mini goats in The Springs?

Walmart settles with 23 families in 2011 listeria outbreak

Walmart this week agreed to pay families of victims who died in a 2011 cantaloupe listeria outbreak that killed 33 people and was traced to a Colorado farm.

The company settled with 23 families, including nine in Colorado, Bill Marler, the families' attorney, said Tuesday. The terms of the settlement were kept confidential.

As soon as the company was "made aware of a listeria outbreak," Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said, Walmart stores in Colorado and other states immediately removed the contaminated cantaloupes from their produce departments.

But some families alleged in lawsuits that Walmart should have reacted more aggressively, including making speedier warnings to customers who bought the melons. In the fallout of the outbreak, Walmart sued the companies that had inspected and delivered the cantaloupes.

Walmart declined to give the status of those claims.

Recommended Stories For You

The outbreak, which began in August 2011, was linked to 33 deaths and one miscarriage. Nearly 150 people nationwide were confirmed to have strains of listeria bacteria that matched bacteria found on the Colorado-grown melons.

— The Denver Post

New water plan, old issues

A series of community meetings on the development of a state water plan appears to be raising some lingering water issues.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is sponsoring the meetings throughout the area in an effort to encourage more people to participate in a statewide water planning process.

Although the roundtable has met nearly every month since 2005, with ample opportunities to participate, there has been concern from the state Legislature that meetings have not been inclusive enough statewide. More than 20 non-members typically attend the Arkansas Basin Roundtable meetings.

In March, the roundtable redoubled its efforts to reach out, and already has held a dozen meetings, including the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum in April. At least six more meetings are planned, including one in Pueblo — no date or place have been set. Information can be found at the website, arkansasbasin.com.

Meetings so far have attracted anywhere from a handful to 60 people. The largest was at Primero during a snowstorm. Reactions have ranged from acceptance to resistance by some who believe the water plan will mean more regulations.

— The Pueblo Chieftain

Colorado Springs changes pet ordinance to allow mini milking goats

Miniature goats now are considered pets in Colorado Springs.

And a homeowner can have two of them.

Colorado Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to change the city's pet ordinance to include miniature goats, which must weigh less than 100 pounds.

The change was sponsored by council member Jill Gaebler, who said there is a growing interest in urban gardening and farming.

Her original proposal would have allowed four mini goats per household. But council member Don Knight wanted to be fair and match the change with the pot-bellied pig ordinance, which allows only two per household.

"I'm OK with that," said Monycka Snowbird, a goat owner who urged council to approve the changes. "It's a compromise, but still a win."

In fact, she said, most states and cities that allow mini goats in urban areas allow two per household.

Residents in Gaebler's District 5 asked that the city allow mini milking goats, saying they were interested in urban agriculture. Prior to the change, residents only could have hoofed animals if their property was close to 1 acre in size or they were approved for a special permit, which could cost more than $600 and was not always guaranteed.

— The Colorado Springs Gazette

Officials warn owners to watch for symptoms of horse herpes

State officials are investigating a horse that is showing signs of the neurologic form of the equine herpes virus.

Samples have been sent to Colorado State University for a diagnosis, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

The horse and its stable-mates have traveled to various events across the state recently, so officials worry other horses could have been infected. So far no other owners have reported horses showing symptoms.

Authorities from the Colorado State Veterinarian's office are contacting all contestants who participated in the National High School Rodeo and Colorado Junior Rodeo Association events in Henderson, Eagle and Rocky Ford.

The virus, which the department said can't be transmitted to humans, can cause respiratory and neurological disease in horses and can lead to death. It is spread by direct horse to horse contact, or indirectly through infected objects such as grooming equipment, water buckets and people's hands.

­— Colorado Department of Agriculture

Ky Ag Department Sues DEA Over s Refusal to Respect Farm Bill Hemp Provision

Kentucky Department of Agriculture filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to seek an injunction and declaratory relief to stop the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's unlawful seizure of imported industrial hemp seed, and DEA attempts to prevent hemp cultivation and research pilot programs in Kentucky.

The KDA filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and is asking the court for an emergency hearing to immediately force the DEA to cease interference with the six Kentucky hemp research projects, which are authorized by Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill that was signed into law on Feb. 7, 2014 by President Obama.

Prior to filing the suit, KDA had been in good faith dialog with the DEA to negotiate the release of a shipment of 250 pounds of certified industrial hemp seed imported from Italy, which had been seized by the federal agency and held by U.S. Customs in Louisville.

The industrial hemp seed was destined for various pilot programs all licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and coordinated in conjunction with Kentucky state academic institutions, in order to begin research and development projects to optimize the agricultural, economic and manufacturing potential of the imminent hemp industry in Kentucky.

However, on Tuesday May 13th, DEA sent a letter to KDA informing Commissioner James Comer's office that the DEA would require KDA to apply for a seed import license.

— The Hemp Industries Association

Tight supplies spur layoffs at Kan. slaughterhouse

Cargill Beef says it is trimming its workforce at its Dodge City slaughterhouse because of tight beef supplies as the nation's cattle herd begins to rebuild from drought conditions.

Company spokesman Mark Klein said in an email Thursday the company does not have a firm number on how many workers will be laid off or reassigned. But the remaining workforce is still expected to be "well above" 2,000.

Klein says decisions to lay off workers are never easy, and Cargill looked at every option to avoid it.

Cargill is one of the nation's biggest meatpackers. It closed its Plainview, Texas, slaughterhouse last year and moved its remaining business to plants in Dodge City; Friona, Texas; and Fort Morgan, Colorado.

Klein says the latest layoffs affect only Dodge City.

— The Associated Press

Fort Morgan Airport Wins $1.9 Million FAA Grant

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., announced recently that the Fort Morgan Municipal Airport won a $1.9 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for the construction of a new airport runway.

The current runway did not meet updated FAA standards and risked an interruption of services at the airport.

"The Fort Morgan airport is an integral part of Colorado's agriculture industry, and this grant will help make crucial improvements to the runway to keep the airport up and running," Bennet said. "The work done by local and state officials to help this come together is the way we get things done in Colorado."

Financing for the project has come together after 10 years of planning and community support from the Fort Morgan City Council, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Airport Advisory Board, among other community organizations.

— Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.