Humboldt wants dairy debt waived

EUREKA, Calif. (AP) -- Humboldt County's Board of Supervisors is asking the state to forgive fees and penalties for dairy operators caught up this year in a local creamery's financial troubles.

This week, board chairman Jimmy Smith asked the California Department of Food and Agriculture to drop a lawsuit against dairy owners that demands $430,000 owed to the Milk Advisory Board and a pool that stabilizes milk payments.

The dairies paid the fees to Humboldt Creamery, but apparently former CEO Rich Ghilarducci never forwarded those payments to the state. Ghilarducci resigned in April amid a financial scandal that bankrupted one of the county's biggest businesses.

A Food and Agriculture Department spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment on the lawsuit.

Foster Farms bought the creamery in August.

Christmas tree sales strong

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- Demand for Christmas trees is up this year and the president of the Tennessee Growers Association says his business is the best ever.

Arcy Acres Christmas Tree Farm and Nursery owner Art Landrigan said sales are up 40 percent from last year.

The owner of Kittle Christmas Tree Farm in Ringgold, Ga., told the Chattanooga Times Free Press his business is so good people are buying trees he had not planned to sell until next year.

The National Christmas Tree Association reports that last year, farmers experienced a 14 percent decline in Christmas tree spending nationally.

Federal agents hunt wolf packs

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Federal wildlife agents are working to kill gray wolves from six packs in western Montana in response to recent livestock attacks.

Agents from the Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services are trying to kill between 16 and 22 wolves blamed for killing sheep, cows and at least one guard dog. The agency operates under authorization from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The overall wolf population in the state has continued to increase in past years even with high numbers being killed. New population estimates are expected in the next several weeks.

Three of the targeted packs are in southwest Montana's Big Hole Valley. The remainder are in the Beaverhead Valley near Grant, on private land north of Helena, and in the Ovando area.

Gray wolf hunting and killings in response to livestock attacks have pushed the number of dead wolves to a record of more than 500 this year in the Northern Rockies.

Composter in trouble for smell

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) -- An organics composting farm near Liberty built with the help of a state grant has received a notice of excess emissions after complaints last week of a strong odor.

The Department of Natural Resources says investigators documented two odor violations at Missouri Organic on Thursday. A previous inspection in October did not detect any odors coming from the plant.

Missouri Organics was created in 2005 with the help of a $121,606 grant for a dump truck and materials to construct the composting pad.

The composting operation receives industrial and institutional food and organic wastes from the Kansas City area.

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