Man pleads guilty in fraud case

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- A 54-year-old Springfield, Ore., man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for selling more than 4.2 million pounds of corn that was falsely labeled as organically grown.

The U.S. attorney's office said Dec. 6 that Harold Chase used several aliases to buy conventionally grown corn, then sold it as organic to Grain Millers Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

Much of the corn was used as organic feed for livestock.

Sentencing is scheduled Feb. 14 in federal court in Eugene. The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Officials consider prison labor

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama agriculture officials are considering whether prisoners can fill a chronic labor shortage the farm agency blames on the state's new law against illegal immigration.

Brett Hall, a deputy commissioner with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, said planting season is coming up in south Alabama, and some growers fear most of their usual workers have left the state because of the law.

The nursery and landscape industry will need as many as 4,000 workers in southern counties early in 2012 to get ready for the growing season, he said, and forestry and farming will require still more laborers. Unable to find legal residents to fill all the employment gaps, Hall said the Agriculture Department is consulting with the Department of Corrections to determine whether prisoners could do some of the work.

Farmers have complained of a lack of field hands since parts of the law took effect in late September. Many have said legal residents aren't physically able or mentally tough enough to perform the work, and others won't do so because it doesn't pay enough.

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