Rain delays corn, soybean harvest

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Wet ground is keeping South Dakota farmers from harvesting what is expected to be record corn and soybean crops.

The most recent Agriculture Department report, issued before rain spread through much of eastern South Dakota the past week, showed the corn harvest at 2 percent complete and the soybean harvest 16 percent complete.

Both are well below the five-year average, in part because a cool summer slowed crop maturity.

"We've had a lot of rain and not much harvest," said Codington County Extension Agronomist Chuck Langner at Watertown. "The big thing right now is we need to get the (corn) silage cut. With that big machinery, that's going to be a problem."

Langner said the delay poses a risk for soybean yields.

"Wet beans could be a problem with bursting if they dry down (and) then get wet again," he said.

Premium Protein ups furloughs

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Premium Protein Products has again extended furloughs that began in June for about 400 workers.

Workers received word of the latest furlough extensions via a recorded phone message on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

The employees of the company's plants in Hastings and Lincoln have been out of work since the furloughs began, and the plants will remain closed at least until Oct. 20.

Company officials did not immediately respond to a message The Associated Press left on Tuesday.

Premium Protein has its headquarters and a processing plant in Lincoln, and its slaughterhouse is in Hastings. The company specializes in providing beef, pork and chicken with a verified source.

Private equity firm Matlin Patterson in New York is the company's majority owner.

Feds to rewrite food safety rules

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Two federal agencies are teaming up to write new food safety rules for fresh produce, following foodborne illness outbreaks tied to fruits and vegetables in recent years.

The USDA announced Monday, Oct. 5, its fresh produce chief Leanne Skelton will work with the Food and Drug Administration to develop new produce regulations over the next six months.

As part of the process, officials will travel the country to talk with food safety officials and farmers -- including small, organic growers -- about the impact new rules would have on the industry.

The effort will build on guidance the FDA proposed in July to improve the safety of tomatoes, leafy greens and melons.

Deere: UAW members ratify 6-year contract

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) -- Deere & Co. said members of the United Auto Workers union have ratified a new six-year contract covering about 9,500 workers -- or roughly 17 percent of the company's work force -- and 17,000 retirees.

The world's largest maker of farm machinery said on Sunday, Oct. 4, it had been notified by the union of the ratification of the agreement, which takes effect Monday and expires Oct. 1, 2015.

Deere has been battered by the slumping global economy, which has depressed sales of its tractors, bulldozers and other products. But while the company has laid off hundreds of workers since the economic downturn worsened late last year, it has avoided the sort of large-scale job cuts seen at other large manufacturers.

News of the contract ratification comes after the two sides said last week they had reached a tentative deal. Deere and the union began negotiations in late August, before the previous contract expired last Wednesday.

"This agreement is good for our employees and good for the company. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of our workforce as we team together to retain our position as a leader in the various markets we serve," Samuel Allen, Deere's president and CEO, said in a statement.

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