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Producers report livestock loss from algae poisoning

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Livestock producers throughout North Dakota have reported losing livestock to toxic water caused by blue-green algae poisoning.

A news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency office in Dickinson did not specify how much livestock was lost to the poisoning.

Algae, which is a bacteria, is present in most water. The bacteria blooms and spreads throughout the water, making it toxic and sometimes deadly. This usually occurs after heavy rainfall and prolonged periods of hot temperatures.

Producers in western North Dakota became concerned about algae poisoning after a drought in 2012. North Dakota State University officials took samples from wells, ponds and rivers in several counties in southwest North Dakota. They found some water was “as good as the tap water in Fargo,” but other bodies of water were so toxic that they advised producers to stop using it, NDSU lab research specialist Michelle Mostrom said.

The 2014 farm bill did not originally include blue-green algae poisoning as an eligible loss condition under the Emergency Livestock Disaster Assistance Program, according to the release. The North Dakota FSA office submitted a request to include the cause of death on the list, and it was approved.

Producers can be considered eligible for the program benefits only if it is the first time during a normal grazing period that livestock have been lost while drinking water from a pond concentrated with blue-green algae. Producers also must provide acceptable proof that livestock died from algae poisoning.

This includes veterinary records, receipts, private insurance documents, personal diaries, pictures with dates and ear tag documentation. Statements from producers who witnessed livestock loss also may apply.

Livestock loss that occurred between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2013, must be turned in by Aug. 14. The deadline for livestock loss Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, is Nov. 1.

For more information, contact FSA Stark County Executive Director Peter Solemsass at (701) 225-2931 or peter.solemsaas@nd.usda.gov.

April Baumgarten
April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, as the news editor. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.   
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