- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015
Minnesota reports 2 more bird flu cases

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Keeping wild waterfowl from spreading bird flu to Minnesota turkey farms won’t be easy, the state veterinarian said as officials announced the sixth and seventh cases of the disease in the country’s top turkey-producing state.

Officials say it’s too early to speculate whether the highly pathogenic strain could hurt Minnesota’s $750 million turkey industry. More than 40 countries banned poultry imports from Minnesota last month, when the first case was reported, though some have since narrowed the bans to poultry from affected counties. Health officials have said the risk to the public from the virus is low.

State veterinarian Bill Hartmann told reporters he’s confident farmers’ increased security measures will prevent any farm-to-farm transmissions.

“As far as stopping this connection between the waterfowl and turkeys, it will be a challenge this year,” Hartmann said.

There’s no evidence the H5N2 strain spread between the seven Minnesota farms infected over the past month, Hartmann said. That means wild birds such as ducks and geese, which can carry the flu but aren’t sickened by it, could be responsible.

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Legislature returns to budget battle lines with lots to do

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s legislative session is moving into the Choose Your Own Adventure phase as lawmakers return from their spring break.

When lawmakers reconvene Tuesday, the split-power Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will have 42 days to decide which path to take to craft a state budget for the next two years totaling more than $40 billion. Should they adopt deep tax cuts? Hike payments to schools? Stash extra money away for a rainy day?

Lawmakers are also at a crossroads on transportation spending, a nagging problem with vastly different options on the table.

The state has a $1.9 billion projected surplus, but that may not make the decisions easier - especially if lawmakers or the governor embrace the stand-firm politics that have led Minnesota into government shutdowns before.

Here’s where things stand:

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Minnesota company settles disability discrimination claim

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minneapolis-based distributor will pay $50,000 to settle a claim that it fired a man after he had a heart attack.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the settlement Monday with Baldwin Supply Co.

The lawsuit alleged that Baldwin Supply violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to allow Timothy E. Collins to return to work after his heart attack.

Collins worked at the company’s Hibbing location from April to July of 2011, installing conveyor belts. After his heart attack, Collins was released by his doctor to return to work with no restrictions. But the lawsuit alleged the company did not allow Collins to return to work except for two days.

A telephone message left for a Baldwin Supply official for comment was not immediately returned Monday.

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Drought expands across large section of nation’s crop region

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Drought conditions expanded last month amid weather that was warmer and drier across much of the western U.S., but spring rain in the agricultural Midwest could improve conditions for farmers preparing for the corn and soybean growing season.

Weekly data released by the National Drought Mitigation Center shows moderate drought or worse covered 36.8 percent of the U.S. as of late last week, up nearly five percentage points from the previous week but slightly below last year’s levels. Over the last decade, the figure has ranged from 9 percent in 2010 to nearly 52 percent during the devastating drought of 2013.

Here’s a look at the current conditions:

FARMERS LOOKING UP

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