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Northern Idaho farmers to get fed help after hail

Officials with the Farm Service Agency in north-central Idaho say some Nez Perce County farmers are eligible for federal loans and disaster assistance after huge hailstones damaged crops.

Last week brought a series of hailstorms to the area, with some weather watchers reporting ping-pong sized hailstones. Scott Riggers with the Farm Service Agency in the town of Nezperce told the Lewiston Tribune that dry spring green peas were the hardest-hit crop. Wheat, barley and other grains were also affected, but Riggers said those crops are covered mostly by private crop insurance.

Nez Perce County tallied at 34 percent loss in crops. It was the only county in the region to reach the 30 percent threshold set for federal disaster aid.

The Associated Press

Vandersloot subject of IRS, Labor Dept. audits

Idaho businessman and GOP donor Frank Vandersloot is the target of two federal audits — one by the Internal Revenue Service and the other by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Vandersloot is the CEO of Idaho Falls-based health care company Melaleuca Inc. and among donors who have given $1 million to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In April, Vandersloot was targeted by President Obama’s campaign as one of eight Romney donors with questionable records on various issues.

Vandersloot says the timing of the audits is curious and questionable.

The IRS audit is focusing on personal tax returns from 2008-09. Labor officials will examine the status of temporary foreign workers at his cattle ranch.

An IRS spokeswoman says federal laws prohibit discussing taxpayer information. Labor officials did not immediately respond July 25.

The Associated Press

U.S. home sales decrease in June

The number of new home sales in the United States ended a three-month steak of increasing activity in June.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, sales of new single-family houses in June decreased 8.4 percent from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 350,000 homes. Before the drop, new home sales had continued to increase from a point of 313,000 homes in January.

Year-over-year rates have continued to increase since the beginning of the year, however, and June’s numbers were 15.1 percent above that of June 2011.

New home prices also dropped from May. The median sales price of a new home sold in June fell 0.8 percent to $232,600, while the average sales price stayed the same at $273,900.

In June, there was a 4.9-month supply of new homes for sale across the nation – a 0.2 percent increase from May.

Lee Fehrenbacher, Dolan Media Newswires

Coeur d’Alene cans finance department worker

The city of Coeur d’Alene has fired a finance department employee suspected of embezzling city money.

City Attorney Mike Gridley told the Coeur d’Alene Press the woman’s termination was effective at 5 p.m. July 24 after she failed to show up for a personnel meeting with department heads the afternoon of July 23 to address the allegations.

The city is not releasing her name. It also declined the newspaper’s request for a copy of the termination letter, saying personnel records are exempt from disclosure without the employee’s permission.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the alleged thefts and will issue a news release if an arrest is made.

Gridley said previously the city has confirmed at least five fraudulent transactions that total thousands of dollars.

The Associated Press

Primeland Cooperatives closes its feed mill in Cottonwood

Primeland Cooperatives on July 1 closed its feed mill in Cottonwood.

General Manager Ken Blakeman said it was the last commercial feed mill between Spokane, Wash., and Grangeville that processed non-pelletized feed products. Demand for its output fell in step with the reduction of confined feeding operations like hog farms and dairies in the area, he said.

“The number of animals is down significantly, and what are remaining are cow-calf operators, hobby farmers, and 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) animals, said Blakeman, who works in Lewiston.  The animal population is too low to justify upgrading or replacing the plant to meet new regulatory requirements, as a new mill would cost $2 million to $3 million, he said.

Primeland did not cut jobs, as it reassigned the three people who worked solely at the feed mill, Blakeman said. The company still has a grain elevator, fertilizer plant and feed distribution operation in Cottonwood. Most of its feed is now supplied by a sister company.

Brad Carlson 

2 men injured at Pocatello fabrication shop

Fire officials say two men suffered serious injuries when they were pinned by falling steel while working at a fabricating plant in Pocatello.

Battalion Chief Devin Christensen says the men were trying to move a 2,500-pound hopper they were building for a mining company when it fell on them, pinning them from the waist down. Other employees were able to lift the hopper off of them before paramedics arrived.

Christensen says both men were taken by ambulance to the emergency room.

KPVI-TV reports one man was hospitalized in intensive care in Pocatello while the other was taken to a Salt Lake City hospital for treatment. No other information about their injuries was released.

North Star Fabricators would not comment about the accident.

The Associated Press

 

 

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