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Police eye choke points in heroin traffic

Drought hits soybeans; Albert Lea students to attend sports for free; Fergus Falls DQ to offer Orange Julius smoothies; and more.

Deaths from heroin overdose, first reported in Northfield and the Twin Cities and then  occurring in Duluth, have police officials working together to choke the supply where dealers meet their suppliers. In a report by Conrad Wilson on Minnesota Public Radio and published in the Duluth News Tribune, federal law-enforcement officials say Minnesota’s heroin most likely originates with the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico, then is trafficked to Chicago and then to established street gangs with whom they have formed relationships. The feds want to disrupt the heroin flow at that point, called the “choke point” strategy by Jack Riley, the special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago Field Division. Riley said shifting resources to the choke point gives DEA agents yet another place to infiltrate. Trends in the past six months in Chicago have shown improvement: The price of heroin is up and higher-level drug traffickers are going to prison, he said. Law enforcement officials are hopeful that what’s happening in Chicago translates into fewer heroin deaths and overdoses throughout the region.

While soybeans are more drought hardy than corn, they are moving into a growth stage where moisture stress will start to take a toll on the crop, writes Steve Browne of the Marshall Independent.

“I always say ‘Soy is made in August,’ but we’re ahead of schedule in development because of the dryness,” said Craig Bangasser, director of the Minnesota Soy Research and Promotion Council, who farms near Fulda. The regional soybean crop is going to need more than a half-inch of rain to have a lasting impact, depending on soil type, according to Bangasser. What is critical about this time, according to Liz Stahl, University of Minnesota Extension educator at the Worthington office, is the soybean crop is moving early into the flowering and early pod fill stage when the moisture demand is highest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that statewide, topsoil moisture supplies held relatively steady, and were rated 21 percent very short, 35 percent short, 40 percent adequate, and 4 percent surplus.

Students and staff of the Albert Lea School District will no longer pay admission fees to athletic events in the upcoming school year, writes Kellli Lageson of the Albert Lea Tribune. “We’ve discussed this a couple times about student rates,” Superintendent Mike Funk said. “Students who are in grades six through 12 would get in free with their ID and kindergarten through fifth grade would get in free with a paid adult.” Funk said that the younger students would get in free with an adult to ensure that parents wouldn’t just drop off large groups of young children without any supervision. The cost to the district would be about $15,000, but Funk said he still recommends the change. “I think if we’re trying to be progressive and get kids interested in sports and off the streets, this is a great idea,” Funk said.

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Believe me, this is big news. The Fergus Falls Dairy Queen has received approval to offer Orange Julius Originals and Premium Fresh Fruit Smoothies, reports Seth Johnson of the Fergus Falls Journal. The effort has taken four years and the new options will be available Thursday. Owner Linda Babcock said she wanted to reopen with the Orange Julius option in 2008, but the company required buildings to have a chimney and LED lighting to offer the smoothies. But with pressure being added from Burger King and McDonald’s’ new smoothie options, DQ decided to make Orange Julius available to all stores with space, Babcock said. “We have essentially created a smoothie shop within a DQ store,” Babcock said. “We are offering an assortment of fruit choices, variety and convenience to customers who want a quick snack or treat at any time of the day.”

Family-owned, Sioux City-based home improvement retailer Bomgaars has been eyeing the empty Kmart building in Austin for several months, and the company may pull the trigger on opening its doors there soon, writes Kevin Coss of the Austin Daily Herald.

Kmart closed in 2010 and the building has sat empty. Craig Hoium, the city’s community development director, said Bomgaars is interested and that they would likely employ 25 to 30 people. The Bomgaars website lists 60 retail stores, with locations in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming. The corporation employs about 1,400 people. Bomgaars sells agricultural, automotive and hardware supplies, clothing, footwear and toys. “It’s similar to a downsized [Mills] Fleet Farm store,” Hoium said.