Negotiations are continuing in Fargo today between American Crystal Sugar management and union officials in an effort to end the three-month lockout of 1,300 union workers over failure to agree on a new contract. Stephen J. Lee of the Grand Forks Herald writes that negotiations began Monday between American Crystal and the Baker, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union with a federal negotiator. One union leader said the union was offering “significant movement,” while Crystal officials didn’t comment. The company has plants in East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Crookston and Chaska, Minn., and in Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D. and Mason City, Iowa. American Crystal hired Strom Engineering of Minnetonka to supply replacement workers for the union jobs. Almost all the beet crop is in, a company spokesman said Monday, but the campaign to process the beets into sugar will continue into May. Talks broke off on Aug. 25. These talks are the first since then.
Think government spending doesn’t help? Blue Earth and Nicollet counties have seen significant help due to government spending, the Mankato Free Press reported last week. The region’s job numbers went up by 1 percent in September and were up 2.5 percent over the same month last year. The counties added 534 jobs for a total of 52,435 nonfarm jobs — the highest September jobs number in the past three years. The government accounted for virtually all the growth in jobs, rising 10 percent in September. Most of the government job growth is tied to education hiring. The private sector in Blue Earth and Nicollet lost 0.6 percent for September. Statewide, the number of jobs fell 7,400 in September, according to figures from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The dry weather has helped the harvest to close early across northwestern Minnesota, according to the Grand Forks Herald. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly crop progress survey, in the seven days ending Sunday alone, 41 percent of sugar beets and 31 percent of corn were harvested in Minnesota. That brings the totals to 95 percent of the beets in Minnesota lifted by Sunday, ahead of the five-year average of 86 percent; and 79 percent of the corn crop was harvested by Sunday, well ahead of the average pace of only 43 percent.
The Occupy Wall Street movement hit Fergus Falls Saturday, as Occupy Fergus Falls took to NP Park where about 10 people exchanged ideas and talked about how they believe government and financial systems should change, reports Ryan Howard of the Fergus Falls Journal. Amanda Boyle of Fergus Falls is the group’s organizer. Howard wrote that Boyle “believes she and her family have suffered directly because of the stock market crash, and she placed the blame for the crash squarely on the shoulders of rampant and irresponsible financial speculation. … While Boyle said she will own up to her financial responsibility, she’s frustrated by the idea that she and her family have borne the brunt of other people’s bad decisions while the government has helped out the perpetrators.”
Despite a dip in enrollment, Southwest Minnesota State officials say things could be a lot worse. Jenny Kirk of the Marshall Independent reports that enrollment has decreased 2.5 percent across the MnSCU system’s 31 colleges and universities, and SMSU’s enrollment is down 4.1 percent. However, SMSU Interim President “Rockin” Ron Wood said the decline is prevalent across the system. “Usually, institutions come out of it at the end of a recession. Our pattern is not severe. I believe we can recover next year.” St. Cloud State saw the steepest decline (6.2 percent), followed by SMSU. Despite the decrease, more than 200,000 students are enrolled in the MnSCU system, the second-highest total ever. Since many of the students who enrolled at the start of the recession have now graduated, the decreased enrollment was not unexpected. A total of 38,385 students graduated in 2011, an increase of 6 percent from 2010.
Timothy Jude Brickner, 18, of Fairmont, who attends Martin County West High School, was issued a citation for falsely reporting a crime and disorderly conduct after allegedly creating a false Facebook account that blossomed into an account of the murder of a homeless hitchhiker, reports Jenn Brookens of the Fairmont Sentinel. The false profile started with a Facebook story about an alleged suicide, but then the stories spread and changed with several different versions emerging, including the false profile persona murdering the hitchhiker. The stories were heavily detailed and authorities had to sweat Brickner for about four hours before Brickner admitted he had made up the entire thing. Because of the unnecessary investigation, Brickner was cited for falsely reporting a crime and disorderly conduct. He also was taken to Mayo Clinic Health Systems, Fairmont, and placed on a 72-hour hold. However, the stories are still circulating throughout the region. “We had one woman call us and ask if it was safe to send her child to school, because she heard a person was taken out of school all bloodied and beaten,” Martin County Sheriff’s Capt. Corey Klanderud said. “The rumors are still going.”
If I owned a brewery, this is the kind of stuff I’d do. The August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm has released Burton Ale, a nearly extinct style of beer, reports the New Ulm Journal. At one time, Burton Ale was so popular it was considered one of the main draught beers in Britain. Eventually brewers faced the consumer preference for bitters and lagers and saw sales of Burton and mild ales plummet. By the end of the 1960s Burton ales were virtually gone. Schell’s Burton Ale’s overall character is a darker, sweeter beer. Schell’s added sugar in the kettle, some Dark Candi Syrup, and finally, hopped it up with Nugget and Goldings, fermented with a British ale yeast, dry-hopped, and aged for three months prior to release. The Burton Ale is part of the Stag Series, a collection of limited edition, one-and-done experimental brews released periodically throughout the year. Schell’s launched the series with Barrel Aged Schmaltz’s Alt, followed by Wild Rice Farmhouse Ale, the Rauchbier (smoked beer), and now the Burton Ale. Each beer produced within the Stag Series is released just once and for a limited time.
John Fitzgerald is a journalist and longtime Minnesotan. He lives in Buffalo.