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Northwoods potato farm target of U.S. probe



Northwoods potato farm target of U.S. probe




Argenpapa. EEUU . 24-05-2010. (Newsofthenorth).


Federal authorities are investigating a huge family-owned potato farm in the Town of Sugar Camp, Wis., for alleged violations of federal wildlife laws.

Sowinski Farms, Inc., which has been in business for over 60 years and grows potatoes and other crops on thousands of acres of land in the Sugar Camp-Rhinelander area of Oneida County, has been served with federal search warrants as part of an ongoing probe, according to the U.S. Attorney General's Office in Madison.

“Several search warrants have been executed on the farms in connection with allegations of violations of federal wildlife laws,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Pete Jarosz told NN.N when reached by telephone Thursday, May 13, in response to an inquiry. “I am unable at this time to provide any further information because the investigation is ongoing.”

Paul Sowinski, a vice president of Sowinski Farms, said he had “no comment” when contacted by NN.N and hung up without answering any questions.

Although it's not clear what federal violations of wildlife laws are alleged,  sources say there are reports that wolves have been poisoned on the Sowinksi farm land, located about 10 miles north of Rhinelander on both sides of State Hwy 17. The poison was said by at least one source to be contained in beavers that had been eaten by wolves, but so far federal authorities and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which also is investigating, are not providing any official information. DNR game wardens referred all inquiries to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Madison.

In May 2009, gray wolves were removed from the federal list of endangered species, but are still listed as a protected species. According to DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reinstate federal protection of wolves in the upper Great Lakes region.

In a recent update posted on its website, DNR stated: “All restrictions and requirements in place under the Endangered Species Act prior to the delisting are thus reinstated. This means that landowners are no longer permitted to shoot wolves. However, Wildlife Services can give advice and assist landowners who are experiencing problem wolves.”

In April 2010, DNR petitioned the federal government to remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list in Wisconsin.

“We have a healthy and growing wolf population,” said DNR Secretary Matt Frank said at the time. “Restoration of this majestic wild animal is a great success story, an indicator of our state's quality wild land habitat, and our dedication to wolf management in Wisconsin.”

According to published reports, Sowinski Farms is one of the largest suppliers of chip stock potatoes to national companies including Frito-Lay and Snowden to be made into potato chips. The company also operates a large potato farm in Charleston, Mo. Sowinski Farms produces potatoes, snap beans, corn soybeans, small grains and hay on thousands of acres of land north of Rhinelander, largely in Sugar Camp, and has been operating since 1948. Annual potato production is reportedly nearing 30 million pounds. Spring plantings are under way and harvesting takes place in September. An April 2010 article on Sowinski Farms and interview with Paul Sowinski can be found here

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