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EQUIPMENT THEFT RING BUSTED

The Sheriff's Department of Ventura County announced that its Construction Burglary Task Force has effectively dismantled a criminal organization responsible for construction site burglaries, rental equipment thefts and landscape equipment thefts that have plagued Southern California and the Southwestern United States for the past three and a half years.

The four-month investigation resulted in the recovery of more than 25,000 pieces of stolen property valued at $3.5 million. The investigation resulted in the arrest of 28 people so far and the seizing of more than $200,000 in cash. About a third of the pieces have been returned to their owners. Victims included contractors, landscapers and equipment rental companies in nine states.

FUNDS UPPED TO FIGHT EMERALD ASH BORER

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Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced an additional $1.85 million in funding for the state of Ohio's emerald ash borer (EAB) eradication program.

“This funding is part of the Bush Administration's commitment to help ensure this invasive species does not spread into additional states,” said Johanns. “It's critical that the emerald ash borer is contained so we can protect the ash trees in our nation's urban and rural forests that are an integral part of the forest ecosystem and our economy.”

Tree removal is currently the only means to eradicate EAB. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Ohio Department of Agriculture will use the funding for tree removal at the North Baltimore site.

FIRE ANT QUARANTINE AMENDED

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it is amending the imported fire ant quarantine to include all or portions of 18 additional counties in Tennessee and one additional county in Arkansas.

APHIS currently regulates portions of, or entire areas of, 13 states including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The interstate movement of regulated articles, including soil, plants and sod, is restricted from the quarantined area. This action is necessary to prevent the spread of imported fire ants to noninfested areas of the United States.

ROUNDS DOWN SLIGHTLY IN JULY

Same-store rounds played in the United States decreased slightly (-0.3 percent) in July 2005 vs. July 2004, based on data from operators at 1,819 golf facilities. That leaves the year-to-date number 0.9 percent behind the 2004 pace. Best performing regions in July were the South Central (up 4.1 percent) and Northeast (up 3.4 percent). The worst performing region was the Upper Midwest (down 3.6 percent).

The best performing region year-to-date through July was the Gulf Coast (up 3.9 percent) — but that is sure to change given the destructive path of Hurricane Katrina. The worst performing region year-to-date was the Southwest (down 5.8 percent), which had monsoon-like rains earlier in the year.

CONGRESS PASSES NEW ENERGY BILL

A comprehensive energy bill that includes a provision extending Daylight Savings Time was passed by Congress shortly before their August recess began. When signed by the President, the legislation will move the beginning of Daylight Savings Time to the second Sunday of March and extend it to the first Sunday in November, adding over a month. The spring extension, in particular, will especially benefit retailers in the South and West.

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