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Check almost in the mail

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Repayment of an $8 million state loan to the Safe Foods Corporation of North Little Rock is taking longer than expected, but the firm is now profitable and plans to have the loan paid off "in a few years," according to a Safe Foods executive. Public interest in the loan apparently was stimulated by the U.S. Senate candidacy of Curtis W. Coleman, former president and chief executive officer of Safe Foods and still a member of the board of directors. Last month, Coleman finished fifth of eight candidates in the Republican primary, won by U.S. Rep. John Boozman. Coleman resigned as president last year to make the Senate race, and was succeeded by Rush Deacon.

Founded in 1999, Safe Foods makes a spray to kill bacteria that contaminate food. In 2005, Safe Foods received an $8 million loan, half guaranteed by the Arkansas Development Finance Authority and half by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. As of last month, the company still owed $6,677,463. Gene Eagle, a vice president of ADFA, wouldn't say when the loan was and is supposed to be repaid, saying the information was exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act.

On his Senate campaign website, Coleman said that Safe Foods had little to no revenue for most of its existence, a circumstance he blamed on government bureaucracy and international trade barriers. The company is now making money, according to Deacon.

Crocodile tears for cats and dogs

A group called the Center for Consumer Freedom sent us a news release saying, among other things, "Humane Society of the United States Shortchanges Arkansas Pet Shelters ... Data Show HSUS gave Arkansas shelters only $31,000 Over Three-Year Period," even though HSUS raises millions of dollars in contributions nationwide.

Despite its name, the CCF was not founded nor is it financed by consumers, or by animal lovers, either. It's a front group for restaurant, meat and other industries and was founded by a much-criticized Washington lobbyist named Rick Berman. It battles animal-rights and consumer groups.

It's true, though perhaps irrelevant, that HSUS does not hand out large sums of money to local animal shelters. Jordan Crump of HSUS said that was not the group's mission. HSUS does more hands-on animal sheltering than any other group, she said, but "We also work on issues that local groups can't do. We have sanctuaries across the country for exotic animals. We provide low-cost veterinary service in low-income areas. We rescue pets from puppy mills, and after natural disasters like hurricanes. We run spay-neuter programs."

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