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Farmers protest in Tokyo

TOKYO -- Angry farmers brought two cows to Tokyo, shouting and punching the air yesterday in a protest to demand compensation for products contaminated by radiation spewing from Japan's crippled nuclear plant.

The 200 farmers, mostly from northeastern Japan, wore green bandanas, held aloft cabbages they said they couldn't sell and carried signs saying "Stop nuclear energy" outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant damaged in the March 11 tsunami.

"My patience has run out. The nuclear crisis is totally destroying our farming business," said Katsuo Okazaki, 72, who grows peaches and apples.

Radiation leaking from Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, about 140 miles north of Tokyo, has been found in milk, water and vegetables such as spinach from around the plant.

Authorities have banned the sale of raw milk from some towns near the plant, as well as spinach, cabbage, broccoli and several other leafy vegetables from throughout Fukushima prefecture, though most restrictions in nearby prefectures have been lifted.

But even once restrictions are removed and produce is deemed safe, farmers throughout the northeast fear consumers will shun their products.

The utility says it will take six to nine months to bring the plant into cold shutdown, a crucial step for allowing the roughly 80,000 people evacuated from a 12-mile area around the plant to return home.

Farmers among the evacuees also are concerned about the estimated 3,000 cows, 130,000 pigs and 680,000 chickens they had to leave behind to fend for themselves. Some have died already, and many are weak and dying.

"I'm here in protest, and to get an apology," said Masaki Yoshizawa, who had 300 head of high-grade "wagyu" cattle on a ranch about 9 miles from the plant.

TEPCO were to start depositing initial compensation payments of $12,000 per household into bank accounts of people forced by leaking radiation to evacuate, Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said.

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