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      Businesses rally to keep farmers out of jail

      Businesses that rely on dairy from a Thumb-area farm are urging a judge not to send the owners to jail next week for hiring illegal immigrants.

      John and Anja Verhaar are returning to federal court Tuesday, four months after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges.

      Aquila farms has agreed to pay a $2.7 million penalty.

      The Verhaars have acknowledged employing about 80 illegal immigrants from 2000 through much of 2007.

      They turned a small farm into a 5,000 cow operation in Huron County.

      Businesses that provide services to the farm say they would be greatly harmed if the owners go to jail.

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