Like school nutrition staff across the country, Marsha Wartick, food service director for the Ronan School District in tiny Ronan, Montana, spent the last six months feeding hungry kids and their families under a USDA emergency meals program. Now, as kids head back to school, Wartick is scrambling to react to mixed signals from the administration and hoping the emergency program is allowed to continue through the entire school year. (No paywall)
Newly released documents in a lawsuit between a group of independent Montana cattle ranchers and the USDA show that millions of dollars from an industry marketing fund are being diverted to the top cattle lobby, which some ranchers have long claimed misappropriates those funds for political use. The case could reshape how the beef checkoff, as the marketing program is called, is administered.(No paywall)
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s 2017 injunction against the collection of the Montana state beef checkoff in a decision released Monday. The ruling supports ranchers’ claim that the state's beef checkoff program impinges on their First Amendment rights by obligating them to pay taxes to support “private speech.” As the case between the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) and the Department of Agriculture unfolds, it has greater implications for checkoff programs in other states. No paywall
In June 2017, a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary injunction on the allocation of Montana’s state beef checkoff funds. At a hearing on Monday before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Feedstuffs reports, advocates for independent ranchers faced off against lawyers for the Department …
A ranch covering 93,280 acres in southeastern Montana, assembled by Forrest Mars, former co-president of the giant Mars candy company, sold for $64.8 million to Heal Holdings, of Florida, said Drovers.
Summer storms and unpredictable “flash droughts” have proven a challenge to farmers who grow malt barley in Montana. As the climate has gradually warmed, a once-hospitable environment for the grain has become far more tenuous, says Ari LeVaux in FERN’s latest story, with The Weather Channel. (No paywall)
In Montana's Tom Miner Basin, just outside the protected wilds of Yellowstone National Park, ranchers are embracing a variety of non-lethal strategies to deal with an influx of grizzlies, reports Ensia in a story done in partnership with the Food & Environment Reporting Network. It's an experiment that could have broad implications for how the livestock industry manages these and other top predators as climate change restricts their traditional food supply.
During President Donald Trump’s recent trip to China, Montana's Republican Senator Steve Daines negotiated a $300 million beef cattle deal between the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Chinese e-retailer JD.com. The deal calls for the retailer to buy $200 million of cattle between 2018 and 2020, and invest $100 million in a new feedlot and packing plant in Montana. Some ranchers are concerned that this unusual deal will favor certain ranchers over others, and further concentrate power over the American livestock sector in the hands of Chinese companies.
In a move that unnerved many environmentalists, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced last summer that the agency would be reviewing the federal conservation plan for sage grouse — a bird that matters at least as much to ranchers as it does to conservationists. In the West, sage grouse has become the symbol of an urgent effort to save the larger sagebrush ecosystem from disappearing to cropland, wildfires and invasive species.