Bird flu spreads in northern Plains, Minnesota hit again
For the first time this year, officials identified highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in domestic flocks in Montana and Colorado. With the discoveries, bird flu has been found in 25 states, from Maine and North Carolina and Texas and Wyoming since early February and at 159 sites totaling 24.65 million birds, mostly chickens and turkeys, according to USDA data.
Q&A: A rural Montana school district scrambles keep kids fed during pandemic
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)
Court documents show beef checkoff sends millions to cattle lobby
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)
Appeals court sides with ranchers on Montana beef checkoff
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
Montana beef checkoff injunction goes to court
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 …
Mars’ Montana ranch sold for $64.8 million
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.
Climate change hits malt barley, which means your beer
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)
Some Montana ranchers try to coexist with grizzlies
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.
Montana Senator helps Chinese win $200-million sweetheart deal for cattle
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.
Interior’s sage grouse plan may affect western ranchers
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.
Montana ranchers worry new radioactive waste rule isn’t enough
Since 2013, nearly 233,000 tons of radioactive waste, much of it from the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota, has been disposed of at a site near Glendive, Montana. Now, after years of prodding, the state has finally proposed a rule for handling oilfield waste, but area ranchers and farmers think the plan leaves them deeply vulnerable.
USDA allows emergency haying of set-aside land in northern Plains
With drought intensifying in the northern Plains, the USDA is taking an additional step to help ranchers short of livestock forage. The owners of land idled in the Conservation Reserve have USDA approval to harvest hay from the set-aside land in counties in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana where drought conditions are rated as "severe" or worse.
Drought in northern Plains fuels futures market
Futures prices for spring wheat soared 40 percent in a month and hit nearly $8 a bushel at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange on Monday, a four-year high, due to drought in the northern Plains, said the Wall Street Journal. The spring wheat prices, far above USDA's forecast of a season average $4.30 a bushel for this year's wheat crop, illustrate the demand for high-quality wheat despite a global glut.
More hunting could hurt Yellowstone wolf research
Experts worry that as the gray wolf population just outside of Yellowstone National Park continues to grow, looser hunting restrictions in surrounding states could change pack behavior and hurt one of the most comprehensive research studies on the species anywhere in the world.
A threat to livestock, New World screwworm found in southern Florida
Federal and state officials are watching for further signs of New World screwworm, a maggot that kills animals by feeding on their flesh, after the pest was found in wounds on a stray dog near Homestead, in Miami-Dade County in southern Florida. "This is the first confirmed case on Florida's mainland," said USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Zinke is no zealot, but ranchers and greens have much to worry about
Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Montana Republican, is reportedly president-elect Donald Trump’s choice to run the U.S. Department of the Interior. Zinke, who has both voted against the transfer of public lands to states and advocated for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund — a priority for sportsmen — is not as divisive a pick as other rumored contenders, such as oil-friendly Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin or former Alaska Gov. Sarah “drill baby drill” Palin. That said, environmentalists aren’t exactly cheering, either.
Can the U.S. save this dinosaur fish?
After 70 million years on earth, the fate of the pallid sturgeon depends on what officials decide to do about a a single dam, says High Country News. A prehistoric-looking fish with ghostly white skin, the species is down to fewer than 125 wild-born adults in Montana’s upper Missouri River Basin.
Opponents call farm animal referendum in Massachusetts a food tax
Half-a-dozen farm, retail and agribusiness groups say a voter initiative in Massachusetts on animal welfare will drive up production costs and equate to an indirect food tax. The proposal, which had more than 2-to-1 support in a recent opinion poll, would end the use of sow crates, veal calf stalls and battery cages for egg-laying hens.