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.