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Articles from 2016 In May

SCOTUS upholds landowner rights in WOTUS

Supreme Court ruling
<p>Supreme Court ruling cheered by landowners</p>

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a pivotal decision in the ongoing and protracted efforts by cattle producers and other landowners to protect themselves from the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers and the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulations.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc., set a precedent that landowners may challenge the Corps’ jurisdictional determination specifying that a piece of property contains a “water of the United States.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association filed an amicus brief in support of Hawkes. NCBA President Tracy Brunner said this is a major victory for landowners across the country.

“This case highlights the issues landowners and land-use stakeholders have with the Clean Water Act,” said Brunner. “Neither of the options provided to landowners are realistic under the current regulatory environment. Applying for a 404 permit is expensive, exhaustive and time consuming. Gambling on EPA enforcement and risking civil and criminal penalties is foolish. This case strikes a balance that at least gives us some measure of regulatory certainty in the notoriously unclear Clean Water Act.”

The Hawkes case involved three companies engaged in mining peat in Minnesota. Due to the difficulty inherent in determining the need for a 404 Dredge and Fill Permit, the Army Corps allows property owners to obtain a standalone jurisdictional determination if a particular piece of property contains a WOTUS and therefore requires a 404 permit before using the land.

Upon receiving an approved jurisdictional determination that their land did contain a WOTUS, the companies exhausted the administrative remedies available and then filed suit in Federal District Court challenging the Corps’ jurisdictional determination. The government argued that such a jurisdictional determination was not final agency action and that landowners would have to either discharge without a permit and then challenge EPA enforcement or apply for a permit and challenge the outcome.

“Given the subjective nature of a determination and the inconsistent application of the Clean Water Act, knowing what is or is not a WOTUS was ripe for challenge,” said Brunner. “The ability to challenge a determination before going through the time-consuming and costly permitting process, or gambling on EPA enforcement, provides a measure of fairness to landowners.”

In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy expressed the Court’s continued concern with the Clean Water Act, “[t]he Act… continues to raise troubling questions regarding the Government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the Nation.” NCBA is committed to continuing its WOTUS lawsuit on behalf of its members.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), now, when the Corps asserts jurisdiction over low spots that look more like land than water, it will have to do so with the knowledge that its jurisdictional determination can be tested in court.

“Today’s decision removes a huge roadblock that has prevented landowners from obtaining relief from the courts when the Corps illegally claims their land is federally regulated water,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Now, farmers and ranchers can have their day in court when the government tells them they cannot plow a field or improve a ditch without a federal permit.”


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Don’t delay: Order your hay trailers now and avoid summer backlogs

Inefficient or undependable hay trailers can be costly.  When baling hay, particularly the first cutting, leaving bales sitting in the field can stunt or kill the grass, and make it difficult to achieve healthy second and third cuttings.  Unreliable trailers that break down when they are needed are even more costly and can jeopardize the quality and quantity of the entire hay growing operation.

Instead of being caught unprepared and needing a hay trailer during the busiest season of the year, proactive ranchers and farmers are now planning ahead.  To optimize production, they are working with their dealers and ordering prior to peak seasonal backlogs.

Haying time is upon us and even if you’ve been delayed by rain and have postponed filling your need for new equipment, such as hay trailers, the time to act is now. Further delay may leave you waiting 6-12 weeks, or settling for a lesser trailer, just as peak summer hay season hits.

Ag pros know how hard it is to do without a needed hay trailer during peak season because the dealer does not have their top choice in stock.  Then it can be a mad scramble to buy any equipment, even an unreliable brand or a flatbed, to bring in the bales and clear the fields.

Avoid Waiting

While manufacturers try to ease the shortage of top hay trailer brands during peak season, waiting too long is a recipe for doing without.

Every year, for instance, the manufacturer of the Red Rhino hay trailer, GoBob Pipe & Steel (, builds hay trailers all winter and usually has a hundred or more in stock by mid-April.  But by July, that stock is all sold and customers are forced onto a waiting list. 

“Each year before the season starts, we pile up more hay trailers than the previous year, and every year we still run out,” says Bob Studebaker, owner of GoBob.  “The backlog during seasonal demand is an industry-wide issue, and it has been particularly bad the last two years.”

The seasonal crush also causes logistical problems.  “Because everyone wants their hay trailers at once, friends, relatives, and friends of friends are often recruited to help make deliveries,” says Studebaker.  “Don’t be surprised if I am the one delivering your hay trailer this summer.”

Be Efficient

Because clearing bales from the fields fast and efficiently is a priority, one of the most popular categories today are self-unloading hay trailers.

Loading bales on a flatbed truck not only requires securing them to the flatbed but also tractors are needed to load and unload the bales.  If the same tractor is used to load and unload, it has to be hauled back and forth.  This wastes time for those waiting at the hay lot for it to arrive.

“With self-unloading hay trailers like the Red Rhino, there is no need to strap hay down because they sit in a cradle so they are safe and will not roll off,” says Studebaker.  “On a trailer like this, you pull a lever and it unloads itself in seconds so you are headed right back to get the next load.”

Such self-unloading hay trailers also make it unnecessary to have a second tractor to unload bales.  This way a single tractor can be efficiently used to load bales, rather than having to be hauled back and forth to load and unload bales.

Make It Reliable

One of the worst case scenarios of waiting too long to order a needed hay trailer is having to settle for an off brand, unreliable brand, or whatever the dealer may have in stock.  Unfortunately, such equipment may not be built with the durability required to clear the fields of bales – or keep it out of the repair shop – when you need it most.

For ranchers and farmers who do not want to worry about anyone tearing up their equipment, it is best to consider a hay trailer that is built to last like the Red Rhino.  Besides an extra wide 5’ frame and double latches, for extra strength, this trailer uses more steel in the cradle, neck, axles, main tube, and rail supports.

 “Reliability and dependability are the main reasons this trailer has remained a top seller.  But if you want your first choice of trailer, you better order quickly before they are sold out,” adds Studebaker

Activists push for vegan lifestyle through billboard campaigns

Activists push for vegan lifestyle through billboard campaigns

With the warmer days of spring and summer, many folks are on the road traveling to camp, going to concerts or other fun outings. No matter where you live in the country, one commonality we all see while driving on major interstates and highways is billboard advertisements. Animal rights activists have strategically placed billboards, just in time for the major traveling season, and their campaigns have gotten some attention in the press recently.

One such billboard (pictured right) includes images of dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, chickens, cattle, pigs and ducks. The message reads, “All animals want to live. Where do you draw the line?”

A meme going around the internet splits livestock from the pets and says, “Bout right there.” The internet meme has gone viral recently, drumming up a lot comments from people discussing whether it’s ethical to have some animals as pets and use some for food.

I really like what agricultural advocates and Kansas farmers, the Peterson Farm Brothers, have to say on the issue. Here is their response to the billboard:

The Petersons write, “This post has been making the rounds lately. Vegans argue that ‘all animals want to live.’ The reason all of these animals get to live is because humans desire their meat, milk, or companionship. If we took away any of those demands, the numbers of these animals would severely decline, meaning that less animals would get to live! For every person who wants a dog or a cat as a companion, a horse to ride, a burger, a glass of milk, a leather jacket, an animal gets to live! If you want these animals to live, then you can't constantly petition to remove the demand for their lives.

“So, where should the line be drawn? The reason we use some of these animals for food, some of them for transportation, and some of them for companionship, is because that's what each of them are best suited for. You can't have a cow in the house as a pet. And why would you eat a tiny little cat, when a steer makes 1,000 hamburgers (that taste much better)? The line is drawn differently for each culture depending on their tastes, how much money they make, what is available, etc. But it usually follows what each animal is best suited for.”

The Peterson Brothers then linked to a blog post explaining to consumers why we raise animals for food, and I think their blog post is worth sharing. Check it out here.

A second billboard was placed by PETA in the hopes of appealing to fans at the Indianapolis 500, where for the last 80 years, race car drivers celebrate their victories with a quart of milk.

Of course, PETA has a beef with this congratulatory milk toast, so they placed a billboard along the route to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that reads, "Think before you drink. Cow’s milk is for calves, not drivers or other humans.”

According to Jeremy Brillian, WTHR reporter, a PETA representative claimed that the dairy industry is "cruel to cows and that there's nothing healthy about drinking baby food of another species.”

Read more here about the milk tradition and how race fans are responding to PETA’s billboard campaign.

If you’re involved in a local or state cattlemen’s group, it might be time to use some checkoff dollars to post some billboards in high traffic areas for the summer months. While it might be hard to measure the impact, it’s nice to balance out the conversation and the things consumers will read as they head to their next summer adventure on the road.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


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6 Trending Headlines: Value-added programs pay off; PLUS: Yes this IS rocket science

<p>Ranchers watch cattle auction</p>

For many cattle producers, turnout on summer grass is upon them or has already happened. It’s not too soon to think about value-added markets for your calves this fall. That and other news you can use awaits you in this week’s Trending Headlines.


5 Memorial Day blogs that serve as a tribute to the fallen

5 Memorial Day blogs that serve as a tribute to the fallen

It’s Memorial Day, and our family is busy breeding another cycle of synchronized cows, moving more pairs to pasture and squeezing in a second birthday party for our daughter, Scarlett, before the new baby arrives.

Over the holiday weekend, many Americans will camp, boat, fish, hike, and grill with family and friends. Of course, Memorial Day isn’t just an excuse for a three-day weekend, it’s also a time to remember the men and women who have sacrificed so much so that we can have the freedom to pursue happiness and live in a safe, secure place.

In honor of those men and women, I’ve rounded up five great online reads that celebrate this holiday and remind us to take a minute to reflect on the loss, sacrifice and courage of these individuals who served our country.

1. “When every day is memorial day” by David Gonzalez for The New York Times

“I had always been kind of bothered by Memorial Day as it functions in America, as a three-day weekend, a trip to the beach or a barbecue,” said photographer Andrew Lichtenstein. “I always felt there could and should be a more meaningful acknowledgment of those who served.”

Lichtenstein shared images from military funerals that showcase the loss of American soldiers and the heartache shared by those who loved them.

2. “Remembering the fallen and serving our veterans” by Bill Menner, Iowa State Director for USDA Rural Development

Menner shares how a USDA Rural Development home repair grant helped one veteran build an outdoor ramp to allow him to safely leave his home just in time to visit graves of his fellow soldiers.

3. “10 things to remember about Memorial Day” by David Holzel for Mental Floss

Holzel writes, “Memorial Day is much more than just a three-day weekend and a chance to get the year's first sunburn. Here's a handy 10-pack of facts to give the holiday some perspective.”

4. “I’ve never thought about Memorial Day like this” by Dan Doyle for

Doyle writes, “Most Americans have little knowledge of, or connection to the Memorial Day events. This is the first long weekend of the summer and most will be thinking of anything but Memorial Day. It is a reality that those who have served this country in uniform, and their families, are less than 1% of the American population. Most people today, even though we have been at war for the last 14 years, do not even know anyone who is serving, or who has served in our military.”

5. “Memorial Day is more than a grilling holiday” by Troy Marshall for BEEF

Marshall writes, “It seems incomplete to talk about Memorial Day beef demand without talking about the real significance of the holiday. I’ve always been taught that there is no greater gift to give than to lay down one’s life for another. It is what Jesus Christ did and it changed the course of all humanity. It is what our soldiers have done for us and it not only won us our freedom, but the right to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities.”

Today we remember the fallen and show our gratitude for those who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms in the U.S. Happy Memorial Day!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


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Meat Market Update | Choice cutout higher this week

Ed Czerwien, USDA Market News reporter in Amarillo, Texas, provides us with the latest outlook on boxed beef prices and the weekly cattle trade.

The Comprehensive or weekly average Choice cutout was $8.32 higher this week on the heels of the daily spot trade price rally as well as quite a few formulas that were priced off of last week's even bigger spot trade jump.  The total sales were down 1063 loads than the previous week but many retail operations had already gotten their Memorial Day product the previous week and probably won't reorder much until they see just how good sales were.

Find more cattle price news here or bookmark our commodity price page for the minute-by-minute updates.

How Michelle Obama’s nutrition facts label will impact you

It looks like Big Brother is eyeing your dinner plate again. Since President Obama took office eight years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama has been busy running her own nutritional campaign. From “Let’s Move” to USDA’s MyPlate and her changes to food policies which have impacted programs like WIC, school lunches and other federally run programs, the First Lady has been busy in the arena of human health and nutrition during her time in the White House.

However, despite how noble her efforts and intentions might have been the last eight years, the actions she has taken to shrink America’s waistline haven’t been based on sound science, and they’ve resulted in costly regulations that have hit retailers, manufacturers, farmers and even consumers at the grocery store.

With only a few months left of her tenure, First Lady Obama has finalized a new and controversial rule with the Food and Drug Administration that would significantly change the nutrition facts label. The regulation would require food manufacturers to list added sugars on the label, and according to a FOX News article, scientists are saying this addition to food labels lacks “scientific rigor.”

According to the article, which was originally featured in the Washington Free Beacon, “A letter critical of the new label signed by a dozen scientists, including Roger Clemens, a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and Eric A. Decker, the head of the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget. The scientists said the new label is “misleading,” and note that it was based on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, whose committee did not include a single expert on sugars.”

While these regulations don’t directly impact beef producers, the real problem with Obama’s newest interference with America’s food choices is the cost. The label will reportedly cost “at least $640 million to update with a social cost of $1.4 billion,” according to the article.

So what does that mean for consumers? The cost of everyday items like cereal will go up, which mean consumers will have less money to spend on their favorite proteins like beef. If the price of your morning box of cereal jumps from $3-4 to $8, thanks to the food manufacturers costs that will ultimately be passed onto consumers, then it will only result in higher grocery bills and less disposable income for consumers to spend to stimulate the economy.

Current food labels already include grams of sugar, so why make it more complicated than it already is? No matter which way you slice it, this regulation is a bad idea.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


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20+ images of Kansas ranchers connecting with area consumers

Recently, the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) hosted a farm tour, which was organized by Greenwood County CattleWomen. Nearly 100 consumers from the Wichita area participated in the educational event, which was the brainchild of KLA member Jamie Lindamood.

“I think that one of the best things that came from this tour is that a line of communication has been opened,” said Lindamood. “Agriculture is a very complex world, and the people and groups that oppose the way we do things speak a lot louder than we (farmers and ranchers) do. Most of the attendees had very little knowledge of the agricultural world. We needed to start a forum where they could ask a question without feeling judged.”

So what did consumers learn while riding a Greyhound bus? The topics ranged from pasture management, crop and hay production, farm equipment, beef by-products and more.

Read more about the tour here.

Photos courtesy of Melissa Hebb, Tobie Andrews Photography.

How the media got it wrong about the euthanized Yellowstone bison calf

How the media got it wrong about the euthanized Yellowstone bison calf

A few weeks ago, tourists picked up an abandoned bison calf in Yellowstone and hauled the animal in their car to area officials in hopes of finding help for the baby. They thought the calf looked cold and needed assistance.

The action was unlawful, unnecessary and delighted the media, which was keen to share the news that park rangers euthanized the calf after it was turned over by the tourists to officials. People were outraged, and journalists had a field day writing about humane treatment of animals. Here are four things I think the tourists, the media and online commenters missed about the situation:

1. The Yellowstone bison herd is mismanaged and  overpopulated

Photo Credit: Karen Olsen Richardson

Ask ranchers in the area, and they’ll be quick to tell you that the bison herd numbers have completely surpassed the numbers that are allowed in the park. From what I’ve been told, the herd numbers shouldn’t be more than 2,500, yet more than 5,500 roam the park and the surrounding pastures, which are typically managed by local ranchers.

This leads to overgrazing and impacts other species in the park ranging from elk to beavers to bees. I don’t mean to sound heartless to the people who fell in love with this bison calf, but the reality is that nature is a cruel beast, and not every animal thrives in the wild. Is one less bison calf really “a tragedy,” as the media is calling it?

2. Brucellosis is a major issue in the Yellowstone bison herd

According to USDA’s APHIS, “More than 50% of the bison in Yellowstone National Park test positive for brucellosis. A positive test indicates that animals have been exposed and are most likely infected. The concern is that when these bison leave the park, they may transmit brucellosis to cattle in the surrounding states.”

The bison have also infected the elk population, and ranchers have told me that grazing their cattle near the park is no longer worth the risk because of the devastation it could cause to their herds if exposed to a brucellosis-infected bison cow.

3. The tourists’ decision to move the bison calf was illegal and dangerous

Never mind the fact that the mama bison could have been right around the corner and could have hurt the tourists or damaged their vehicle in their rescue attempt, it’s also very illegal to mess with the wildlife found in the park; plus, it increased the risk of brucellosis spreading to the surrounding brucellosis-free states.

In an ABC News article, Charissa Reid, Yellowstone public affairs, said, “You have to understand that we're not in the business of animal rescue. It’s also illegal to transport wild bison outside the park without having them tested and monitored for brucellosis. The park just doesn't have the facility or capacity to quarantine, test and monitor the calf. It was just a very inhumane situation. The calf was either going to starve to death, get sick, get hit or cause an accident, so we had to make the difficult decision to put it down.”

4. Tourists need to be mindful that they, too, are disrupters in nature

It’s very easy to be sympathetic to an abandoned bison calf on the side of the road when you’re in your air-conditioned car on a vacation from the concrete jungle. And it’s easy to cry over the poor dogs and cats when you watch those animal rights activists’ commercials begging for money, but consumers often forget that taking care of these animals requires a lot of time, money and labor. While it’s easy to point fingers from afar, I have to ask how many of these folks would have been willing to offer refuge to the bison calf in their own homes or back yards?

What’s more, while tourists pay fees that can help support places like Yellowstone National Park, any time a tourist decides to interfere with nature when visiting public parks — whether that’s loading up a bison calf in the back of an SUV or dumping litter on the side of the road — those actions, too, don’t help the animals.

As a society, we are guilty of romanticizing issues like these, but we are also too far away in our vantage point to understand the practical issues of trying to save every bison calf and every beast that roams the earth.

Perhaps others might see it differently, but that’s my two cents. This bison calf had his 15 minutes of fame, and unfortunately, the press did little to remind tourists to respect the animals in national parks by giving them the space they require. Instead, it placed blame on the park rangers for doing their jobs and managing the tricky position those tourists put them in. What do you think about this story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


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