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Consider a philanthropic trust

Some family businesses accumulate more wealth than can be productively utilized by the next generation. Some of those assets might be put into a charitable trust.

“History shows us that successful families pass down not only wealth, but also values,” says Arlene Cogen, a certified financial planner and philanthropic leadership consultant based in Portland, Oregon ( “A business transition is a good opportunity to set up a philanthropic vehicle such as a donor advised fund or a private foundation.   They allow multiple generations to work, give and serve the community together while reducing taxes.”

Your business can be seen as a valuable community resource when you establish programs that help youth, education, or the homeless.  There is no shortage of need.  “Giving money away is good for business,” says Cogen. “It elevates you in the community and that tends to come back ten-fold.”

Family business trusts: Protecting valuable assets

James runs a rapidly growing family business. Things are going great now, but he worries about the future. If he should suddenly become incapacitated, who will run the enterprise for the benefit of his wife and children, none of whom has yet mastered the skills required to manage a commercial operation?

After consulting with his attorney, James comes up with a solution: a revocable trust which designates a skilled trustee to take the reins of the business in the event James can no longer perform his duties. By helping to assure the long-term survival of the enterprise, the trust gives the family considerable peace of mind.

“A revocable trust is created while a business owner is still alive,” explains Michael P. Sampson, partner in the Minneapolis law firm of Maslon LLP ( “It allows the owner to retain control of business assets while arranging for a trustee to step in and manage things in case the owner becomes incapacitated.” The revocable nature of the trust is important for anyone who, like James, wants to retain ownership and control of the business assets. And—as we will see next-- a revocable trust will also help the family avoid costly probate if James should die.

Avoid probate
Family businesses everywhere establish trusts to solve a host of critical problems. Upon the death of the business owner, for example, a trust can protect against costly probate, secure sensitive business information from prying eyes, guard family assets from crippling lawsuits and creditor claims, and even obviate turf wars by surviving children. (The traditional use of trusts to avoid estate taxes has become less important, since federal tax law recently increased the estate tax exemption to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for married couples.)

The good news is that trusts can be created by all sizes of organizations. “Even smaller family businesses can utilize trusts,” says John J. Scroggin, partner in Atlanta-based Scroggin & Company, a law firm active in business and estate planning ( “The issue is driven not by size, in terms of revenues or assets, but by a desire for long term protection of a business.”

How can you use trusts to help your own family business? For starters, consider using one to efficiently allocate assets to the younger generation. Although a will can do the same thing, a trust is more difficult to challenge and has the advantage of avoiding probate. “Probate can be expensive and time consuming,” says Sampson. “This is especially true in states such as California, Florida, Illinois, and New York, where probate is very complicated, or for businesses operating in more than one state.” In the latter case, survivors may have to deal with the complications required to satisfy the requirements of more than one set of probate laws.

In addition to saving you money, avoiding probate can also protect your business secrets. “You might not want your competitors looking up your will at the courthouse to see how much money or debt your family has,” says Sampson. Public records are also sometimes accessed by predators who try to victimize people who have inherited money. “Having your property passed along under the terms of a trust avoids the creation of public records that result from court involvement.”  

Protect assets
Can a trust which allocates family business assets to the next generation be revocable? Yes, but that has inherent risks. Consider Sarah, who wants to do just that. Sarah’s attorney tells her that if she makes the trust revocable, all of the business assets will remain under the ownership of the family. As a result, they will be at the risk of being attached by creditors or lost in lawsuits. The assets might also be seized to satisfy any nursing home bills incurred by the person who establishes the trust.

For these reasons, Sarah decides to set up an irrevocable trust. Because the trust will own the business assets, they will not be subject to above risks of loss, either before or after Beth dies.

The terms of an irrevocable trust can address the demands of complex family dynamics. Here are a few examples:

To protect the income of a young child - Adam and Sylvia, who own all of the stock of ABC Company, have a nine-year-old child named Jane. They establish an irrevocable trust that designates Adam’s brother Jason as the trustee. In the event of the death of the parents, Jason will run the enterprise. Jane, the trust’s beneficiary, will receive stock dividends and distributions from any assets.

To avoid sibling disputes - Andrew and Beth are concerned that when they die their children might squabble about the family business assets, putting the organization’s survival at risk. Daughter Suzy has already said she wants to run the business, while her brother John feels the business should be sold and the assets distributed.

“A trust can designate that Suzy will run the business, and that John will not be involved but will receive a certain amount of money monthly from the trust,” says Nicole N. Middendorf, CEO of Prosperwell Financial, Plymouth, Minn ( “And the trustee will make sure the provisions of the trust are carried out.”

In a case like this one, says Middendorf, a trust is especially valuable because it can mandate the disposition of assets at a time when emotions might run high. “Money often brings out greed,” she says. “People can be tempted to make decisions based on their own interests rather than on what makes sense for the future of the company and the family.”

To protect a victim of addiction- Bart and Susan want to avoid leaving a sudden windfall to their son Chet, who is struggling with a drug addiction. How can they make sure Chet is taken care of in the event of their deaths, while avoiding a waste of inherited assets?

“A trust can designate that Chet receive a certain amount of money every month,” says Middendorf. “Or, to avoid funding the addiction a trust can pay his rent so he always has a roof over his head. The trust could even mandate that he pass a drug test to receive his monthly payment.” A similar arrangement can also help out when the beneficiary might have a mental disability.

To control a spendthrift - Some people are just bad with money. Henry and Ida are afraid that their daughter Beverly will spend her inheritance on fancy cars and travel. That’s why they decide to set up a “spendthrift trust” that will release funds only for expenses related to health, education, maintenance and support.

“A spendthrift trust can be a valuable way to protect beneficiaries from spending all of their inheritance,” says Arlene Cogen, a certified financial planner and philanthropic leadership consultant based in Portland, Oregon ( But she warns that it’s not a foolproof mechanism: “Bear in mind beneficiaries can be very creative when it comes to petitioning trustees for health, education, maintenance and support. This can create an adversary relationship between the beneficiary and the trustee. One way around that is to create a trust which provides the individual with a set income stream, so they cannot keep knocking on a trustee’s door for money.”

To obviate claims from an estranged spouse - While Amy and Clark feel their son Andy is skilled enough to run the family business, they are concerned about his marriage to an estranged spouse. In the event of a divorce, will the spouse sue to obtain business assets?

Scroggin offers this solution: Amy and Clark establish a trust that calls for Andy to be paid a salary for his work, while the equity of the business, along with any profits, remains in the trust for protection from lawsuits. In the same way, a trust can protect business assets from the claims of creditors if the inheriting person is in debt.

To avoid claims arising from multiple marriages - Multiple marriages can create their own problems. James wants to make sure that if he dies his wife Mary receives income for life from the company dividends and asset distributions, so that she can take care of their children Betty and Jack. However, if Mary should remarry and then later die, James wants to make sure the money from the business then goes directly to Betty and Jack, and not to Mary’s new spouse or to that individual’s own children.

Again, a trust can mandate this more complex asset distribution pattern. “The division between ownership and benefits can be helpful when people get married more than once and have children from multiple spouses,” says Sampson.

To avoid claims arising from a childless marriage - Harris and Marge have three children named Deborah, Francine and Bart. Deborah is married to a man named Frank but has no children and is not expected to. Harris and Marge are concerned that if Deborah is given some of the equity and then dies, the equity will pass on to Frank, a nonfamily person who may try to dictate business decisions, and make unreasonable demands, such as the hiring of his friends.

Furthermore, if Frank remarries and then dies, his new spouse, a stranger to the family, might end up owning a third of the business. And that person might demand an exorbitant buyout to avoid a lawsuit. “In this example, when Deborah dies without any descendants, a trust can call for her interest to pass on to her siblings or their descendants,” says Scroggin. “Trusts often are used to assure that business interests are retained for the benefit of family members rather than passing to outsiders.”

Stay flexible
The above scenarios illustrate the flexibility of irrevocable trusts. They can do all kinds of things for people who are too young to run a business, have no interest in doing so, are incapacitated, or need to be protected from their own damaging decision-making habits. Trusts solve business problems by separating legal ownership and control of a business from the enjoyment of the business assets by beneficiaries.

Flexibility, though, runs both ways. Attorneys advise against micromanaging the family business transition. “Sometimes people take control too far by not including enough flexibility for the beneficiaries,” says Sampson. “As a result, what seems like a reasonable provision in a trust today might make no sense some years down the road.”

Sampson gives this example: Mark heard that “incentive trusts” could be established to obviate the problem of a child becoming a “trust baby” and slacking off instead of working. So to inspire a work ethic in his son Jerry, Mark established a trust that would provide distributions to match his son’s earned income each year. However, Mark’s attorney encouraged the inclusion of a provision allowing additional distributions in the trustee’s discretion, just to provide flexibility. 

One day Jerry was driving home on a motorcycle when a serious accident left him unable to ever work again. If it were not for the provision allowing discretionary distributions beyond the amount of Jerry’s earned income, the trust assets would not have been available to provide the money required for his medical attendant.

That story carries a moral. “Don’t try to design for a scenario that is too specific,” advises Sampson. “It’s a good idea to include a provision that the trustee can make distributions of income and principal in the trustee’s discretion just in case something unanticipated happens.”

Sampson also suggests another point of flexibility: the ability to change a trustee who is uncommunicative or too tight with distributions.  “There should be a way to replace the trustee,” he says. “You can even give that power to beneficiaries as long as the new trustee is truly independent. The replacement should not be an employee of one of the beneficiaries, for example, or a relative. The flip side is that the trustee must be strong enough to sometimes say ‘no’ to the beneficiaries. The balancing act is to provide enough flexibility without giving so much freedom that the trust becomes a sham.”

Discretionary payments
As the above comments suggest, trusts need to recognize the possibility of future surprises. That’s why the trend today is toward the use of “Discretionary Trusts,” irrevocable trusts which do not specify a set amount of income for beneficiaries but allow for trustee discretion.

Sampson says that many business owners tell the trustees something like this: “I want my kids to be educated, and I don’t want them living in a van because they encounter a health problem. But I do not want the money used for lifestyle enhancement.” Such terms may be included in the trust itself or in a side letter addressed to the trustee.

Discretionary trusts offer considerable protection from creditors and lawsuits. That’s because the law says a creditor can only access the assets of an irrevocable trust to the same extent as the beneficiary. So if the beneficiary cannot get at the money in the trust to pay a business expense without the permission of the trustee, neither can a creditor.

Discretionary trusts also free the trustee to invest for the highest total return without needing to worry about meeting arbitrary mandated payouts. So, for example, the trustee may decide to invest more money in a broad basket of stocks and bonds rather than only in lower-yielding bonds which would provide guaranteed but limited income.

Start early
Starting the trust planning process early will help protect your family business assets from a sudden loss through an unexpected lawsuit or death. “Planning should start as soon as your business has assets worth protecting,” says Bill Babb, Senior Consultant at the Family Business Institute, Raleigh, NC ( “You want a smooth and safe transition program in place before the death of someone in an ownership position.”

When seeking outside help to plan your trust, toss a wide net. A family business transition has implications for income and estate taxes, the protection of assets, and the outstanding agreements of banks and creditors. Because so many areas are involved, experts suggest assembling an advisory team that consists of an attorney, an accountant, a management consultant and a banker.

Having bank lenders represented is especially important. “It often happens that when a key person dies the banks get squirrely and call outstanding notes,” says Babb. “To avoid that, take the initiative long before the actual transition takes place by helping your bankers develop working relationships with whoever will be taking over the reins of the business.”

If designing a trust takes resources away from management duties, the result is worth it. “Protecting family business assets requires a commitment of time, effort and money,” says Babb. “It’s easy to procrastinate and allow the decision-making process to get bogged down. But no one has the promise of tomorrow. The risk of delay is that your business assets go to creditors and the IRS rather than to the people you want to receive them.”

Water, water everywhere? Maybe not

Census map

We recently completed BEEF’s annual State of the Industry survey and the results are interesting and informative. Look for a summary in the June BEEF magazine.

There is one question, however, which I didn’t include in the magazine article that I found interesting. The question was, How concerned are you about water availability in the next 10 to 20 years?

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “not concerned” and 5 being “this is a major concern,” 23.3% of all respondents said they are not concerned about water availability; 14.2% picked 2, which lets label as “kinda concerned;” 36.9% said they are somewhat concerned; 12% picked 4, which we can call “yeah, sorta;” and 13.6% chose 5, this is a major concern.

Combining numbers 1 and 2, 37.5% of the readers who responded to our survey aren’t worried about water availability over the next decade or two. That figure really jumped out at me as I read the survey results, because I’m surprised at how high it is.

Related: Ranchers beware: War over water will only get more intense

Maybe I’m being a Chicken Little here, but I don’t think so. And I’ll freely admit that my viewpoint on this subject is deeply colored by the fact that I’ve never lived in a place where water is truly abundant. But I believe that water availability—who gets how much for what use—will be the defining issue of the 21st Century.

Or at least it will be the defining issue for the arid western half of the United States. The data show that.

Here’s a look at the regional breakout of the data:

As you can see, there is a wide disparity between those in the Mountain and Pacific states with those in other regions of the country. I’m particularly surprised at the responses from the West South Central and West North Central regions, where drought has been an ongoing issue for decades in some states.

Just yesterday morning, I read a report saying that Missouri producers are concerned about drought as they head into the summer grazing season. I’m not familiar with the intricacies of beef production in Missouri’s various ecosystems, but I recall a conversation with a beef producer in southwest Missouri many, many years ago who told me that he’s only two weeks away from a drought.

The reason I remember that is because, as a young pup from the West, it startled me. Depending on the time of year, we could go two months without a rain and not be overly worried.

Read: Ignoring the water problem is no longer an option

I’m not going to get into an argument about climate change in this blog. I believe we are moving into a long-term dry period in our climate, but I absolutely don’t believe it’s man made. I think it’s a normal, natural function of a long-term climate cycle.

If that is true, then the battle for water to irrigate crops and pastures versus suburbanites watering their lawns and half the street as well will only intensify. And there are many other factors that are just as important to others.

Water is indeed the basis for all life. Without it, we cannot survive. Step aside, Chicken Little. This time it’s for real.


Should consumers worry about cattle consuming genetically modified feeds?

Amanda Radke Cattle feeds

Following the Xanto Blizzard in mid-April, where we received 24 inches of snow in two days on top of rain and hail, it’s been a slow spring around here. Not too many planters are in the field yet, and we’re hoping for some warm, windy days to allow crop farmers to work the soil and get seeds in the ground soon.

I know it won’t be long before our quiet gravel road becomes Grand Central Station with equipment rolling by on its way to the fields. As a side note, I’ve already seen two articles about near-fatal accidents involving cars and tractors on the road n Facebook this morning, which serves as a good reminder to all of us to slow down, be alert and watch for farmers on the road this spring.

READ: Tractor driver in critical condition after being struck by box truck

READ: Farmer’s warning after close call on road with tractor

In my neck of the woods, corn and soybeans are the two most common crops on rotation, and of course, most of what is planted is genetically-modified (GM) seed. In recent years, crop farmers have had to actively defend the use of GM seeds in crop production; however, it’s not as often that ranchers are tasked with debunking misconceptions about GM feed in livestock production.

Yet, we have to ask ourselves, if a consumer browsing the meat case at our local grocery store had questions about the GM feeds we offer our cattle, would we be prepared to answer them?

READ: Are beef producers ready to defend GMOs?

Today’s consumer is giving a more critical appraisal to the meats they select. Not only are they looking to meet specific health and nutritional parameters, but they also want their choices to reflect ethical and environmental ideologies that match their values and personal beliefs. Evaluating not only how livestock live, but what they eat, is just another aspect of beef production that is under scrutiny, and of course, GM feeds make a good punching bag.

We’ve seen the public outcry, the attacks on Monsanto, the fear-mongering claims, the hysterical mommy bloggers talking about genetically engineered foods. As livestock producers, we need to think critically about how we can be a part of the conversation to help shed light on the facts while alleviating the concerns about this modern advancement in food production.

A great place to start is this video from The Cornell Alliance for Science. Featuring Alison Van Eenennaam, University of California-Davis Extension animal biotechnology and genomics specialist, the video explains how 95% of all U.S. livestock eat GM feed, and that this feed is safe for the animals and doesn’t reflect on the end product that consumers eat.

VIEW: Watch the video here.

Here is what Eenennaam has to say on the subject:

“The American Association of Animal Science asked me to write a review paper on the health of livestock populations that have consumed genetically engineered feeds. We reviewed the controlled peer reviewed studies done in this area, and the vast majority of these studies have shown no detrimental effects associated with the consumptions of genetically modified feed.”

She says this conclusion was expected because first, when you digest meat, you’re digesting the DNA in the protein, and second, the ingredients these animals consumed are not toxic.

READ: Survey shows consumers want DNA labels on food

Therefore, Eenennaam’s review of the topic helped her come to the conclusion that, without question, the animal’s composition is equivalent to those of animals that didn’t consume GM crops. What’s more, the productivity and health of the animals hasn’t been impacted by animals eating GM feedstuffs.

How can she definitively come up with this conclusion? Well, for starters her data set includes billions of animals.

She says, “It’s estimated that more than 95% of the livestock populations in the U.S. are eating genetically engineered feed and have been doing so since the introduction of these crops back in 1996. Since that time, over 100 billion animals in the U.S. have been consuming these products — corn, soy, alfalfa, cottonseed meal — all coming from genetically engineered varieties. These livestock populations have been consuming these products almost continuously for the last decade.”

Even with the large data set, there wasn’t a control group not eating GM feeds to compare to during this time frame. In reviewing the studies, she considered that, and explained, “What we were able to do was look at trends prior to using genetically engineered feed, and then we looked at the years after the introduction, particularly the last decade.”

READ: 10 ways ag is using technology & GMOs to safely feed the planet

In the video, she goes on to explain some of the negative rhetoric on this topic that seems to make regular headline news.

She says, “There have been a handful of very sensational studies that have shown very contradictory results. We’ve seen studies showing big tumors and pigs showing inflamed stomachs. What’s really interesting is these studies have been unilaterally condemned by both regulators and independent scientists for not adhering to very basic scientific principles when setting up their experimental designs. For example, in one study, researchers used a variety of rats that’s been well documented to develop tumors by two years of age.

“It’s very frustrating that these groups don’t adhere to these protocols because they are set up to have replicates and the appropriate sample size to ensure that statistically important findings are actually due to the treatment rather than just chance. When you ignore these protocols, then you have these findings that appear to be very sensational and are suggested to be caused by the treatment when in fact it’s the experimental design that’s very poor and they aren’t following standard protocols.

“That’s where scientists get very frustrated when these poorly designed studies get amplified in the media because they really aren’t agreeing at all with the hundreds of studies that have shown no difference and there is no mention made of these other studies in these sensational papers.”

If approached on this topic, producers can say with confidence the GM feeds they offer their livestock allow animals to grow and thrive and ultimately have no impact on the overall quality or safety of the end product offered in the meat case.

Please, share this blog post to help spread the word. I would love for this video to be seen far and wide to give consumers more context on some of these studies and their wild assumptions about GMOs.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.


States are going after gambling revenue now that the Supreme Court has allowed sports betting.

Rural-urban divide has been shown in North Carolina with a teacher march on the state capital. Rural schools stayed in session while urban teachers requested the day off to march at the capital in support of higher teacher salaries.

Corn crops in central Indiana are looking as good as they possibly could at this stage.

Three men are paddling the Mississippi River in the next three days to break the time record. 


The CDC has new numbers on the opioid crisis, showing it's getting worse. Especially in many rural areas. State lawmakers have filed a lawsuit against the makers of oxycontin. 

Nebraska's primary voter turnout was light. Two women will run the Senate race against each other.

The House will vote on the farm bill tomorrow, but will be a challenge to pass. 

A house in Detroit sits next to the arena, and the city is considering condemning it.

Farm Progress America, May 16, 2018

Max Armstrong offers a look at history of trade issues with China from a report in Feedstuffs. The growing trade deficit with China has grown over time, which is part of the issue involved. Max offers some insight into this growing trade challenge.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: narvikk/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Six reasons we need grazing animals

Alan Newport Steers grazing in large herd
All the evidence says large herds of grazing animals are a key component in the formation of grasslands across the world.

Despite naysayer claims to the contrary, grazing livestock are a necessity to manage, heal and build the landscape.

There are myriad reasons, but here are six key components of the symbiotic animal-grassland relationship.


First, grazing livestock are needed to cycle carbon and other nutrients essentially locked in above-ground vegetation and put it back on the ground in a more biologically active form to feed soil life and further vegetation growth.


Second, they are vital for terminating cover crops, using low-quality forages and crop residues, again putting them into a more bio-available form that quickly feeds soil life. Put another way, grazing livestock are an important management tool.


Third, livestock are also vital to produce a profit from enterprises that would otherwise be an expense. Cover crops are an example. They have many benefits that pay the crop farmer in the long run but cannot produce a profit in their own right without grazing livestock and good management to harvest them at correct levels that leave soil covered at the same time they produce beef or other meat products. As any fool should be able to understand, without profit for the operator there can be no one to manage the land.


Fourth, they are the only affordable option to manage large acreage. Mowing is too expensive and total rest has proven a miserable failure.


Fifth, different grazing and browsing species eat and provide control of different plant types. This is a case for us to use more than one type of livestock. The fossil record on all continents tells us the variety of species was extremely rich, but the complexity of that discussion must wait for another time. However, it is clear that cattle, sheep and goats provide better usage of a wide variety of plant species than does a single one of these species.


Sixth -- and a point not yet proven but suspected true -- some producers believe the microflora in the gut of ruminants and hind-gut fermenters are either some of the same species, or are certainly symbiotic with the myriad species of soil life. These folks talk about "inoculating the soil" with livestock presence. Again, the circumstantial evidence tells us when grazing is applied correctly, the relationship between gut life and soil life is true and good.

Peering backward

A bit of history and paleontology also shows us the Creator used a wide variety of grazing and browsing animals to manage the environment, including extremely large herds of ruminants. Holistic management consultant Allan Savory was one of the first, perhaps the first, to note publicly that grazing animals and grasslands evolved together. If we consider the growing evidence that soil is built by modern livestock herds managed with the a facsimile of the chaotic pulsing effect the giant herds would have had, we can see the sense in these claims. (See June 2017 issue of Beef Producer.)

Many people are led to believe the bison in North America is the ultimate example of this principle. Although their herding behavior appears typical of large-herd herbivory of the pattern we still see in remnant behavior in wildebeest in Africa and caribou in northern Canada and other uninhabited tundra, bison were not the original North American grassland symbiots. In fact, the fossil record tells us that outside of Africa, human encroachment coincided with massive extinction of the so-called megafauna -- those animals large enough to provide ample food supply for skilled hunters. Depending on whose data you care to use, North America lost about 70% of its megafauna, Europe and Asia lost about 60% of its megafauna, and Australia lost more than 90% of its megafauna.

Two very good books on the topic of the wide variety of animals that once grazed in symbiosis with plains, savannahs and forests are Jim Howell's For the Love of Land and Tim Flannery's The Future Eaters. They describe in the early years of recorded human settlement huge herds of wildebeest, zebra and Thomson's gazelle in the Serengeti region of Africa, springbok in South Africa, caribou in the arctic tundra, saiga antelope in southern Russian and Kazahkstan, to name a few. For the record, settlers and travelers in the Great Basin of the US noted pronghorn in herds so large they could not count, but estimated at possibly 2 million head -- similar to springbok herds in southern Africa.

The American bison, although the fossil record says they came from Eurasia many thousands of years ago, grazed in herds so large they were said by travelers to have taken several days for a herd to pass by and leave almost no forage standing in their back-path. This is the same large-herd behavior we're discussing in other environments. It seems to have been common before disruption by large-scale hunting and habitat fragmentation by settlement.

Moreover, we've primarily discussed ruminants, which tended to be in large herds over perhaps long periods of the year. There are also descriptions of hind-gut fermenters, rhinoceros in Africa in particular, gathering into fairly extensive herds of at least thousands of animals at some times of the year.

Past is future

The salient point here is that large numbers of grazing animals tended to eat and trample forage plants on a massive scale, leaving so little behind they could not pass that way again before the plants fully recovered. This is the apparatus that appears to have built soils all over the world on the prairies and probably elsewhere. In turn it is the method modern humans can use to rebuild the prairies and make a profit at the same time.




Could the nation fall into a recession in two years, in time for the next presidential election?

Where does corn planting have yet to happen? Minnesota is 25 points behind average, and South Dakota is 40 points behind average pace.

In Wyoming and Nebraska it looked like snow yesterday, but it was hail. The largest hailstone in the U.S. fell 8 years ago. It had a diameter of 8 inches and circumference of more than 18 inches!



Check out “The Rider” movie in theaters this summer

The Rider Movie The Rider Movie

If you’re looking for a date night this summer, snag yourself a couple of tickets to a new movie about Native American cowboys that is receiving rave reviews.

Titled, “The Rider,” the story is based on a true story and captures the life of Brady Jandreau, who calls the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota home. After a near-fatal brain injury from getting bucked off a bronc in a rodeo, Jandreau comes out of a three-day coma only to learn that if he should ever ride and fall again, it could be fatal.

Dealing with the reality that he can no longer ride and compete, Jandreau struggles to find his identity and discover what might give his life meaning and purpose again. He shares this battle with his best friend Lane Scott, a Lakota bull rider who was completely paralyzed after a car accident that abruptly ended his promising bull riding career.

READ: Netflix documentary "Down the Fence" highlights ranch life

Directed by Beijing creator Chloe Zhao, many characters in the movie were cast from the reservations. After spending time on Pine Ridge to direct her first film, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” Zhao wanted to feature these authentic Indian cowboys in her next project.

While visiting with Zhao, Jandreau said, “Last month, we had to shoot Apollo (a horse Brady was training) because his leg got cut badly by barbed wire. If an animal around here gets hurt like I did, they’ll get put down. I was only kept alive because I’m human, and that’s not enough. I’m useless if I can’t do what I was born to do.”

According to the movie website, “Brady’s response made Zhao think about the psychological impact these injuries have on young men like him — what it must be like to live in the heartland of America, unable to match up to the ideal image of a cowboy, an image these young men have tried to live up to their whole lives. Zhao decided to make a film about Jandreau’s struggles, both physically and emotionally, as he comes to terms with his injury.”

READ: Look up, drop your hand & trust your horse

Of creating the film, Zhao said, “Working with Brady and Lane was one of the most humbling and inspiring moments of my life. We started production on Sept. 3, 2016. The five-week filming mainly took place on the reservation and in the surrounding Badlands. Brady, who works as a professional horse trainer, trained horses for the first half of each day in order to have them ready for a horse sale. So we were able to capture a lot of authentic footage of Brady training and interacting with horses, while fully taking advantage of the magical South Dakota sunset.

“We worked with a small crew, filming in people’s homes, real locations and events. Through Brady’s journey, both on and off screen, I hope to explore our culture of masculinity and to offer a more nuanced version of the classic American cowboy. I also want to offer an authentic portrait of the rough, honest and beautiful American heartland that I deeply love and respect.”

READ: If you're the guide, your horse will follow your lead

To learn more about the movie, click here. The movie website includes a trailer, synopsis, cast listing, reviews and schedule of release dates at various locations across the country.

Of course, I love that this film was shot in my home state of South Dakota, but even more, I like the idea of a movie telling the story of cowboys overcoming obstacles as they deal with injuries that limit their ability to pursue their passions.

Farm and ranch injuries can not only cause injury or death, but there are so many emotional and economic factors that come with accidents that can be caused by equipment, livestock or environmental factors. The consequences of these injuries can last a lifetime, and it’s certainly a reality that many people face in production agriculture and in rural America where blue-collar, labor-intensive jobs are common.

I definitely plan to check out this movie when it comes to our area. A summer night out to the theater doesn’t sound like a half-bad idea to me! If you watch the film this summer, let me know what you think!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.