| TSLN.com

AMS Issues Complaint against Larson Livestock Inc. and Carson Larson for Alleged Violations of the P&S Act

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2019 – On April 16, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued an administrative complaint against Larson Livestock Inc. and Carson Larson (Larson) of Columbia, S.D., for alleged violations of the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act.  Larson will have until 20 days following receipt of the complaint to respond directly to the USDA Administrative Law Judge or be found in violation and subject to penalty.

An investigation by AMS revealed from November 2015 to March 2016 that Larson falsified purchase prices and weights in approximately 21 transactions involving 41 head of cattle. Larson also coordinated with Sisseton Livestock of Sisseton, South Dakota to alter invoices in approximately 22 transactions from December 2015 to March 2016. From September 2015 to March 2016, Larson falsified invoices to show the purchase of 19 head of cattle that did not exist.  Additionally, from July 2017 to December 2017, Larson bought back 788 head of his own livestock that had been purchased at a lower price to fill orders for his principal.

Falsifying prices, weights, invoices, and the consignment and sale of livestock, or buying back livestock that was originally purchased at a lower price to fill orders are unfair and deceptive practices and are violations of the P&S Act.

The P&S Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to assess civil penalties up to $11,000 per violation against any person after notice and opportunity for hearing on the record. If the allegations are admitted, or proven in an oral hearing, Larson may be ordered to cease and desist from violating the (P&S) Act and assessed a civil penalty.

The P&S Act is a fair trade practice and payment protection law that promotes fair and competitive marketing environments for the livestock, meat and poultry industries.

For further information about the Packers and Stockyards Act, contact Stuart Frank, Packers and Stockyards Division, at (515) 323-2586, or by email at stuart.frank@usda.gov.

–GIPSA

Rancher Group, Ranchers File Historic Lawsuit Against Big 4 Beef Packers

Chicago – April 23, 2019 – Scott+Scott Attorneys at Law LLP (“Scott+Scott”), a national antitrust and securities litigation firm, along with Cafferty Clobes Meriwether & Sprengel LLP (“Cafferty Clobes”), have filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court in Chicago on behalf of R-CALF USA and four cattle-feeding ranchers from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming. The suit alleges the nation’s four largest beef packers violated U.S. antitrust laws, the Packers and Stockyards Act, and the Commodity Exchange Act by unlawfully depressing the prices paid to American ranchers.
The complaint was filed against Tyson Foods, Inc., JBS S.A., Cargill, Inc., and National Beef Packing Company, LLC, and certain of their affiliates (the “Big 4”), who collectively purchase and process over 80% of the U.S.’s fed cattle-that is, cattle raised specifically for beef production-annually. It alleges that from at least January 1, 2015 through the present, the Big 4 packers conspired to depress the price of fed cattle they purchased from American ranchers, thereby inflating their own margins and profits.

The class action lawsuit seeks to recover the losses suffered by two classes believed harmed by the Big 4’s alleged conduct. The first class includes cattle producers who sold fed cattle to any one of the Big 4 from January 2015 to the present. The second class consists of traders who transacted live cattle futures or options contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (“CME”) from January 2015 to the present. The complaint, which is supported by witness accounts, including a former employee of one of the Big 4, trade records, and economic evidence, alleges that the Big 4 conspired to artificially depress fed cattle prices through various means, including:

  • collectively reducing their slaughter volumes and purchases of cattle sold on the cash market in order to create a glut of slaughter-weight fed cattle;
  • manipulating the cash cattle trade to reduce price competition amongst themselves, including by enforcing an antiquated queuing convention through threats of boycott and agreeing to conduct substantially all their weekly cash market purchases during a narrow 30-minute window on Fridays;
  • transporting cattle over uneconomically long distances, including from Canada and Mexico, in order to depress U.S. fed cattle prices; and
  • deliberating closing slaughter plants to ensure the underutilization of available U.S. beef packing capacity.
These alleged practices are estimated to have depressed fed cattle prices by an average of 7.9% since January 2015, causing significant harm to U.S. ranchers.
“R-CALF USA is taking this historic action to fulfill its promise to its members to prevent the Big 4 packers from capturing the U.S. cattle market from independent U.S. cattle producers,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, adding “we have exhausted all other remedies but now, with the expert help of Scott+Scott and Cafferty Clobes, our members’ concerns will be addressed and we hope U.S. cattle ranchers can be compensated for years of significant losses.”
“The impact of the packers’ conduct on American cattle ranchers has been catastrophic,” said David Scott, managing partner, Scott+Scott. “The health and integrity of the American cattle industry is being permanently and irrevocably damaged, independent ranchers are systematically being driven out of business, and consumers are losing the ability to buy high-quality American beef with confidence.”
“The packers’ alleged conduct has had a direct and significant impact on the commodities underlying CME live cattle futures and options contracts,” said Anthony Fata, partner, Cafferty Clobes. “It is imperative for investors to maintain confidence in this vital financial market, relied upon by ranchers, traders and others to manage the risks associated with their businesses.”
–R-CALF USA

Sizzlin’ S of Montana raises $10k for Nebraska ranchers

After seeing the outpouring of support for his community following the 2017 Lodgepole Fire, Rod Paschke of Jordon, Montana, knew he had to do something for Nebraska ranchers devastated by flooding.

“That fire didn’t affect us personally. It came to within about 20 miles of our property line,” he said. But Paschke’s wife Julie helped manage donations that poured in: lining up hay deliveries, helping arrange help moving cattle, making sandwiches for volunteers. “We got to witness it firsthand. It was pretty devastating, but the stuff we saw, people shipping hay from Nebraska, Wyoming, it was coming in steady. It was really memorable for us.”

Rod and Julie who ranch and operate an outfitting business, were in agreement that they ought to contribute in some way to their Nebraska ranching friends. He was thinking of writing a check but was hoping he could do more, somehow.

“My wife said, ‘can we raffle a hunt?’ and she had the idea planned out in no time.”

Sizzlin’ S Outfitters offered 100 online “raffle” tickets at $100 each, hoping to raise $10,000 quickly. Julie arranged the raffle with a little help from a Nebraska friend whose family runs a custom combining business. The friend, Tracy Zeorian, also runs her own online business, so she helped set up the ticket purchasing details.

Paschke said many neighbors who had been on the receiving end of donations following the Lodgepole Fire were the first to buy a ticket. But tickets also went to people from the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, California and many more states.

The Paschkes posted their raffle on Facebook at about 5 pm on a Friday and by the next Tuesday, the raffle tickets were all spoken for. Eastman’s Hunting Journal promoted the raffle via their social media, reaching some people that the Paschkes may not have on their own.

Robert Schwier won the raffle. The farmer and rancher from Minnesota will enjoy a five-day all-inclusive trophy mule deer hunt. Paschke is throwing in the $700 tag as well.

“It’s all for the right cause, that’s the best part.” He said the $10,000 is going to the Nebraska Cattlemen’s disaster program. “They can do what they want, they can disperse as it needs dispersed. I realize it’s a drop in the bucket to the disaster down there, but it’s what we could do.”

Paschke appreciates Julie for her role in the fundraiser. “She did a heck of a job setting it up. I get to do the fun part – guiding the hunter.”

Outtagrass Cattle Co. Cartoon by Jan Swan Wood

If tin walls could talk

It’s not just a barn. Not to Lisa Fulton anyway.

The indoor arena at Fulton Ranch and Fulton Family Performance Horses burned down over the weekend after speculated power surges caused the barn to go up in flames. The barn held a lot of memories for a lot of people. The barn, which housed a bunkhouse that Brian and Lisa added on to after moving in, was built in 1969 by Wayne and Phyllis Cornish, and was standing strong when the Fulton’s purchased the place. They have replaced many buildings over the years, but there was never a plan to replace that old roping barn, until now.

“I can’t even imagine all the people who have traveled through that barn and that bunkhouse during the Cornish’s time and again in Brian’s,” Lisa said. The men that were friends of both Wayne and Brian that know this barn well are numerous, but to name a few, Don Fish, Keith Lockhart, Buck Buckles, Keith Whipple, Butch Tinant, Don Paulson and many more.

“There were many young men that lived with us in the early years. I know it’s just a building. We’ll rebuild. But it’s more than just a building. I have had phone calls and comments from people of all ages telling me their memories from the barn and then you add all our memories and the fact that my boys all learned to ride in this barn,” Lisa said. “For me, it is kind of hard. The memories will always be with us, but the visual is gone.”

This isn’t the first instance that the Fulton family has had to deal with memories going up in smoke. Brian’s family indoor arena, built in 1976, also burned down in 2016.

“I remember when that one burnt, Brian had said, ‘Oh my gosh, Grady Lockhart and I probably lost a million dollars in that barn.’ All the match ropings they had with fake money,” Lisa said, laughing.

While no animals were at risk and all of Brian’s tack and awards were safely in the new foaling barn where a memorial room had been built, Lisa still watched the barn burn, knowing there was nothing she could do to stop it. Last week’s snow storm had left 15 inches of snow, and the road into the ranch had not been plowed open yet. The Mission and Rosebud Fire departments were slowed down at coming to their aid, but their neighbor Mike Vavra was able to make a trail with his tractor for the fire trucks through the pasture about three hours after he got the call.

“When the barn blew, it was like the fourth of July. There were cinders everywhere,” Lisa said. “I was alone at the beginning, but the people that live and work with us quickly arrived.”

Lisa recalled favorite memories from the barn and around the ranch, something, she said, that happens to her as if she’s watching the video in her head. She remembers Brian bull dogging one last time in the barn after he had been diagnosed with his first brain tumor.

“He had a love for bulldogging. He was on a doggin’ horse tuning him up, and he backed into the box. Levi Wisness was in the hazing box and just thought Brian was just making the horse learn some patience in the box. He used to do that all the time, but then he called for the steer,” she said. “Levi was late, of course, and Brian dogged his last steer.”

Lisa can also picture when Jake was little, and Brian put him up on their 20-year-old bulldogging horse to cool him out. While Brian was briefly helping someone else, Jake had slipped the old veteran into the box, with steers still loaded. One of the steers rattled the chute, and that horse took off as he had done hundreds of times before. “That ol’ horse must have sensed there was a little kid on his back and just slowed right down,” Lisa said. “Those horses, they know when there’s a little one up there.”

The bulldogging wrecks are among the most memorable events in that old barn, Lisa said.

While the Fulton family has dealt with trial and tragedy before, from the loss of Brian and the passing of their nephew Dylan Fulton just last year, and now the barn burning, Lisa is forever grateful for the memories and the time her three sons had with Brian here at this ranch and in that barn. Her youngest, John Lloyd, was only five and a half months old when Brian was first diagnosed, and he was afforded eight and a half more years with his dad. Brian was diagnosed with his second brain tumor in 2009, which took the use of the left side of his body and the third in April of 2015.

“It was the people who lived in that bunkhouse and worked with us that helped us pull through all those years,” Lisa said. “We were 170 miles from Brian’s family and 100 from mine. We had a lot of friends and a great community, but we needed those people living right here in the bunkhouse to make it all work.”

“We’re a strong family; we’ve come through a lot and we are getting used to evolving,” she said.

It’s a year of change for the Fultons, with their horse sale moving to Rapid City, South Dakota, Aug. 9 instead of Valentine, Nebraska, as it had been in the past, but Lisa could do without some changes.

“I kind of like the old stuff,” she said, “but the reality is that things change, and we do go forward.”

Lisa will keep some of the old tin and wood that survived the fire to implement into the new barn.

SD Stockgrowers growing increasingly frustrated at direction USDA is taking animal traceability

After James Halverson, Executive Director for The South Dakota Stockgrowers, attended a meeting of The Cattle Traceability Working Group (CTWG), the South Dakota Stockgrowers are growing increasingly concerned that the direction the group and the USDA is heading is not the direction that will work best for producers.

The CTWG was conceived as a group of interested organizations and companies wanting give input on animal identification and how that system will work and function in the future. The South Dakota Stockgrowers have been involved with the CTWG since its inception and continues to take part in multiple conference calls of the group weekly. The South Dakota Stockgrowers Animal ID Committee Vice Chairman, Les Shaw, has been a regular on these calls, and has expressed his disappointment. “My frustration has grown with the CTWG. I hate to think there was a predetermined agenda, but many times when we have voiced concerns about, liability, retention, privacy, cost, or speed of commerce, we seem to get pushed aside and reminded that we have to move forward!”

This became even more evident at a recent face-to-face meeting of the group in Des Moines, Iowa.“At this meeting some members of the group declared their intention to create a hand-picked “Producers Council” that will only welcome those who are in favor of advancing an electronic ID mandate to take part in the discussion going forward, as well as have a plan in place by June 1, of this year. This “Producers Council” will only be comprised of compliant producers, USDA officials, and Agri-business professionals,” said James Halverson.

While insisting that they will stay “technology neutral,” the USDA has already established a timeline to implement mandated electronic ID on all breeding age cattle. Even after studies have shown that disease prevention and eradication can be achieved without a 100% compliance to electronic identification from producers, many within the CTWG and USDA claim it will be necessary to protect the industry against disease outbreaks. “It is perplexing to us how the USDA thinks a tag, tracking interstate movement of cattle, will be the biggest line of defense to disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) yet at same time is negotiating deals to import beef from Brazil who has had recent problems with FMD as well as many other disease, sanitation, and inspection issues that have kept them out of the United States for good reason,” says Stockgrowers President Gary Deering.

USDA’s timeline includes ending the free metal tags that are currently being used for ADT at the end of this federal fiscal year which would be Sept. 30, 2019. They would then still accept these tags as official ID through 2020 and starting in 2021 would require electronic tagging. Notably there has been little discussion on who will bear the cost of these new tags. There’s a laundry list of unanswered questions that would go along with such a system. Perhaps that is why recently the USDA announced the availability of $1 million to fund projects that will advance Electronic ID in cattle traceability. Those studies, as well as others that are currently taking place in Kansas and Texas, obviously will not conclude in time to better help answer these questions before the USDA timeline is implemented. However, USDA seems to be racing ahead regardless of little consensus or supporting data.“We are very concerned that this push is putting the cart before the horse,” said Halverson. “Keeping up with the speed of commerce, ensuring security of private data, costs, liability, and feasibility are just a few of the many concerns we have. We aren’t against electronic ID, in fact that can be a useful tool that many producers, including several on our board of directors have decided to use, but we are against a top-down approach mandated to producers with little regard to whether that system will even work!” He said.

The Stockgrowers encourage everybody to call their representatives and call the Stockgrowers office for more information. “We will do what we can to see that the needs of the cattle producer will get heard,” says Halverson.

–South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

ND House passes protection from public, leaves private land open to hunters

The North Dakota House of Representatives has taken a step toward improving property right protections. A bill that would have helped move the state toward adopting fundamental property rights in regard to trespass was split into two parts. Division one, the segment that would change the law to require the public to ask permission before entering private property (for all purposes except for hunting) was approved by the House of Representatives. The second part would have created an allowance for electronic posting, established an advisory group on access issues and required the group to make a majority recommendation by 2020 or land would be considered closed for hunting purposes. This segment failed. In the end, the remaining portions of the bill passed.

The Senate passed a different version earlier this session – a bill that included the electronic “posting” option, that allowed landowners to select “open to hunting,” “closed to hunting,” or “open with permission.” The bill now goes to conference committee where committee members from both the House and Senate will negotiate, and will need to approve some version of the bill in order to keep the issue alive. If a compromise is found, both chambers must approve it, in order for the bill to become law.

Current North Dakota law allows the public to access on private property unless the landowner has posted signs at various points around their property indicating “no trespassing” or “no hunting.”

North Dakota Stockmen’s Association Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson calls the current statute “archaic” and says this is the closest the state has ever come to updating the law.

“It would have been nice to have had the whole shebang, but we appreciate the vote in the House that allows us to continue working on this issue.”

Lidgerwood rancher and landowner Kathy Skroch, representing District 26 said that her constituents had hoped to see the bill passed in its entirety.

“SB 2315 was going to be a good answer to protecting private landowners’ rights and as it split, it very definitely weakened the bill,” she said.

Skroch said the issue has been a hot one during the session, and she worries that landowners across the state are at a “flashpoint.” She fears that without some fundamental property protections, landowners will “lock the land up so tight, it will be a slamming of the door.”

She hopes the public is gaining a better understanding of the frustration landowners feel about this issue. “We’ve been kicking the can down the road. I’m told landowners are going to take that can, fill it with cement and stick a big ‘no trespassing,’ ‘no hunting’ sign right in the middle of it.”

Skroch said she is still hopeful the state can avoid that situation with some common sense legislation.

Several sportsmen groups are lobbying hard to keep the status quo for hunters.

Darrell Belisle of Turtle Lake spoke on behalf of the North Dakota Bowhunters. In an earlier interview with TSLN, he said he was a part of a sportsmens group that met with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association since the 2017 legislative session but that the two groups didn’t reach a compromise.

“Sportsmens groups are concerned first about the lack of contact information. We use the posted signs to know who to contact and to know whose land we are on. Our biggest concern is that we’ll lose hunters. This will cause more confusion and we’ll lose even more hunters,” he said.

Hunters have a hard time knowing whose land is whose, he said, and it’s hard to find landowners, particularly out of state ones.

“Personally, myself, I prefer to ask permission even though that land may not be posted,” he said.

“My group respects the landowners’ concern for private property rights but we hope to find a compromise that respects the needs of the solution,” he said. But neither Belisle nor his group have a suggestion as to what that compromise would be.

Belisle believes that allowing property owners reasonable privacy (without a posting requirement) is a violation of freedom of speech. “The first Amendment includes freedom of speech and right now landowners have the right to say what happens on their land. They can say ‘I don’t want trespassing.’ They can say ‘give me a call.’ They can say whatever they want to. But this bill is asking the state to do the speaking for everyone, even those that don’t care. I think that’s a clear violation of freedom of speech.

Skroch said she heard an opponent to the bill say that “owning land is a privilege and hunting is a right,” and that it is only a handful of “selfish, lazy” ranchers who want to require hunters to ask permission before accessing private property.

‘Prayers and Perseverance’ Nebraska vet says worst of livestock health effects still to come

In a 15 to 20 mile radius around the town of Ashland, Nebraska, it’s mucky and wet, but thankfully not flooded. Most everywhere else is a different story.

Dr. Richard Porter, with Porter Ridge Vet Clinic in Ashland, said most of the livestock are still in either mucky or flooded conditions, and they can’t and won’t be treated until they can escape those conditions. Unfortunately for many, that isn’t an option.

“How do you move everything when it’s wet everywhere?” Dr. Porter asked. “How do you treat 100 cows? Where do you start?”

The most predominant effect at the moment is getting feed to animals, though much of the hay and silage in the area has also succumbed to the weather, which, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA), is not to be fed.

“Cattle and horses have to walk in that deeper mud. It’s takes a lot more energy; some of these areas have been dealing with it for a period of time,” he said. “It’s hard to get feed to them, it stressed them out, they lose weight, especially if pregnant.”

Cattle and swine can tolerate wet conditions better than other animals, however, they can still be affected. Livestock dealing with stressful environmental conditions, barring the physical effects of water on hide, are experiencing further weakening in already weakened body conditions, such as the heart or lungs.

“If they have a preexisting condition, that will show right away, and there could be losses that way. A lot of animals get weak and lay down in the mud and can’t get up,” Dr. Porter said. “If they lose weight, there will be worse breed back. A lot of cows will be open next fall, and if they’re older, it’s just going to be worse. You can scale that up with age.”

The stress can make animals “highly vulnerable to diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea,” NDA stated. “Over time, standing in mud and water causes a decrease in an animal’s immune system, and ability to resist or fight various diseases.”

Dr. Porter compared the livestock conditions to having hands in water for too long, creating pruny, soft, sensitive skin, susceptible to cuts, thrush, scratches, foot rot, and fungal infections.

“Skin that stays wet can’t defend itself,” he said. “There can be injury with rocks, glass, wire, or tears. It’s a big mess. The destruction or damage is not going to be known fully for a few months.”

Similarly, wrapping wounds or sores while the animal is still in wet conditions does little to help or can even worsen the situation. Bandages can soak up moisture, harboring “various bacteria and various disease organisms which can cause feet and leg problems and various infections,” NDA stated.

Calves born into wet and muddy conditions are susceptible to many diseases and conditions, including “naval infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, and other medical problems,” NDA stated. “It is essential that neonatal calves be removed from water and mud as soon as possible, and a veterinarian should be called to address treatments and possible preventative measures.”

In addition to skin conditions and weakened hooves, horses “with prolonged stress and consumption of contaminated water and feed . . . can develop severe gastrointestinal illnesses and colic—both of which can be fatal,” NDA said. “Falling and stumbling is a major leading problem in mud and water and can cause major structural injuries to joints, muscles, and tendons.”

The current Nebraska cattle loss is roughly about one million, and an estimated $400 million impact on the livestock industry and $440 million impact on the crop industry, said Christin Kamm, NDA Public Information Officer. Dr. Porter expects there to be far more deaths yet to come.

“Someone might say, ‘Well, why is my cow sloughing skin?’ Some won’t show for a while, and some of those animals that didn’t drown will need to be put down too,” he said.

Banixx, a company out of South Carolina, has supplied product for Dr. Porter to spread throughout the community, though he said those who could benefit from the products haven’t yet been prevalent, likely because their livestock is still under water or mud. When pastures and fields start drying out, it will be easier to treat cattle and horses, however more water is looming in the near future as mountain caps melt, and the water finds its way to South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

“In this northeast quadrant of the state, every river basin was affected,” he said. “Anything in that water shed, you’re affected. It’s a big area. Gigantic, actually. Many aren’t going to be able to farm this year. It’s so mucky and full of sand. It gets to be three to four feet deep of silt that came out of the water.”

In addition to hay, the greatest support that others may offer is “prayers and perseverance,” Dr. Porter said. “Pitch in, help out, do what you can to pull people along to keep them in the business. I think it’s possible.”

The Porters are housing in their barn house a Belleview family whose house was entirely under water.

“They went to their house yesterday, and there is nothing they can salvage. They do have flood insurance, but they have no house; their way of living has changed. They have to make do,” Dr. Porter said. “So they’re staying at our place, so they still have a place to eat, and clean up, and live.”

FEMA has a presence in Nebraska providing public and individual assistance, as is the Small Business Administration.

Livestock producers are advised against using feedstuffs exposed to flood water and recommending that it be disposed of. To learn more about recommendations, visit nda.nebraska.gov/resources.

Livestock carcasses should be disposed of within the Department of Environmental Quality guidelines. Producers who need assistance with disposal should contact DEQ at 877-253-2603.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: April 6, 1996

A few nights back my dad and I were discussing the forecast, specifically April blizzards like the one we’re in the middle of as I write this, when he said, “April 6, 1996.”

That was a doozy of a spring blizzard for the part of eastern Wyo. I grew up in. Lots of heavy, wet snow, and the wind shifted partway through. In a rare turn of events, our deep draws went from excellent sources of protection to traps.

We were in the thick of calving, and lost 40-plus calves, milked at least that many cows for days, and fed dozens of calves whose mothers had sunburned their bags. Several cows lost teats or function in quarters of their bags. Some of those would stand there, with cracked and/or bleeding teats, and let their calves suck. Others would not.

Our old squeeze chute reeked of rotten milk from the gallons we stripped out of cows in an attempt to save their bags until they had recovered enough to let their calves suck again. I recall my dad milking cows and applying bag balm almost nonstop for a few days. Empty green tins littered the ground surrounding the chute.

Our equally old wooden barn was a solid mass of calves. They would run to greet us morning and night when we arrive with breakfast and supper.

My brother and I sunburned our eyes, my brother especially bad, after riding all day following the storm. Grandma Maelene had us sit with slices of raw potato over our eyes that night. The next day we were out riding again, with lots of sunscreen rubbed on our exposed skin, and sunglasses. At one point my trusty mount Brownie and I miscalculated exactly where we were, and walked off the trail and sunk into wet, heavy snow that went up to the middle of his rather tall chest.

My fear and his ability to get us out are what I recall most about that storm. That, and riding all those rough draws, and finding cow after cow standing next to a bank of snow that presumably held her newborn calf. I can see one old, red baldy cow who hadn’t cleaned yet plain as day. Standing in the bottom of a draw that was half snowbank, half lush, green grass. Looking from me to the snowbank, and back again. Refusing to leave.

As my dad also said, a lot of us would be hard-pressed to find a cow today with the degree of mothering ability several exhibited in that storm. In spite of that big positive, that was also the spring we went away from Hereford cows. You always have to weigh the pros and cons in cattle, and there are some things nobody wants to experience twice. April 6, 1996 was one of those things, especially for my parents.

There are going to be some that recall April 11, 2019 as my family thinks of the spring of 1996. Spring blizzards are “doozies,” particularly after the year of weather we’ve already faced.

Some of the best medicine I’ve found to help address my mental state following a blizzard is to go find an old ranch person. It doesn’t take many of their stories about blizzards before long range forecasts, four-wheel drive tractors, round bales and numerous other modern conveniences that I start to feel better. Those tough, older folks also have a way of making anyone around them pull up their proverbial bootstraps and get over any feelings of self-pity. After all, there’s work to do, and sure to be hay with this kind of moisture.

Another thing we can all do is pray. Particularly if you find yourself at an indoor job, reading this. Pray for those souls out there fighting tooth and nail for every inch this year. There is nothing more important that you can do for them than to pray.

Lastly is what will also be remembered in this and other bad storms, and the reason my dad has said more than once that America does not need a welfare program; neighborly assistance. We’ve seen it in a big way already this spring as folks do everything they can help Nebraska and its neighbors that were impacted by the bomb cyclone. It’s also what you’ll hear those elderly folks mention in their blizzard stories, and what my parents comment on, too. So and so showed up with their brand new four wheel drive tractor. This neighbor opened a gate to let cattle into protection, or maybe fed them. Someone brought a casserole. It’s a rare blizzard story that doesn’t mention something someone did that saved the day in one way or another.

That degree of care for one’s neighbor is largely being lost in our great country, arguably in part because of welfare, but it is a biblical order that is still alive and well in agriculture.

Regardless of how hard it is, and how few understand what these storms do, those that do understand work tirelessly to ensure their neighbor’s, near and far, make it through. What a heartwarming blessing that is, even on the coldest of days.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Immeasurable absurdity: drilling halted on 500 square miles of BLM land

In an inaugural win for the poster child of “climate change,” radical environmental groups recently succeeded in halting new oil and gas drilling on more than 500 square miles of BLM leases in Wyoming. The ruling by a District Court judge in Washington, D.C., declared the BLM failed to consider the impact of the “whole life cycle” of the products of drilling. But the triumph for the enviros may be short lived.

According to Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance, the case is “ripe for appeal,” and will likely be reversed. “The judge ignored decades of case law, and particularly ignored precedent from the circuit court above him,” she said. “It is not based in law and needs to be overturned.”

The concept of whole life cycle analysis for climate change is an emblematic issue for environmental groups like WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, plaintiffs in this case. The groups argue that the current stringent environmental impact analyses required on federal lands are not enough. Now they want each well site to be accountable for the entire value chain of the product leaving that well. Which is basically impossible – just as they would like.

According to Sgamma, there are some “Holy Grails” that leftist environmental groups operate under. One is the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), which has been a notable burr under the saddle for a long time to both the oil and gas industries as well as much of agriculture. It was a blatant attempt to control much more than water. If WOTUS had succeeded, allowing the EPA jurisdiction over any dry, ephemeral stream, irrigation ditch or duck pond, it would essentially have put one government agency in charge of managing 85 percent of the country. President Trump has opposed WOTUS, and the administration is in the process of changing the rule to the new Clean Water Act.

With WOTUS dead in the water, climate change is the tactic of choice for the leftists. If anything could possibly make WOTUS seem comparatively small, climate change may just do that.

“They want impacts analyzed on every possible scenario of where that oil and natural gas might go – whether exported overseas, burned on a stovetop, used for transportation – however that retail consumer uses the product, they want all the potential greenhouse gas emissions analyzed for their possible impacts on climate change,” says Sgamma. “That’s impossible to do. You produce oil and natural gas, you sell it, and you don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s a great way to tie up any kind of development using paralysis by analysis.”

In a comparative agricultural scenario, a farmer who grows corn would have to predict where that corn goes after leaving his or her farm. What happens if it is consumed or burned, if it is fed to humans or animals, what types of transportation modes deliver it, what the emissions are from any possible scenario, what the impacts are to the environment and what likelihood are they to cause climate change.

Steve Degenfelder is a veteran landman for Kirwood Oil & Gas, headquartered in Casper, Wyo. He says the ruling affected 25 of their current leases in Wyoming. “It’s a small part of Kirkwood’s existing lease hold, but still it’s important in that we don’t want to see any of our leases burdened by litigation.”

Degenfelder says he is confident in the current analysis process of the BLM. Every lease requires a thorough National Environmental Policy Act review and a finding of no significant impact before proceeding. “The BLM conducts an excellent analysis on every action we do, and it addresses those concerns,” he says. “The public process is very open and transparent.”

Degenfelder says he feels under the guise of whole life cycle and climate change, the plaintiffs are asking BLM to quantify something that is unquantifiable.

“When you purposefully try to get the federal government to measure something that is immeasurable, your ultimate action is to try to delay things,” he says.

In addition to outlining an impossible scenario, Sgamma says the ruling is also faulty in that it requires an agency to overstep its jurisdiction. Once the oil or natural gas leaves the lease, they are no longer under the authority of the BLM, so to require the BLM to conduct a NEPA analysis further downstream is outside its jurisdiction and not required by law.

The enviro camp perhaps got lucky in getting the case assigned to a sympathetic, Obama-appointed judge, Rudolph Contreras. Statements online from plaintiffs called the ruling “a triumph for our climate” and a “powerful reality check on the Trump Administration.”

“They are very excited,” says Sgamma, “because they’ve tried it in many other courts, but this is the first time this tactic has been successful.”

The whole climate change issue in general is not just about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. currently has fewer greenhouse gas emissions than any other country. “It’s not about that,” says Sgamma. “It’s simply a drive by the leftist environmental lobby to have government control over everything.”

Sgamma says claiming that oil and gas drilling must be halted to preserve the environment is a false choice. “We can develop oil and natural gas, and we can protect the environment,” she says. “We continue to innovate, reduce our environmental footprint on the land, reduce wildlife fragmentation and reduce impact.”

“When every land use decision is controlled by government under the guise of climate change – it’s the perfect issue,” she says. “If you can force every action to be controlled through climate change regulation, then you control all human activity.”

The defendants have 60 days to appeal the ruling.