Ag Pride 2023 | Finishing Greg’s Legacy: The Barn Out West

Greg and Sherry Smeenk were devoted to each other from high school onward, and it is fitting that their final project together is the venue for the beginnings of marriages. Courtesy photo.

Greg Smeenk always said, “Family comes first.” In the wake of his recent passing, his wife and three children are committed to finishing the last project Smeenk was working on: a wedding venue. Fittingly, the Smeenk family will provide a service which is dedicated to the beginning of families.  

The Barn Out West is on the Smeenk ranch eight miles west of Belle Fourche, bordered by hills and pine trees with relative seclusion. The initial idea was brought up by Greg’s son, Jed, as a way to diversify their income. Soon, the whole family was on board. “All of our kids are of marrying age,” says Sherry, Greg’s widow. Participating in weddings in various capacities, the three Smeenk kids know the best functions to pull off a great wedding.  

A two-story window provides sunlight (and sunset at the right time of day) for wedding guests to enjoy during indoor festivities. Courtesy photo.  

As with any project, Greg Smeenk threw all his energy into building a state-of-the-art wedding venue. After years of financial and building approvals, construction began last September. Greg was acting as the general contractor with many aspects being built by his own two hands. For everything else, he was proactive in overseeing other builders. Their Grand Opening Day was set to be in May, but because of Greg’s passing, it has been postponed to July, with their first scheduled weddings to follow shortly after.  

The details of the main building are exquisite. Smeenks carefully placed the building with the best view of the Black Hills landscape, and carefully chose the layout of the building. There is a “secret door” to the bridal room and groom’s room. The west side features a two-story window, from which guests can enjoy watching the sunset during ceremonies, if the bride and groom choose. Three chandeliers made in the country of Kosovo – purchased by Jenna Smeenk with her knowledge from deployment there – are elegant features, as well as the grand staircase overlooking the main hall.  

The Barn Out West on the Wagon Wheel Ranch has been years in the making, and many aspects were built by Greg Smeenk’s own hands. Courtesy photo.

Another unique feature of The Barn Out West includes the horses and longhorns grazing in nearby pastures. Couples can organize photos with the animals in the background, but it is a picturesque scene for all in attendance. It is also a nod to Greg Smeenk’s rich roots in agriculture.  

Before moving to the Belle Fourche area, Greg lived most of his early life on his family’s homesteaded ranch north of Newell. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion and served as a police officer there for two years. He then proposed to his high school sweetheart, Sherry. The couple were also married at a beautiful Black Hills venue, called the Chapel in the Hills, modeled after a Twelfth Century Norwegian Borgund stavkirke (church). They then moved home to the ranch to raise livestock and their three children. 

Beginning with the existing sheep and cattle herds, Smeenk slowly phased out of those industries to make room on the ranch for his true passion: buffalo. Not only did he succeed as a producer, he spent much of his career working as an advocate, too. He served as President of the Dakota Territory Buffalo Association, and achieved the placement of buffalo meat in Whole Foods in Dallas, Texas. He worked closely with Senator Tom Daschle, who became so interested in buffalo that he served buffalo meat to the United States Senate in Washington, D.C. 

Greg Smeenk has deep roots in agriculture, with his passion being buffalo ranching. Courtesy photo. 

Having spent nearly three decades as a rancher, the time came to change paths. Smeenk’s children graduated high school, and he found a new passion in real estate. He began with buying apartment buildings, then became a broker and founded his own real estate company, Dakota Properties of Belle Fourche.  

Smeenk had a unique mind for business, with a work ethic to match. One haying season, he spent 36 hours straight in a tractor to ensure that the hay crop was made perfectly. That tractor, which he used for 42 years, cost him $0.75 per day to own, according to his recent calculations. Smeenk was open to any new ideas and prospects, which is why his children were often involved in decision-making. All three of Smeenk’s children – Trisha, Jenna, and Jed – have served in the United States Air Force, a fact of which he was very proud.  

As a team, the Smeenk kids helped their dad lay out plans for their next great project. Sherry says, “The combination of their experiences is what ended up making it really special.” From a fireplace for wintertime weddings, to extra space for the bridal party to get ready, to a preparation kitchen for vendors to keep food warm, it is all coming together to complete a grand vision. Finishing the wedding venue has now become a way to carry on their father’s work since his departure from this earth on April 9. Jed says, “It will be a beautiful venue, and a lot of that is literally because of Greg.”  

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Longhorn cattle and horses graze around The Barn Out West, providing the perfect rustic backdrop. Courtesy photo. 

UPDATED DAILY: 2022 Wrangler NFR Round Results and Averages

2022 World All-Around Standings: 1. Stetson Wright; $758,828.78, Milford, UT; 2. Caleb Smidt; $372,964.69, Bellville, TX; 3. Josh Frost; $307,700.96, Randlett, UT; 4. Zack Jongbloed; $235,260.99, Iowa, LA; 5. Marty Yates; $225,732.42, Stephenville, TX; 6. Haven Meged; $214,305.62, Miles City, MT; 7. Coleman Proctor; $212,521.30, Pryor, OK; 8. Rhen Richard; $181,702.95•Roosevelt, UT; 9. Taylor Santos; $159,179.29, Creston, CA; 10. Paul David Tierney; $118,791.57, Oklahoma City, OK

RAM Top Gun Standings: 1. Zeke Thurston, $256,077.6, Saddle Bronc Riding; 2; Stetson Wright; $237,812.24, Bull Riding; 3. Jess Pope; $231,361.07, Bareback Riding; 4. Caleb Smidt, $225,220.79, Tie-down Roping; 5. Logan Hay, $199,960.11, Saddle Bronc Riding; 6. Patrick Smith; $199,726.99, Team Roping (Heelers); 7. Tanner Tomlinson; $199,726.99, Team Roping (Headers); 8.  Lefty Holman; $191,410.28, Saddle Bronc Riding; 9.  Kaycee Feild; $185,347.77, Bareback Riding; 10. Tristen Hutchings; $183,482.33, Bull Riding;

Bareback Riding

2022 WORLD CHAMPION: Jess Pope

ROUND 10 WINNER: Kaycee Feild


  • Average: 1 Jess Pope 860.0/10; 2 Cole Franks 852.0/10; 3 Kaycee Feild 851.0/10; 4 R.C. Landingham 846.0/10; 5 Leighton Berry 839.0/10; 6 Tim O’Connell 838.5/10; 7 Cole Reiner 829.5/10; 8 Ty Breuer 812.0/10; 9 Caleb Bennett 807.5/10; 10 Garrett Shadbolt 806.5/10; 11 Tilden Hooper 761.0/9; 12 Rocker Steiner 754.5/9; 13 Tanner Aus 738.5/9; 14 Clayton Biglow 679.0/8; 15 Orin Larsen 217.5/3;
  • World Standings: 1. Jess Pope, $390,620.11, Waverly, KS, 2. Kaycee Feild, $316,490.32, Genola, UT, 3. Leighton Berry, $267,273.99, Weatherford, TX, 4. Cole Franks, $263,377.99, Clarendon, TX, 5. R.C. Landingham, $246,696.05, Hat Creek, CA, 6. Tim O’Connell, $234,231.73, Zwingle, IA, 7. Cole Reiner, $228,020.71, Buffalo, WY, 8. Tanner Aus, $206,851.37, Granite Falls, MN, 9. Tilden Hooper, $188,477.28, Carthage, TX, 10. Rocker Steiner, $185,366.74, Weatherford, TX

Steer Wrestling

2022 WORLD CHAMPION: Tyler Waguespack

ROUND 10 WINNER: Jesse Brown


  • Average: 1 Kyle Irwin 42.10/9; 2 Jesse Brown 44.70/9; 3 Will Lummus 47.00/9; 4 Tyler Waguespack 53.10/9; 5 Stetson Jorgensen 55.70/9; 6 Tanner Brunner 65.30/9; 7 Hunter Cure 35.60/8; 8 Rowdy Parrott 36.30/8; 9 J.D. Struxness 37.40/8; 10 Dakota Eldridge 37.60/8; 11 Dirk Tavenner 49.50/8; 12 Timmy Sparing 49.90/8; 13 Ty Erickson 57.10/8; 14 Tristan Martin 30.40/7; 15 Nick Guy 42.60/7
  • World Standings: 1. Tyler Waguespack, $268,881.34, Gonzales, LA, 2. Will Lummus, $266,188.44, Byhalia, MS, 3. Kyle Irwin, $249,891.70, Robertsdale, AL, 4. Hunter Cure, $247,309.24, Holliday, TX, 5. Jesse Brown, $241,151.93, Baker City, OR, 6. Stetson Jorgensen, $235,287.94, Blackfoot, ID, 7. J.D. Struxness, $197,227.71, Milan, MN, 8. Ty Erickson, $192, 400.30, Helena, MT, 9. Tanner Brunner, $174,746.36, Ramona, KS, 10. Tristan Martin, $170, 981.07, Sulphur, LA

Team Roping

2022 WORLD CHAMPION HEADER: Kaleb Driggers

2022 WORLD CHAMPION HEELER: Junior Nogueira

ROUND 10 WINNERS: Rhen Richard / Jeremy Buhler


  • Average: 1 Tanner Tomlinson/Patrick Smith 53.00/10; 2 Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira 71.40/9; 3 Riley Minor/Brady Minor 73.60/9; 4 Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins 43.20/8; 5 Jr. Dees/Levi Lord 50.20/8; 6 Dustin Egusquiza/Travis Graves 56.20/8; 7 Clay Tryan/Jade Corkill 38.40/7; 8 Coleman Proctor/Logan Medlin 39.10/7; 9 Jake Orman/Brye Crites 45.50/7; 10 Tyler Wade/Trey Yates 30.30/6; 11 Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp 32.20/6; 12 Lightning Aguilera/Jonathan Torres 40.80/6; 13 Chad Masters/Joseph Harrison 44.90/6; 14 Rhen Richard/Jeremy Buhler 21.70/4; 15 Clay Smith/Jake Long 50.60/4
  • World Standings – Heading: 1. Kaleb Driggers, $340,708.23, Hoboken, GA, 2. Tanner Tomlinson, $307,095.20, Angleton, TX, 3. Clay Tryan, $264,954.96, Billings, MT, 4. Andrew Ward, $226,722.88, Edmond, OK, 5. Jr. Dees, $209,730.32, Aurora, SD, 6. Coleman Proctor, $207,354.76, Pryor, OK, 7. Dustin Egusquiza, $201,830.92, Marianna, FL, 8. Tyler Wade, $196,868.58, Terrell, TX, 9. Rhen Richard, $178,454.15, Roosevelt, UT, 10. Chad Masters, $169,183.99, Cedar Hill, TN
  • World Standings – Heeling: 1. Junior Nogueira, $340,708.23, Presidente Prudente, SP, 2. Patrick Smith, $307,095.20, Lipan, TX, 3. Jade Corkill, $231,147.06, Fallon, NV, 4. Buddy Hawkins, $225,180.58, Stephenville, TX, 5. Levi Lord, $211,128.35, Sturgis, SD,  6. Logan Medlin, $207,354.76, Tatum, NM, 7. Travis Graves, $202,545.32, Jay, OK, 8. Trey Yates, $193,306.33, Pueblo, CO, 9. Jeremy Buhler, $179,389.57, Arrowwood, AB,10. Joseph Harrison, $173,855.31, Marietta, OK

Saddle Bronc Riding

2022 WORLD CHAMPION: Zeke Thurston

ROUND 10 WINNER: Kolby Wanchuk


  • Average: 1 Zeke Thurston 876.5/10; 2 Logan Hay 863.0/10; 3 Brody Cress 777.0/10; 4 Lefty Holman 785.0/9; 5 Stetson Wright 781.5/9; 6 Dawson Hay 775.5/9; 7 Kade Bruno 757.0/9; 8 Kolby Wanchuk 748.0/9; 9 Tanner Butner 728.0/9; 10 Chase Brooks 687.0/8; 11 Ryder Wright 666.0/8; 11 Sage Newman 666.0/8; 13 Kole Ashbacher 657.5/8; 14 Wyatt Casper 649.5/8; 15 Layton Green 562.5/7
  • World Standings: 1. Zeke Thurston, $399,915.64, Big Valley, AB, 2. Lefty Holman, $341,389.58, Visalia, CA, 3. Logan Hay, $339,400.52, Wildwood, AB, 4. Stetson Wright, $335,796.51, Milford, UT, 5. Sage Newman, $320,474.16, Melstone, MT, 6. Brody Cress, $246,275.01, Hillsdale, WY, 7. Dawson Hay, $213,122.25, Wildwood, AB, 8. Kolby Wanchuk, $211,632.52, Sherwood Park, AB, 9. Chase Brooks, $204,126.17, Deer Lodge, MT, 10. Ryder Wright, $192,672.61, Beaver, UT

Tie Down Roping

2022 WORLD CHAMPION: Caleb Smidt

ROUND 10 WINNER: Ty Harris


  • Average: 1 Caleb Smidt 82.50/10; 2 Cory Solomon 93.40/10; 3 Zack Jongbloed 95.80/10; 4 Haven Meged 117.50/10; 5 Tyler Milligan 129.90/10; 6 Macon Murphy 136.20/10; 7 Hunter Herrin 87.10/9; 8 Ty Harris 96.80/9; 9 Marty Yates 69.10/8; 10 Shad Mayfield 92.80/8; 11 Shane Hanchey 104.30/8; 12 Riley Webb 66.80/7; 13 Kincade Henry 60.40/6; 14 John Douch 39.40/5; 15 Tuf Cooper 51.50/5
  • World Standings: 1. Caleb Smidt, $374,736.70, Bellville, TX, 2. Shad Mayfield, $269,936.43, Clovis, NM, 3. Cory Solomon, $265,302.94, Prairie View, TX, 4. Hunter Herrin, $258,613.06, Apache, OK, 5. John Douch, $254,376.15, Huntsville, TX, 6. Zack Jongbloed, $233,962.22, Iowa, LA, 7. Marty Yates, $228,106.48, Stephenville, TX, 8. Haven Meged, $227,896.65, Miles City, MT, 9. Kincade Henry, $217,107.81, Mount Pleasant, TX, 10. Riley Webb, $188,597.25, Denton, TX

Barrel Racing

2022 WORLD CHAMPION: Hailey Kinsel

ROUND 10 WINNER: Shelley Morgan


  • Average: 1 Shelley Morgan 137.28/10; 2 Bayleigh Choate 138.98/10; 3 Lisa Lockhart 141.66/10; 4 Jordon Briggs 142.41/10; 5 Wenda Johnson 142.76/10; 6 Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi 143.01/10; 7 Sissy Winn 144.03/10; 8 Hailey Kinsel 146.06/10; 9 Margo Crowther 146.98/10; 10 Kassie Mowry 152.33/10; 11 Emily Beisel 155.50/10; 12 Jessica Routier 158.19/10; 13 Dona Kay Rule 159.34/10; 14 Stevi Hillman 164.56/10; 15 Leslie Smalygo 144.69/9
  • World Standings: 1. Hailey Kinsel, $302,172.27; 2. Jordon Briggs, $274,520.38 ; 3. Shelley Morgan, $265,029.69 ; 4. Lisa Lockhart, $253,196.90 ; 5. Wenda Johnson, $231,859.61 ; 6. Emily Beisel, $221,718.13 ; 7. Margo Crowther, $184,751.16 ; 8. Bayleigh Choate, $182,970.62 ; 9. Dona Kay Rule, $171,018.99 ; 10. Leslie Smalygo, $158,342.95

Bull Riding

2022 WORLD CHAMPION: Stetson Wright

ROUND 10 WINNER: Kaycee Feild


  • Average: 1 Stetson Wright 684.5/8; 2 Josh Frost 589.5/7; 3 Ky Hamilton 510.0/6; 4 Tristen Hutchings 447.0/5; 5 Trevor Kastner 429.0/5; 6 Trey Kimzey 347.0/4; 7 Garrett Smith 256.5/3; 8 Trey Holston 175.5/2; 9 Jeff Askey 175.0/2; 10 Creek Young 169.0/2; 11 Cole Fischer 159.5/2; 12 JR Stratford 90.0/1; 13 Jared Parsonage 81.5/1; 14 Lukasey Morris ; 15 Reid Oftedahl
  • World Standings: 1. Stetson Wright, $592,143.66, Milford, UT, 2. Josh Frost, $409,629.74, Randlett, UT, 3. Tristen Hutchings, $379,785.78, Monteview, ID, 4. Ky Hamilton, $278,412.34, Mackay, QL, 5. Trevor Kastner, $255,179.37, Roff, OK, 6. Jeff Askey, $229,905.37, Athens, TX, 7. Trey Kimzey, $201,999.26, Strong City, OK, 8. Garrett Smith, $197,593.55, Rexburg, ID, 9. Trey Holston, $171,356.88, Fort Scott, KS, 10. JR Stratford, $142,943.19, Byers, KS

Breakaway Roping

2022 WORLD CHAMPION: Martha Angelone

ROUND 10 WINNER: JJ Hampton, Taylor Munsell


  • Average: 1. Cadee Williams, 31.9 seconds on ten head, $13,866; 2. Lari Dee Guy, 40.1, $11,250; 3. Cheyanne Guillory, 32.9 on nine head, $8,895; 4. Beau Peterson, 36.3, $6,541; 5. Erin Johnson, 43.4, $4,709; 6. Joey Williams, 50.5, $3,401; 7. Josie Conner, 51.7, $2,355; 8. Taylor Munsell, 19.9 on eight head, $1,308
  • World Standings: 1. Martha Angelone, $130,303.91; 2. Taylor Munsell, $90,844.53; 3. Erin Johnson, $88,719.77; 4. Lari Dee Guy, $88,584.52; 5. Shelby Boisjoli, $83,807.59

Nebraska ag producers pay nearly 50 percent more than the national average in property taxes

Nobody likes taxes, but Nebraska farmers and ranchers have even more to dislike than many others around the country.

According to a study by J. David Aiken, Nebraska agriculture property taxes are among the highest in the United States. Over the last three years, Nebraska farmers and ranchers have paid nearly 31 percent of their net farm income as property taxes (47 percent in 2017). Aiken, an agriculture and Water Law Specialist Department with the agricultural Economics University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said that when state and federal taxes are factored in, this represents an effective tax rate of more than 50 percent (over 60 percent in 2017.) Nebraska property taxes on agricultural land as a percentage of net farm income are 146 percent of the United States average (1950-2017 data). The twenty year average is 150 percent, the ten year average is 147 percent, the five year average is 164 percent and the three year average is 188 percent. Property taxes are the single largest tax paid in Nebraska accounting for 38 percent of total state and local tax collections.

The study revealed that sales taxes make up 29 percent of total taxes, and income taxes are 26 percent. Sixty percent of property taxes go to K-12 education funding. All property taxes fund local government—cities, counties, and local school districts. All income taxes and 84 percent of sales taxes are used to fund the state government. Currently with high ag land values across the state, 85 percent of state aid goes to non-agricultural areas and 15 percent is distributed across the board to all school districts. Two-thirds of Nebraska school districts (largely rural) receive little to no state aid.

In Nebraska in 2017, 42,502 farmers paid $686.5 million dollars in property taxes. On a per-farm basis, that breaks down to $16,151 each, second only to California with the average there being $17,229. The national average in 2017 was $4,902, according to data from the 2017 ag Census collected by Chris Clayton, DTN ag Policy Editor.

John O’Dea lives near McCook, Nebraska with his wife and sons. They are feeling the high tax rate, paying 9 dollars a year per acre of grass. More of his tax dollars are given to support Mid-Plains Community College than he can afford to give his own son, who is putting himself through Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. This for him was a cheaper option than Southeast Community College in Nebraska.

“My sons were talking the other day and they agreed “The expense of being a Nebraskan is getting too high,” O’Dea said. “The state has turned into two liberal cities that expect the rest of the state to support them. Folks are having to work off the place to support the ranch. Who will feed and pay the taxes if they force everyone out. It is having a ripple effect on small towns and communities. Every ag producer that has to take a job in town is taking that job away from someone else. I’m 43 years old and I’m paying more for property taxes now than I did for rent when I started. Land in Nebraska is a liability.”

O’Dea feels that there will be some major changes made as producers attempt to refinance land and cattle in the next few years especially with land values going down. The O’Dea family is seriously considering moving their base of operation to a more ag friendly state in the near future.

“The death losses in Nebraska alone will more than offset what USDA estimated what the calf crop was set to increase in 2019. If calf and yearling prices are not considerably higher this fall, our supply and demand market is broken beyond repair. The cow calf expansion phase was at or near its peak, so these losses will pull us back into a shrinking phase in the cow calf sector,” O’Dea said.

Another Nebraska rancher, Karina Jones, said that on top of weather-related disasters, her state’s property taxes are overwhelming.

“Property taxes are like a second mortgage,” said Karina Jones.

The Jones Ranch in Custer County Nebraska has been hit hard by nature and in a way kicked repeatedly while they were down.

“Our situation is unique. We endured the hailstorm in August of 2017 we had to wean calves immediately and start feeding cows on August 13. We didn’t have a blade of grass left on this ranch,” she remembers. By early December of that year, they were running out of feed, and they were forced to send all of the mother cows to be fed by someone off the ranch. “We fed cows from Aug 13, 2017 to June 1, 2018,” Jones said.

Jones believes the state is taking advantage of ranchers like herself and her husband.

“You would think the government would value people like us. We have a particular skill set that can not be taught in a classroom. You can not learn how to be a rancher from Google. It is generations of DNA intelligence. When they put us out of business, it is all lost. Society won’t be able to get that back. We have a particular skill set to feed the world and I can not think of a more noble profession than that,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if you own the ground or lease it. The cost of these high taxes is carried by the producer, the cow/calf man or the yearling guy. With the poor cattle markets the last few years we cannot support this tax burden. I do not know the last time I bought my girls a special sports drink at the supermarket line or convenience store. I cannot afford extras!”

The Jones are not a multi-generational operation. “We do not have the working capital of the generations before us to lean on. It all falls squarely on our shoulders, just like many other operators around us. It is a big load to carry,” Jones said.

The Jones’ had insurance on their home but hay loss from the hail storm was not covered because hail is a non-covered peril. The same with destroyed grass, trees lost, poor weaning weights on the calves that the cows had at side and poor performing calves that they had in utero. “We just want to raise cattle and kids. That’s all. We don’t want to take from anyone else. We want to give back and better our communities. We want to contribute fairly to our tax commitments. We want to feed our neighbors with a high quality product that we are proud to feed our own families.”

Jones would like to see some producer support meetings where others like her could share ideas. “We all need some good education and a place to be positive and focus on solutions. And yet we need a safe place to be heard. The bankers need us to stay in business,” said Leah Peterson of Custer County, Nebraska. “And none of us want easy; we just want a fair shot. Taxes take that away. As someone says, it’s like paying taxes on a 401K every year.”

Jim Scott, branch president of Bruning State Bank in Broken Bow, Nebraska said, “High property taxes are definitely a major issue due to the current ag economy and high expenses. There has been a depreciation of land values in the last 12 months, due to more land being sold and less profitability, people are looking to reduce debt load.”

“We need to even the tax burden on all citizens, like with a sales tax increase; we are waiting on the legislature to help. Producers need to get involved and pay attention to how money is spent,” Scott said.

Lee Pitts: New Old Movies

Have you noticed that there are no decent movies being shown on free TV channels lately. If you want to see a good movie you have to stream it or pay to join Peacock, Netflix or Hulu (Does anyone know what a Hulu is?) Call me a tightwad but I refuse to pay for what passes for entertainment these days.

Plus, as I write this I think we can all be grateful that the writers in Hollywood are out on strike. Rather than the garbage Hollywood was churning out before the strike I’d rather see remakes of some of the all-time classics. Like these…

The Wizards of US.  A cast of strange characters who don’t have a heart, brain or courage. It’s the real story of the U.S. government. I have seen the original 3,253 times and I’m sick and tired of it and sure wish someone would update the old flick. President Biden could be the scarecrow without a brain, Mark Zuckerberg would be the Tin Man without a heart, John Kerry would be the Cowardly Lion and Whoopee could play the wicked witch.

Rocky Meets Rambo Featuring two of the biggest box office stars of my era. I swear, this movie would out-gross Avatar and American agriculture in its first week.

The Best Little Whorehouses in Texas and Nevada  The photography and costuming are excellent in this documentary about places you might want to visit some day. Follow along as Bill Clinton narrates and introduces you to the stars up close and personal. Men, tell your wife you’re going hunting and leave her and the kids at home, gather up five of your best buddies and take a little field trip to go see this movie. Rated triple X with nudity and adult language.

Not So Tender Mercies  A movie I would really like to see. A bevy of bloodthirsty bankers foreclose on Susan Serandan, Joy Bahar and .Andrea Mitchell who are then forced to live together on a very small island. Watch the movie and bet on DraftKings as to how long they can go before they start killing each other. Produced and directed by Donald Trump.

Deep Throats Isn’t it great that westerns are making a comeback? A great show for kids of all ages. Clint Eastwood worms three hundred steers armed only with a balling gun.

A Sting – Tells the story of the only two brick-and-mortar retailers left in America. Follow along as they try to survive the Amazon by selling cheap, crappy merchandise from China. The three big conglomerates that own everything pull off “the sting” by using the Postal Service to deliver all their stuff for free while first class mail and magazines pile up in Post Offices from coast to coast.

Superman…The Final Chapter This will be your last chance to see Clark Kent walk into a phone booth and transform himself into Superman. With everyone carrying cell phones and no need for phone booths the man of steel has lost his dressing room.

Jaws: The Grand Reopening  A bunch of  economists shoot off their mouths about how high food prices are and the American public blames the farmers and ranchers. It is the biggest work of fiction since Homer wrote The Odyssey. It bombed at the box office until the movie’s main character played by Will Smith, clocked a corn farmer at the Oscars and now everyone wants to see the remake. With one punch Smith managed to revive his career and make many more millions. So why does it look like Smith’s wife just ate a big jar of dill pickles?

E.T….The Elected Terestrials  You have read the book, now see the blockbuster movie. The epic story of 535 politicians from that far-away planet, Washington, D.C. and how they try to destroy agriculture in America. This is the movie that took 31 trillion dollars to make. You might as well see it…you paid for it. It stars Michelle Obama but Hunter Biden steals the show in an Oscar-worthy performance.

Gone Again With The Wind– The perennial favorite, starring the Godfather who meets up with My Fair Lady. A good looking rancher tries to please a headstrong women.  He never stood a chance. He tells her he loves her, she says, “I don’t give a damn,” and he is Gone Again With The Wind.

So, I’ll be seeing you at the movies… or not. Have you seen what they’re charging for a ticket to the movies these days?

Imports, Exports and Labels

As the U.S. becomes a net importer of agricultural products, Wyoming’s Hageman discusses her meat labeling bill and Benoit says WTO ruling is outdated

According to a recent USDA report, after 30 plus years of a positive trade
balance, the United States will import more dollars worth of
agricultural products than it will export.

The imbalance looks to grow larger in 2024.

The lowered export values are “largely driven by lower exports of soybeans, soybean meal, and dairy products” according to the USDA.

For FY 2024, USDA predicts: “Beef exports are forecast to decline $600 million to $8.5 billion on lower volumes due to tight U.S. supplies. Overall livestock, poultry, and dairy exports are projected at $37.6 billion, down $1.4 billion from FY 2023.”

According to another USDA report, Since 2000, U.S. imports of beef have represented about 11 percent of U.S. production and exports about 9 percent. U.S. beef trade is largely dependent on domestic production, and shocks to production can lead to a boost in import demand and a reduction in supplies available for export.

Charles Benoit, a trade attorney currently working for the Coalition for a Prosperous America said the current global trade scenario is not helping production agriculture.

“I don’t mind saying that the emperor has no clothes,” he said. “This system isn’t going to work. Most ag crops are hurt by trade. Fruits, vegetables, seafood, shrimp, lamb, rice. What we have to do is forget about the trading system and go back to what worked.”

Trade is used too often as a political pawn, said Benoit, referencing the dairy industry and the minimal amount of dairy products exported to Canada. “One-third of our organic dairies have folded, dairies are being wiped out, and Congress spends time attacking Canada’s dairies. It will make marginal difference
to American dairies if a bit more milk is exported, but it completely takes over the conversation,” he said.

He also pointed out the decimation of the sheep industry due to imports. The U.S. is now a net importer of lamb, according to USDA statistics. 

“It’s completely insane. The message is – other countries will import from us what they need. If exports happen, great, but don’t chase exports, protect a diversified home market. If we can make it here, we should be focused on that,” he said.

Brett Kenzy, a Gregory, South Dakota, cattle producer and backgrounder, and R-CALF USA president, said mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef is crucial as the cattle industry looks to keep its head above water in a cutthroat global marketing situation combined with the “global sustainability movement” that threatens the livelihood of the American cattle producer.

He believes that even with the improved prices of the current season, the future of the cattle industry is grim without major changes including MCOOL.

“If ranchers want to have anything to leave to their children, they’re going to have to decide to market their own product,” Kenzy said. “It just seems so obvious to me, globalism is at this point a reality.  Another reality is that we haven’t handled it very well.  A third reality is that people ARE waking up, but they had also better hurry up.”

Congresswoman Harriet Hageman, just hours after the House failed to muster enough votes to pass its Ag Appropriations bill on Sept. 28, 2023, spoke with TSLN about her bill to implement mandatory country of origin labeling for beef.

The Hageman bill, H.R. 5081 introduced July 28, 2023 and co-sponsored by Gosar (R-AZ), Williams (R-TX), Boebert (R-CO) and Blumenauer (D-OR), would require that all beef bear the country of origin, and that beef can only be marked as product of the USA if it was born, raised and slaughtered in the
United States. 

“This is something that has been a priority for me for quite some time,” said Hageman, whose family ranches in the Ft. Laramie and Jay Em communities of Wyoming. “The American public wants to know where their food comes from. We know where our sweaters, cars and purses come from, they deserve to know where their beef comes from. This is a consumer protection bill.”

Hageman said that a “USA” beef label serves a purpose, pointing out that “USA” beef demands a premium in other countries. Meatpackers have an incentive not to label because they are able to garner imported beef at opportune times when cattle prices are high to manipulate the market.

“They can dump massive amounts of foreign beef on the market when they believe it will be the most advantageous to them. We know the cattle market is high right now. They have the ability to manipulate that pretty quickly as long as they can bring in those cattle or beef and claim it is U.S. product,” she

As an attorney, her primary source of income was not production agriculture, yet she has been “closely aligned” with the ag industry, often representing ag producers, she said.

“I’m not opposed to the packers, they have their own interests and they want to make a living in the free market system. I just want to make sure this system is fair,” she said.

Hageman’s bill would fine retailers who mis-label beef at the steep level of $5,000 per pound of beef. She said this isn’t intended to harm small grocers but to keep the meatpackers following the rules.

The Wyoming Representative introduced an amendment to the Ag Appropriations bill this past week that would have prevented USDA from spending money on a mandatory electronic identification program for cattle. While that bill ultimately didn’t pass (after a close voice vote, it died in a roll call vote several hours later), Hagemen said she will be talking to her colleagues to explain her deep concerns with a government-mandated animal identification program. She will simultaneously lobby for her own MCOOL bill, and urges Americans who support MCOOL to also contact their representatives to support her bill.

South Dakota’s Representative Dusty Johnson also introduced HR 5215 to require country of origin labeling for beef in a WTO-compliant manner. 

Back in January, South Dakota Senator John Thune and Senators Tester (D-Mont), Rounds (R-SD), Booker (D-NJ), Lummis (R-WY), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hoeven (R-ND) and Lujan (D-NM) introduced
S. 52, The American Beef Labeling Act, in the Senate.

MCOOL for beef was enforced between the years of 2009 and 2015, when Congress repealed the regulation due to a World Trade Organization ruling, which determined that Mexico and Canada would have “permission” to retaliate against the U.S. for its MCOOL law because the MCOOL law put their beef products at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

Since 2015, many lawmakers and organizations have cited the WTO ruling as justification for not implementing MCOOL for beef.

Some studies, including two by Kansas State University professor Glynn Tonsor, have indicated that country of origin labeling for beef did not have a positive effect on cattle prices.

Essentially, said Tonsor, in 2019, “if beef and pork products went through the grocery store, then they had to be labeled. With that (labeling) comes the cost of compliance, which goes into a benefit-cost assessment, and an attempt to quantify the benefit. So what we tried to determine is the impact on the
demand for meat of that law, and ultimately whether there was a positive benefit-cost ratio.”

His research determined that the cost outweighed the benefit and he believes that MCOOL did not increase beef demand, although cattle producers did enjoy high prices during part of the MCOOL implementation period.

“There’s no evidence of a positive demand development following implementation of the law,” Tonsor said of his 2019 study. “So if you don’t have evidence of a benefit, and you do have evidence of a cost, that’s not a desirable benefit-cost ratio.” 

The American Farm Bureau worries that the American consumer is not necessarily interested in buying products labeled “made in the USA.” In a 2020 news release, evaluating the renewed interest in MCOOL for beef, the American Farm Bureau pointed out: While repealed for muscle cuts of
beef and pork and ground beef and pork in 2016, MCOOL remains in place for fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, shellfish, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, ginseng, and ground and muscle cuts of lamb, chicken and goat. Despite the hope that MCOOL would make consumers more likely to purchase U.S.-produced goods, trade data suggests that consumer demand for imported goods remains high. For example, imports of fresh fruits and vegetables were 56 percent higher in 2019 than 2009, despite a strong U.S. industry and increasing ‘buy local’ trends.”

NCBA’s international trade senior director Ken Bacus, told Iowa Farmer Today in 2022 that in the past officials couldn’t come up with a WTO compliant version of the law in six years, so expecting them to come up with some way of making it work in six months is unrealistic. And he says farmers would suffer
if a plan that is not WTO compliant is implemented.

Bacus said the risk of a WTO case is too great.

“That’s a billion dollar gamble for our ag producers,” he said in Iowa Farmer today.

Benoit explains that the WTO ruling isn’t nearly as impactful as it sounds.

Benoit, who grew up in Ottowa, Canada, earned his law degree at Georgetown University, and interned with the Canadian embassy, said that in fact the WTO panel that handed down the COOL decision is no longer even functioning. 

“The ranchers were just profoundly unlucky that they were basically the last victim of a terrible WTO decision-making process.”

Benoit said that President Obama, followed by President Trump, and now by President Biden have rejected the decision-making body by refusing to approve any appointees to serve on the panel, rendering it essentially defunct.

Benoit also explained that in 2020, the U.S. Trade Representative published a report on the United States’ concerns with the WTO dispute system in particular with respect to the Appellate Body
(the seven member “board” that made the MCOOL ruling) titled “Appellate Body Errors in Interpreting WTO Agreements Raise Substantive Concerns and Undermine the WTO.”

The USTR went so far as to cite WTO’s MCOOL decision as one of three cases that led to the past three U.S. presidents’ refusal to approve any new members to the WTO body.

“‘Prior to 2012, the Appellate Body had never interpreted Article III to mean that any detrimental impact on like imports is per se sufficient to support a finding of inconsistency.’11 This text cites to footnote 219 of the report, which indicates that the adverse Appellate Body decision on beef labeling was one of just three post-2012 decisions to receive this unjust, unreasonable, and untenable judgment,” explained Benoit in a recent letter to Congress.

Benoit explained that the members of the WTO decision-making bodies tend to be international trade attorneys from around the world. He said they often naturally tend to favor multinational corporations over independent producers simply because larger corporations are their “comfort zone” and many of them are likely employed by multinational corporations or may be seeking future employment there.

While it appeared that Canada and Mexico brought the WTO case, Benoit says that in reality the large meatpackers were the impetus behind it. He points out that Canadian cattle producers are earning less and less of the retail beef dollar and struggling to make a profit, just like American cattle producers are. “If you take a step back here, what happened is that the meatpackers used national sovereignty
to play countries against each other. This happens with other global businesses, too,” he said.

“It’s a real David and Goliath situation where Goliath attracts the people who make decisions on trade disputes,” he said. “I actually walked away from trade law for a while,” he said. “But everything has changed in recent years. I came back into trade. Now we have the momentum to make some real changes,” he said.

A Few Thoughts by John Nalivka: Record prices require risk management

While I often question USDA’s Cattle on Feed reports, I believe the trend of a declining feedlot inventory as reflected in the last several reports are accurate.  We know the direction of the supply following the previous two years of herd liquidation and the slaughter data is confirmation.  It does not take a detailed review of heifer slaughter to know that a large share of those feedlot inventories has been heifers – heifers that were not held as replacements in the fall of 2022.  We knew they would not be replacements – not after significant herd liquidation that year!

Heifer slaughter has fallen below a year earlier since mid-May and year-to-date, is down 2% from a year earlier.  Two important points – first, for all of 2022 heifer slaughter was the highest since 2003 and, second, for the period of September 23 through the end of the year 2022, this was the highest number of heifers slaughtered since 2002.  I am assuming this year’s figure will continue to fall well below the 2022 number.  Steer slaughter year-to-date is down 5% from a year earlier and the lowest in my database which goes back to 1989.  Consequently, cattle supplies will tighten even further as we look toward the end of this year and into 2024. 

Tight cattle numbers, reduced beef production, and stronger demand has led to record high prices.  While this is great for the industry, demand which has supported these higher prices, becomes a concern.  USDA’s reported August average retail price for Choice beef was up 7% from a year earlier while the price of all fresh beef was 9% higher than a year ago.  The average price of steaks during August was up 13% from a year ago while ground beef prices for the month rose 3% over a year ago.  This is an indicator of where consumers will likely spend beef dollars if budgets get tight.  While strong ground beef sales are positive, it takes solid prices across the entire carcass to support the market.   

Coming back down the supply chain, cattle prices also reached record highs.  Finished Choice steers were up 29% from a year ago in August while feeder steers were up 40%, calves were up 45%, and cull cow prices posted a 27% jump over a year ago.  All good – right?

As we all know, revenue is only one-half of the picture so we need to look at some of the major input costs to produce those cattle.  Cost of gain in the feedlot for cattle marketed during 2023 will be up 12% from a year ago and 75% higher than the 2017-2020 average.  In addition to feed, another major input is fuel.  Diesel fuel prices during August were down 12% from a year ago, but 81% higher than the 2017-2020 average with the August price of oil up 54% against that same period. Meanwhile, the prime interest rate averaged 8.5% during August compared to 5.5% a year ago, and 4.45% for the 2017-2020 average.

This is not all breaking news.  However, what producers must consider for the future of their ranch is that rising costs of production coupled with production efficiency will likely lead to a shrinking industry, not just cyclically, but structurally over the long term.  How will you fit?  Record prices today are great, but planning, coupled with a business analysis and a marketing strategy based on quality will get you to the long-term goal – a successful beef operation.

Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood

Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Sept. 30, 2023, edition of Tri-State LIvestock News


Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate

Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate for the Sept. 30, 2023, edition of Tri-State Livestock News


Homeland Fall – 2023

Nebraska: Hereford Crossroads in Chadron, Oct. 7

Hereford Crossroads #9 will take place Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in the Chicoine Atrium at the historic Sandoz Center on the Chadron State College campus in Chadron.

This annual event will focus on the Hereford cattle history of Northwest Nebraska by induction into the HC Hall of Fame, a herd bull from Sioux County and an event held many years ago in Chadron.

Nebraskans for Hereford Heritage, Inc. was founded in 2015 by a group of both former and current Hereford breeders.  Every year a reception is held in October at a location selected somewhere in western or central Nebraska. Since 2017 the Hereford Crossroads exhibit has been housed in The Sandhills Heritage Museum at Dunning.

Homecoming at Chadron State College will also be Oct. 7, 2023, with a morning parade and afternoon football game as well as many other activities throughout the day.  The popular Harvest Moon vendor fair is also planned at the Dawes County Fairgrounds.

Hereford attendees are invited to tour the Sandoz Center along with the Coffee Gallery, featuring the 150-year-old Coffee Ranch, prior to the reception/dinner.

Doors open at 3 p.m. with social at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Seating is limited.  Reservation must be made to Dixie Hoffman at  406-425-0477 by Oct. 1.  Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple.  No tickets will be sold at the door.   

For lodging call the Chadron West Hills Inn at 308-225-6094 and ask for Hereford Crossroads rates.

This event is sponsored in part by the Dawes County Travel Board.

–Hereford Crossroads

Dakota Breeders Classic 24th Annual Production Sale

TSLN Rep: Scott Dirk

Date of Sale: Aug. 8, 2023

Location: Mobridge Livestock Market, Mobridge, SD

Auctioneer: Seth Weishaar


41 Weanling colts – $2,660
1 3-year-old rider at $7,700

Very nice set of colts from Five Arrow Quarter Horses, Broken Heart Ranch, Booth Quarter Horses, Page Mollman, and Bender Ranch Quarter Horses. Colts from this programs have gone on to be very successful in the arena, track and to make excellent ranch horses. 

Top selling colt was lot 18, BHR Bank on It, 5/27/2023 Palomino colt by Brakin Da Bank x NHR Super Frost sold for $5,750. 

Lot 1, FA Slow Twist Train, 5/2/2023 Palomino colt by Assend the Train x Genuine Doc O Lena selling at $5,000. 

Lot 34, A Dashin Bet, 5/14/2023 Red Roan colt by Zan N Me x Hot Shot Dash at $4,600. 

Lot 43, Moonglows Bet, 5/21/2023 Buckskin colt by Zan N Me x Pale Moonglow sold for $4,250

Lot 19, BHR Playin Famous, 4/22/2023 Buckskin filly by Coronas Dun Playin x Hes Relentless sold for $4,000. 

Selling at $7,700 was lot 29, Hollys Native Oak, 5/10/2020 Gray gelding, nicely started graduate of this sale sired by Eye Holly x A Slidin Doc.

FA Slow Twist Train by Assend the Train from Five Arrow Quarter Horses sold at $5,000 at the 24th Annual Dakota Breeders Classic Horse Sale.
BHR Bank on It from Broken Heart Ranch sold at the 24th Annual Dakota Breeders Classic Horse sale for $5,750.
A Dashing Bet from Page Mollman sold for $4,600 at the Dakota Breeders Classic Production sale.

South Dakota students eat local beef, bison for school lunch

Everyone remembers what school lunches were like as a kid. Maybe it was a peanut butter sandwich from home, or perhaps goulash or pizza in the cafeteria. There are often pleasant memories and foods that school-age kids wrinkle their noses at (looking at you, cooked spinach!).

Thanks in part to a grant, schoolchildren at five South Dakota schools will enjoy beef and buffalo sourced from local ranches and cattle operations for their school lunches at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, Dupree, Timber Lake, Takini and Tiospaye Topa.

The Farm to School Program is not new to the Timber Lake school district, as they started utilizing the program last year with several local beef producers.

“Many of these schools already serve donated beef, but we wanted to have a more consistent source for the schools,” says Jayme Murray, CEO, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Buffalo Authority Corporation. “It’s always been tough with buffalo because the price is so much higher than beef, to keep the price point down. Schools have money to buy food; why can’t they use that money to buy local food?”

Nutritious, Affordable, Locally Grown

The goals of the Farm to School Program grant are to improve communities’ access to nutritious, affordable, locally grown, culturally significant foods by linking local food production to local needs. The program is designed to enhance marketing opportunities for farmers, encourage family farming and the preservation of agricultural traditions, inform public policy, and further understanding of the links between farming, food, health and local economies.

“We’ve used the funding for training opportunities, such as bringing in a Native American chef to the National School Lunch program for hands-on training in preparing buffalo for children,” Murray adds. “We’ve hired a few people to work with the school and get started buying the meat.”

Thus far, CRST Buffalo Authority Corporation has received two USDA grants, totaling more than $140,000—to plan and implement the program. The corporation has teamed up with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Bureau of Indian Education, South Dakota Beef Council, Tribal Ag Council and Tribal Buffalo Council, and the Nebraska and Montana Farm to School Programs to make the South Dakota program a reality.

Caption: Chef Mariah Gladstone, Indigikitchen, demonstrates how to use beef and buffalo meat in traditional recipes. Irona Howe | Courtesy photo

“We’ve also done some outreach, including sending 20 local beef and buffalo producers to South Dakota State University for a workshop to get them thinking about getting their product in the school lunch program,” Murray says. “Now we’re getting to where we’re determining how many pounds we need and what local producers are able to provide.”

Murray says the CRST Buffalo Authority Corporation is working on an agreement with the Nature Conservancy to donate buffalo for consumption starting this fall. The schools will only have to pay for the processing of the meat, which will be done through West Side Meats in Mobridge, SD.

The first order of buffalo is scheduled to be delivered to the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte school on October 11.

Example dishes made from beef and buffalo by Chef Mariah Gladstone, Indigikitchen. Irona Howe | Courtesy photo
Another sample of meals the chef created. Courtesy photo

Taking a Shot

The Farm to School Program got started because of a desire to get better food products into the lunch program for kids, according to Murray.

“We knew we wanted to get local beef and buffalo in schools, and we saw the grant opportunity, so we took the shot,” he says. “The biggest challenge has been overcoming misinformation.”

Some families thought that meat for school lunches must be USDA inspected, but it only must be state inspected—the same level of inspection that is provided at West Side Meats.

Murray says that while the federal grant process can be daunting to gather all the necessary information, expressing the vision of the program was easy. Many federal grant programs can be found online.

“The donated beef program is really popular in western South Dakota, and it’s a great program,” Murray says. “What we wanted to change was that the producers get paid for their product.”

Three other South Dakota organizations also received USDA grants.

US ag leaders attempt to make inroads in trade deficit with Chile

U.S. agricultural leaders this week are attempting to make a dent in the huge gap between Chilean agricultural exports to the United States and U.S. sales to Chile, Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor and state agricultural officials told reporters Thursday in a call from Santiago.
Taylor is leading a delegation of state agricultural officials, agricultural organizations and companies in Chile this week. Buyers from Peru and Ecuador are also meeting with U.S. companies. She said there have been 350 business-to-business meetings this week.
Taylor said that total agricultural trade between the United States and Chile amounts to $8.5 billion, but of that $7.4 billion is Chilean exports to the United States while the United States sells only $1.1 billion in farm and food products to Chile.
Chile’s exports include $7.4 billion in salmon, a reflection of the country’s huge farmed salmon industry, while other key exports to the United States are forest products, fruits and vegetables and wine.
Taylor said a diverse cross section of U.S. agriculture including dairy, beef, pork, poultry, distilled spirits, condiments, feed grains and rice “have all had productive meetings here.”
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, a member of the delegation, added that Chile and the United States “complement each other very well” in poultry because the Chileans eat cuts that Americans do not broadly consume.
He also said that there is an interest in soybean meal, lentils, peas, and dry, pinto and black beans, all of which can be exported through the Pacific Northwest.
Taylor noted that previous agricultural trade missions the Biden-Harris administration has led have resulted in $32 million in sales.
Goehring and other officials also said that Chilean buyers have shown a great interest in sustainability. Chileans want to be carbon neutral by 2050 and they are trying to conform to that in their own exports, Goehring said.
On sustainability, Chileans are watching what the U.S. is doing. The U.S. is “pretty progressive in this area,” Goehring said.

–The Hagstrom Report