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June 30, 2014
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Rocky Mountain Ag Notebook: Rep. Tipton wary of EPA water rule; JBS’s Greeley beef plant workers looking to strike

Tipton wary of rule

A Forest Service directive has the potential to add groundwater resources to proposed federal rules on surface water under the Clean Water Act, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said Thursday.

During a congressional hearing, Tipton questioned Undersecretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie on the proposed groundwater directive.

The directive would expand forest service control to include groundwater, as well as streams that feed it, Tipton said.

Bonnie said Tipton is misinterpreting the rule.

“The Forest Service is putting out a directive that will clarify and provide some consistency across the way we address groundwater as part of resource management plans, projects and other things,” Bonnie said. “The purpose of that directive is to provide greater consistency across the Forest Service. It doesn’t provide any new authorities to regulate groundwater.”

Tipton disagreed.

“My interpretation of it is that a farmer or rancher could divert legally out of a stream to fill a stock pond or irrigate a field, and will be in violation,” Tipton replied.

Water users in Colorado already are nervous about increased scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers under proposed rules that regulate nearly every waterway as waters of the United States.

— The Pueblo Chieftain

JBS workers approve union vote to talk things over, avoid strike

JBS is ready to go back to the bargaining table to avoid a strike by workers at its Greeley plant approved in a union vote Saturday, according to a statement from a JBS official.

JBS responded to requests for comment on the strike vote that concluded Saturday night with an emailed statement late Saturday night.

“The UFCW has not provided the company with details of a strike vote that concluded Saturday evening at our Greeley, Colorado, beef plant. However, we look forward to continuing to work with the union’s elected officials to reach a resolution. We believe we can reach a negotiated settlement that serves the interests of our team members, union membership, the greater Greeley community and the economic viability of the facility,” said a statement by JBS spokeswoman Misty Barnes. “Toward that end, we have agreed to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, with retroactivity of the agreed upon first year wage increase, and trust that we can arrive at a solution during this extension period.”

The union didn’t respond to requests for comment Sunday on the JBS response to the strike vote.

Kevin Schneider, the secretary treasurer of the union, said Saturday the potential strike action wouldn’t begin right away. In fact, he said negotiations on a new contract could begin again as early as next week.

“We hope that happens,” he said.

The contract would cover the working conditions for 3,229 employees, salaried and hourly, at the plant at present. It doesn’t cover the 150 employees with JBS Carriers division, or their 700 drivers, or the 900 administrative employees at their JBS USA headquarters in Promontory in west Greeley.

­— Staff reports

Loveland ranch blooming again after floods

People are slowly trickling back to the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch even as the owners and their supporters work to piece together the 68-year-old landmark to reclaim at least a piece of its former glory.

The 3,200-acre ranch recently received its first group of overnight guests since September’s catastrophic floods wiped out several key buildings that held treasured family memories.

Those greeting visitors will be siblings David and Susan Jessup, whose parents — Maurice and Mayme — bought the property in 1946 and turned it into a working ranch with cattle, horses and guest houses for families and group events.

Before the flood, Sylvan Dale attracted 10,000 guests a year — not just tourists but business and government employees who held retreats in an idyllic mountain setting that put just about everyone at ease, said Susan Jessup.

Sylvan Dale also hosted about 60 weddings a year.

— The Denver Post

New USDA Website a One-Stop Shop for the Farmers of Tomorrow

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a new resource: USDA.gov/newfarmers, aimed at connecting new farmers and ranchers with USDA resources, programs and support.

On www.usda.gov/newfarmers, new farmers can find information about accessing land and capital, managing risk, finding education, outreach and technical assistance, growing businesses and markets, and investing in the land and environment.

It also shows how these programs and services work in real-life situations.

The 2012 Ag Census shows that diversity, youth engagement, and diversity of production models for agriculture are all increasing. There was an 11.3 percent increase in young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming.

At the same time, the average age and experience level of farmers and ranchers in America continues to rise.

— U.S. Department of Agriculture

Wyoming leases 3,900 pristine acres for oil and gas

In a normal year, Pat O’Toole might be more worried about the coyotes that killed 10 of his lambs the night before.

But O’Toole’s flock now faces a different threat in the form of a Colorado company’s plans to drill an unknown number of oil and gas wells here in the Little Snake River Valley, a verdant stretch of rolling country straddling Wyoming’s border with the Centennial State.

“It could destroy our land,” O’Toole said this week after watching a team of hired Peruvian sheepherders dock and castrate this year’s lambs in preparation for their two-week journey from the valley into the lush highlands of the Medicine Bow National Forest.

“You talk to the people in Douglas and the people in Buffalo, and they say you can’t range land when you have that kind of development,” he said.

Earlier this month, the State Loan and Investment Board approved the lease of almost 3,900 acres of state land around Battle Mountain to GRMR Oil and Gas for $26,931.

The state’s decision exposed long-simmering tensions over the use of public land in Wyoming at a time when oil development is on the rise.

— Casper, Wyo., Star-Tribune

Groups file to put wild horses on Endangered Species list

Friends of Animals and The Cloud Foundation have filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list North American wild horses on public lands as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). “Misclassification of wild horses as a non-native species is politically, not scientifically driven,” said Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “Wild horses are severely endangered but without recognition of current scientific evidence of their native status, they could become extinct.”

In the early 1900s, two to five million wild horses freely roamed across America, says Jenni Barnes, staff attorney, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program.

“Now there are less than 35,000 on public lands, where they are supposed to be protected,” Barnes said. “The petition states that these few remaining horses are divided into even smaller herds, whose populations are so low that they are susceptible to being wiped out completely by a chance event or change in the environment. Instead of protecting these horses, or just leaving them alone, a government agency, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), plans to remove even more horses from the range with expensive and cruel tactics, such as helicopter driving.”

— The Cloud Foundation

Feds adopt Wyoming sage grouse strategy for 2.4 million acres

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management adopted Wyoming’s sage grouse conservation strategy in a new land management plan for 2.4 million federal acres around Lander on Thursday, in a move that offered a potential preview of how BLM intends to approach sage grouse conservation in Wyoming and throughout the West.

The release of the Lander Resource Management Plan, which will dictate land use practices on BLM land in the region for at least the next two decades, drew praise from Gov. Matt Mead, local representatives and a host of environmental groups.

It is the first of several expected to be released in the next 12 months governing large swaths of BLM-administrated land in Wyoming. It also comes in advance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s expected decision in 2015 on whether to list the sage grouse as an endangered species.

Energy companies, agricultural groups and Wyoming policymakers have all opposed listing the bird, saying it would make large areas of the West off-limits to energy development and ranching. Some environmental groups have said Wyoming’s strategy does not go far enough to protect sage grouse habitat and argued further conservation measures are needed.

— Casper, Wyo., Star-Tribune

Gardner Requests Full Funding for Emergency Watershed Protection

Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., this past week sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development requesting full funding for Emergency Watershed Protection, which is a program that provides assistance to communities recovering from natural disasters.

“I ask today that you rewrite the bill to address the Emergency Watershed Protection program. Nineteen states are currently waiting for EWP funding and I implore you to address this need prior to continuing with House floor proceedings on the bill.

“This program has been utilized in the past to assist areas of the country that have a declared natural disaster with watershed restoration and critical infrastructure repairs,” he continued. “The EWP program has proved a valuable resource for communities recovering from natural disasters, such as wildfires that devastated southern California in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Colorado wildfires in 2012. I understand that your subcommittee had difficult decisions to make, yet I believe EWP funding must be included in the final committee released bill.

“In order to fully address the backlog and for future projects, the NRCS would need $109,978,000 for Emergency Watershed Protection programs pursuant to Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act designation. I ask that you do everything within in your existing authority to match this funding level.

— Office of U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.


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