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The Beef Checkoff: Racing to consumers amid increasing pressures

Driving demand for beef, according to Cattlemen’s Beef Board CEO Greg Hanes, is the goal of the Beef Checkoff, but research and connection to consumers, he said, is the name of the game as the industry faces pressures and consumers are faced with a growing number of protein choices.

In addition to continuing its original mission and programs, one of the internal pressures facing the national Beef Checkoff is paying the attorney’s fees and litigation costs as ordered in Montana District Court. However, perhaps more notable is the firm being paid those fees.

Public Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based firm representing RCALF-USA in a suit against the USDA, et al, has in their corner Food Project Litigation Director David S. Muraskin.

David Muraskin, Public Justice

Muraskin, according to the group’s website, focuses on impact litigation to promote sustainable alternatives to the industrial animal agriculture system. He has worked on constitutional, consumer, worker, and environmental cases. Among his highest profile cases, are ag-gag cases in Wyoming in which he served as lead counsel.

The laws, designed to curtail the recording, possession, or distribution of photos, video, and audio of activities on farms, also protect the private property rights and biosecurity of agriculture operations.

In a statement regarding a court finding the Wyoming statutes unconstitutional, Muraskin said, “This is a sweeping victory for the First Amendment, and a scathing rebuke of the industrial agriculture industry’s brazen attempt to hide the ways factory farms impact communities and the environment. Wyoming’s attempt to silence and intimidate citizens, advocates and the media has now met the same demise as similar laws in Idaho and Utah, sending a clear message to industrial agriculture’s lobbyists that their dependence on secrecy to sell their product will not survive. These laws are unjust and unconstitutional, and we’ll continue to fight them from coast to coast until they have all been defeated or repealed.”

The decision was applauded by the Western Watersheds Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council, PETA, and other nonprofits.

Bill Bullard, the CEO of RCALF-USA said the organization has used Muraskin as counsel dating back to an original COOL suit filed in Federal District court in Washington. Bullard said Muraskin was chosen because he had an interest in Country of Origin Labeling. That particular case, he said, had exceeded the statute of limitations and couldn’t progress.


The checkoff lawsuit followed filed in Federal District Court in Montana, and Bullard said based on Muraskin’s practice area specialization in constitutional law, he was the choice. RCALF-USA has, he said, used Muraskin’s office, Public Justice, for an additional pair of cases, one filed regarding the checkoff in federal district court in D.C., and another in New Mexico filed against the major packers alleging they were violating the state’s false advertising statute. That court ruled that the state was preempted from false advertising claims because the government had authority under the Federal Meat Inspection Act over labeling and advertising.

“The decision, we realized, that the government does not have authority over false advertising meat products, their authority is limited only to labels on the meat products themselves,” Bullard said. “We filed an amicus brief with Public Justice in that case, so we have three pending cases and one case that has been resolved.”

Bullard said Public Justice and Muraskin are exceptional attorneys. Although Muraskin has in the past represented anti-agriculture causes, Bullard said he is, in the cases with RCALF-USA, representing the independent cattle producer’s constitutional rights and in the prevention of vertical integration. As for claims of using an attorney who might be labeled anti-agriculture, Bullard said the same could be said of RCALF-USA, who are fighting big ag in the courts in the form of the big four packers.

“One has to distinguish between agriculture and a system that benefits the independent producer, and a system that transfers profits away from the independent producer to the industrialized agribusiness,” he said. “That’s the distinction we draw and that anyone who is concerned about us using someone who shares that view…this is our side of the issue. We want to promote and sustain the family farm system of agriculture. Corporate agribusinesses are trying to vertically integrate our industry, and we’re fighting to stop them, and Public Justice has been helping us.”

The $150,000 in legal fees that was awarded to RCALF-USA, Bullard said, likely pales in comparison to the amount the national Beef Checkoff is paying in legal fees on behalf of their state affiliates that have convened in the case. Altogether, these lawsuits add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in checkoff dollars being paid for both sides.


As far as the Checkoff Referendum that Bullard said will allow producers to vote whether or not to maintain the Beef Checkoff program, signatures are still being gathered.

“We need 89,000 signatures, and though the numbers are growing day by day, it’s a challenge to get that many producers who actually pay the checkoff. We’ve gone to USDA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and asked them to help simply by sharing the list they’ve gathered of beef checkoff-paying producers and they declined to assist us.”

A spokesperson for the CBB said their office does not have access to such a sharable list.

Even while paying legal fees and other administrative costs associated with legal disputes, the Beef Checkoff continues to follow the law that put it in place, Hanes said.

“The checkoff continues every day to be innovative in promotion, research, and education to reach our consumers,” he said. “We had to be particularly creative during the past year, as restaurants were closed, people couldn’t gather together, and things moved online rather than in person.”

A major Beef Checkoff event that illustrates that creativity was the Daytona International Speedway Xfinity season opener, the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner 300.

Austin Cindric after winning the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner 300 NASCAR race.

The sponsored event on Feb. 13 was funded by Federation of State Beef Councils for $350,000 — a discounted cost after a title sponsor fell out at the last minute, allowing the checkoff to take advantage of the nationally televised event. For that investment, there were more than 850 stories about the race on mainstream news outlets like Yahoo! Finance, ESPN and USA Today, reaching millions of readers and viewers. The event, and beef, were featured on the billboard over Times Square six times over two days prior to the event, and there were 12,500 posts on social media before, during, and after the event. The event, according to Hanes, was timely as it took place during the pandemic when television viewership was up, with people looking for alternative entertainment.

“We hear all the time that we don’t have enough Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner ads on television anymore,” Hanes said. “Well, this did that, and was able to be shared and broadened to capture chefs, mass media, NASCAR fans, and viewers who were stuck at home in the middle of our national closures.”

An aerial view of the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner 300.

In all, the promotion began weeks prior to the event and with the additional media support with chef influencers and social media, the event netted millions of viewers and engaged consumers.

Debt relief discrimination: Carpenter takes on Biden administration

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $4 billion to forgive loans for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as part of the Biden Administration’s COVID relief plan. According to Mountain States Legal Foundation, white farmers and ranchers are excluded in violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection, which is secured under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

According to William Trachman, associate general counsel for Mountain States Legal Foundation, the loans, which fund 120% of loan balances to also cover applicable taxes, are available only to socially disadvantaged farmers based on race. Wyoming rancher and MSLF client Leisl Carpenter, he said, was denied relief based on her skin color.

Carpenter and her young son on the family ranch in Wyoming. Courtesy photo

“For those groups (that qualify) there is no requirement that you have been discriminated against previously,” Trachman said. “There’s no requirement that you have a long and storied history of a ranch or a farm that suffered discrimination. You may have just gone into the farming and ranching business. Nevertheless, you would be eligible for 120% debt relief on your loan through the Farm Service Agency.”

Though he calls it a windfall for those who qualify, it excludes a number of producers who were deeply affected by COVID-19. He said whether the government is giving a benefit or burden on the basis of race, that benefit or burden must meet the strictest standard known to law. These equal protection principles are the basis under which this case was filed.

According to Trachman, the Biden Administration offered the history of societal discrimination against African American, Native American, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders as justification for excluding Caucasian farmers and ranchers. Trachman said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that previous COVID relief has gone disproportionately to Caucasian producers, making it time to target this relief at a different group.

“The statute does not require that you either suffered discrimination or that you suffered devastation because of COVID 19,” he said. “You could simply be a member of one of those groups and be eligible, regardless of your individual circumstances.”


Trachman said proving that certain individuals have suffered discrimination is possible, but classifying every farmer and rancher by race is presumptively unconstitutional. Recent court cases Trachman points to as a framework for this one include college admissions based on race, and the award of certain government contracts based on the race of the business owner.

Leisl Carpenter, a 29-year-old rancher from Laramie, Wyo., is represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Southeastern Legal Foundation. Courtesy photo

One of the rationales offered by the USDA, Trachman said, is that 97% of recipients of COVID relief for farmers and ranchers were white. Though he said he can’t confirm that statistic, he said the majority of farmers and ranchers are white and that number doesn’t justify the actions taken to pay relief based on race.

“We think the way the government has done this is especially sloppy and offers a compelling legal challenge to the points made,” he said. “I don’t think it was a clever way of going about race consciousness to the extent that was the government’s goal.”

Carpenter’s maternal grandmother’s family immigrated from Denmark and eventually settled in the Big Laramie Valley west of Laramie in 1894. This land remains the home to the Flying Heart Ranch today. With one exception, the ranch has been passed down to daughters, operating through the Great Depression, a flu pandemic in 1918, and other challenges.

Today the 2,400-acre ranch is home to over 500 head of cattle and hay and they also utilize Bureau of Land Management grazing permits. The debt relief program, if she were able to qualify, would forgive about $250,000.

As has been the case for many ranchers, drought and adverse market conditions have made the business of ranching difficult and when a portion of their leased pasture burned in a fire, Carpenter was faced with increasingly difficult decisions.

The debt shouldered by Carpenter’s grandparents, she said, took a toll on them. When her own parents returned to the ranch, the U.S. was entering the farm crisis of the 1980s.

“From a very early age, I saw my mom and grandmother who are significant women in my life, doing a job that’s not traditional in any aspects,” she said. “They really ingrained in me how to be a strong, independent woman while doing what I want to do. My love of agriculture has been evident since I was born.”


Carpenter said times on the ranch have been difficult, especially with such volatile markets. When her grandparents passed away in 2009, Carpenter and her mother were left with staggering debt. At that point, she and her mother were facing foreclosure on the sixth generation ranch.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “We had our Centennial Ranch that we could possibly lose because of the debt my grandparents accumulated.”

Only 18 at the time, Carpenter began the process of securing a Farm Service Agency loan. Without the advantages of a credit history or assets, she said the FSA was the only avenue available to her. The loan was finalized when she was 20 years old and dating her now husband, Tim.

“We cut our teeth on learning to do everything we could just to make a living,” she said. “We did and we’re still here. It’s not easy but we’re still here.”

COVID, she said, was frightening. She was a new mom and facing a volatile market and processing disruptions. Even with government assistance, the unknowns were heavy.

Carpenter said having access to the debt relief denied to her would be life changing for her and other ranchers like her, especially young producers attempting to begin their own operations. She said she was frustrated and reached out to the Biden administration and her state legislators to no avail.

“Debt is common in ag,” she said. “It’s uncommon to find anyone of any skin color in a farm or ranch that isn’t in debt.”

Female Wyoming rancher sues Biden Admin. for race discrimination

DENVER — Wyoming rancher Leisl Carpenter announced Tuesday, May 25, that she is suing the Biden Administration and the Department of Agriculture for race discrimination under the U.S. Constitution, in response to a “Rescue Plan” loan forgiveness program that explicitly bars her from participation because she is white.

Carpenter, a 29-year-old rancher from Laramie, is represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Southeastern Legal Foundation. The suit, Leisl Carpenter v Tom Vilsack and Zach Ducheneaux, was filed Monday in the United States District Court, District of Wyoming. She is seeking to be treated fairly and equally, without respect to her race.

In March 2021, the Biden administration signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, providing $4 billion to forgive loans for “socially disadvantaged” ranchers and farmers. White ranchers are excluded, in violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection under the Fifth Amendment.

“Like a lot of farmers and ranchers, our client has struggled to keep her family ranch afloat through all the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to learn that she is ineligible to even apply for Biden’s loan forgiveness program solely due to her race,” said MSLF Associate General Counsel William E. Trachman Tuesday. “Instead of being rescued by Biden’s plan, she’s been excluded and discriminated against for no other reason than the color of her skin.”

“The blatant discrimination in the American Rescue Plan Act, Section 1005, is ridiculous,” said Carpenter. “The government needs to bring an end to this horrendous practice of racial discrimination immediately and start treating Americans as individuals based on character and individual qualities, not based on the color of their skin.”

Carpenter’s 2,400-acre Flying Heart Ranch is a family operation located in Wyoming’s Big Laramie Valley. The 500-plus head of cattle she runs, and grass hay sales are the sole source of income for her, her husband, and her 19-month-old son, Casen. Her maternal grandmother’s family originally homesteaded on the land in 1894. Unlike many family ranches, Ms. Carpenter’s outfit has been passed down mostly to daughters rather than sons. She’s proud to follow in a long line of women who work the land.

To avoid foreclosure and save her family’s ranch when she was 20 years old, Ms. Carpenter decided to take out an FSA loan from the federal government. As was the case with many ranchers, the COVID-19 pandemic added to the financial difficulties Carpenter faces. When the Biden administration passed a $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill, it included a loan forgiveness program for ranchers. This might have been just the lifeline the ranch needed. But Carpenter and other white farmers and ranchers would learn that they weren’t eligible. The loan forgiveness program Biden signed into law excluded white ranchers and farmers, dashing the hopes of many in the agricultural community who believed Biden when he called it a “rescue” plan.

“Making skin color the basis of a government benefit is not only unconstitutional: it is also morally wrong,” added Trachman. “One simply cannot promote racial justice by perpetuating racial injustice. The way to end discrimination is to stop discriminating.”

Go to https://mslegal.org/cases/leisl-carpenter-v-tom-vilsack-and-zach-ducheneaux/ to see the case page.

Go to https://mslegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Complaint-for-Declaratory-and-Injunctive-Relief-U.S.-Distric-Court-of-Wyoming-Leisl-Carpenter-v-Tom-Vilsack-and-Zach-Ducheneaux-May-24-2021.pdf to read the filing.

Please contact Sean Paige at (719) 337-0355 with questions.


Making a business of it: cowgirls and sisters running a braiding business


Broken Bow, Neb. (May 17, 2021) – A pair of sisters in Broken Bow, Nebraska, are running their own business

Emma and Gracie Pearson, ages 16 and 13, are entrepreneurs and owners of Mighty Maverick Merchandise, a business that’s been in existence for more than a year.

The cowgirls started their business, which consists of braiding horse halters, headstalls, hobbles, reins, dog leashes, and other custom order items in January of last year.

It was a business built out of necessity.

Becky Pearson, the girls’ mother, told her girls she didn’t need to keep transferring money into their account, when their debit cards “didn’t work. I said, you need to figure out how to make this money stretch a little further, or make more money,” she said.

So after tossing some ideas around, the girls came up with the braiding project.

It’s a natural fit for them, as they both compete in rodeo, Emma in the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association and Gracie in the Nebraska Junior High School Rodeo Association.

Emma (on the left) and Gracie Pearson, Broken Bow, own Mighty Maverick Merchandise, braiding and selling horse halters and other orders. Emma is a member of the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association; Gracie is a member of the Nebraska Junior High School Rodeo Association.

They know what their customers want, because they use those same items. “We felt like we could relate to it, and understand the needs (of horse owners) and what we could do to make (the product) better,” Emma said.

The sisters do all the work themselves, from the ordering of materials, to the braiding, bookkeeping, marketing, and shipping. “They’ve taken over our basement,” their dad Chris said.

And the girls have divvied up tasks, depending on their strengths. Emma is creative and good at marketing; Gracie is good with organization and numbers and keeps the spreadsheets. Gracie’s also the one who sends reminder bills to customers who are slow in paying. “I respond to the tough customers,” she said. Emma added, “Gracie isn’t a softie.”

The business takes a lot of their time. Students at Broken Bow School, Emma competes in the barrel racing, pole bending and cutting, and Gracie in the barrels, poles, goat tying and cutting. Each evening, they spend a few hours in the rodeo practice pen, then do homework, then spend another two hours each night, five nights a week, braiding. Weekends, they’ll spend another ten hours or so working. And in the summer, they ride in the mornings and braid all afternoon and part of the evening.

They’ve made enough money to pay rodeo entry fees, buy much of their own clothes, and put some in savings, too.

They marketed via social media and have had two influential people endorse their products: a horse trainer on a podcast, and a cowgirl clothing line on a social media post.

Their dad, Chris, is most impressed by the time management they’ve been able to learn. “They still ride, do their homework, and braid,” he said. “They’re figuring out how to manage their time tremendously well. They have to.”

Mighty Maverick Merchandise has shipped products to thirty states, and the girls have learned from their endeavors. “We’ve learned how to handle people better,” Emma said, “and how to market.”

It’s grown faster than they thought it would, and it’s a great learning experience, their parents believe. Both Chris and Becky each own their own businesses, and they like it that their daughters are entrepreneurs.

“I think it teaches them so much about life,” Becky said.

Emma is poised to compete at her second Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo, held in Hastings at the Adams County Fairgrounds, June 17-19. Tickets are $7 for everyone ages six and up and can be purchased at the gate. For more information, visit AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com or hsrodeo-nebraska.com, or call 402.462.3247.

Gracie will compete at the Nebraska Junior High School Finals Rodeo in Broken Bow on May 20.




Biden talks nutrition, cover crops but not tax increases

In his address to Congress on April 28, President Biden talked about increases in nutrition programs and the importance of cover crops in fighting climate change, but did not emphasize the importance of tax increases on farmers and ranchers.

In the speech, Biden started off by noting that after he promised 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in 100 days, “we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in 100 days,” including those that have been delivered to nearly 40,000 pharmacies and over 700 community health centers and from mobile units in hard-to-reach areas.

When he was sworn in, Biden noted, less than 1% of seniors were fully vaccinated against COVID-19; 100 days later, nearly 70% of seniors are fully protected.

But he noted that “one of the defining images of this crisis has been cars lined up for miles waiting for a box of food to be put in the trunk.”

“Did you ever think you’d see that in America?” Biden asked. “That’s why the American Rescue Plan is delivering food and nutrition assistance to millions of Americans facing hunger – and hunger is down sharply already.”

The American Jobs Plan, he said, “creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed Internet, including 35% of rural Americans who still don’t have it.”

“Nearly 90% of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree,” he said. “75% do not require an associate’s degree. The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America.”

In talking about his proposals to pay for his proposals, Biden said, “We take the top tax bracket for the wealthiest 1% of Americans – those making $400,000 or more – back up to 39.6%. That’s where it was when George W. Bush became president. We’re going to get rid of the loopholes that allow Americans who make more than $1 million a year pay a lower rate on their capital gains than working Americans pay on their work.”

But Biden did not discuss his proposals to eliminate the stepped-up basis in estate taxes that would have an impact on farmers and ranchers.

Shifting to the international situation, Biden said, “We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century.”

“We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better,” he said.

“Throughout our history, public investments and infrastructure have transformed America.

“The transcontinental railroad and interstate highways united two oceans and brought us into a totally new age of progress.

“Universal public school and college aid opened wide the doors of opportunity.

“Scientific breakthroughs took us to the moon and now to Mars, discovered vaccines, and gave us the Internet and so much more.

“These are the investments we make together, as one country, and that only government can make.

“Time and again, they propel us into the future.

“That’s why I proposed The American Jobs Plan — a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself.”

Biden continued, “Decades ago we used to invest 2% of our GDP on research and development. Today, we spend less than 1%. China and other countries are closing in fast.

“We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, and clean energy.”

Returning to domestic policy, Biden said, “Let’s reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, an issue of great importance on Indian reservations.

“It will close the so-called ‘boyfriend’ loophole to keep guns out of the hands of abusers,” Biden said.

“It’s estimated that more than 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner – every month in America.”

The American Jobs Plan will include “farmers planting cover crops, so they can reduce carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it,” Biden said.

“There’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing,” he added.

Near the end of his speech, Biden said, “We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines again. Don’t tell me it can’t be done. We’ve done it before … and it worked.

“Talk to most responsible gun owners, most hunters – they’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds – 100 bullets – in a weapon.

“They will tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun, but who shouldn’t be able to.

“These kinds of reasonable reforms have the overwhelming support of the American people – including many gun owners.

“The country supports reform, and the Congress should act.”

Stalemate on managing wild horses ensues

While Biden has overturned a number of previous administrations’ policies, his plans for managing the 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act are still up in the air. But environmentalist groups are leading the charge, hoping the new administration will boot the grazing competition on any public lands.

More than 70 groups have sent a letter to the Biden Administration’s new interior secretary, asking that all livestock grazing allotments that overlap designated herd management areas (HMAs) be canceled. The letter, dated April 9, claims that the removal of the cattle will “promote rapid progress toward” establishing a “Thriving Natural Ecological Balance” for all species occupying federal rangelands.

Groups such as the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) hailed the Biden administration’s confirmation of U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland as secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, hoping that her past record would turn the tables.

“As a congresswoman, Rep. Haaland has been a champion for reform of the mismanaged federal wild horse and burro program. We look forward to working with her to implement sensible solutions to humanely manage these majestic animals that 80 percent of Americans want to protect,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the AWHC.

The letter comes on the heels of the Bureau of Land Managements year-long commemoration plans, celebrating 50 years of the act that was set up to provide wild horses and burros (WHB) on federal lands with legally protected status.

The act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon. The Act defines WHB as “all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States” and recognizes them as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.”

While the intentions of the act were noble, it created an opportunity for more division between activists and public lands users.

“To maintain wild horses and burros in good condition and protect the health of our public lands, the BLM must manage the population growth of wild horse and burro herds. Without natural population controls, such as predation, herds can increase at a rate of up to 20 percent annually, doubling in size in just four to five years, if not appropriately managed. Population control must be implemented to protect scarce and fragile resources in the arid West and ensure healthy animals,” BLM states on its website.


But the population control has been anything but successful. The act set horse number limits on grazing lands, and those limits have not been met for years. The most recent nationwide wild horse and burro population estimate, as of March 1, 2020 is 95,114 animals.

BLM determines what is called the appropriate Animal Management Level, which is the number of wild horses and burros that can thrive in balance with other public land resources and uses. Currently, according to BLM, there are approximately 26,770 wild horses and burros that need to be removed from rangelands to comply with the 1971 law.

Despite the fact that horses have no predators and increase in number yearly without a major interrupter, activists groups believe cattle ranchers are the problems. However, the current rangeland numbers of horses is almost four times the maximum number of animals BLM says federal rangelands can sustain without causing damage to vegetation, soils and other resources. The current AML level for WHB populations on federal rangelands is 26,715.

The groups that signed the letter claim that the current amount of livestock allowed on public lands is “severely biased against horse populations and other protected and native species on horse-occupied” HMAs that are managed by BLM. And that bias “has generated a severe excess in adverse livestock-grazing-associated impact that is inconsistent with both the letter and spirit” of the act.

Wild horse and burro populations are much larger than ideal, which puts a strain on resources including forage and water. Photo by Traci Eatherton

“The era of the agency prioritizing livestock grazing must come to a hard stop,” said Allondra Stevens, founder of the Horses for Life Foundation, one of the groups that signed the letter. Other groups on the letter included the Cloud Foundation, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.

“Under the looming demands of climate change, removing livestock on HMAs will help restore the health of ecosystems and allow for our wild equids and other wildlife to safely thrive throughout the Western states,” Stevens said.

While activist groups point the finger at grazing allotments, BLM says cattle numbers are actually down on allotments with horses. Livestock grazing on BLM-managed land has declined by about 29 percent since 1971 — from 12.2 million animal unit months (AUMs) to 8.7 million AUMs in Fiscal Year 2019, according to BLM reports.


The letter also asks Haaland for the “preparation of a robust, broad-based scientific assessment of the baseline ecological conditions that have been adversely impacted by livestock grazing (and associated infrastructure) to serve as the basis for determination of sustainable wild horse numbers and use, and for determining HMA restoration/recovery/sustainability actions.”

“BLM recently found innumerable land health violations on the Wilson Creek livestock grazing allotment in Nevada and also admitted that it could not distinguish adverse livestock impacts from wild horse impacts,” wrote Katie Fite, public lands director of Wildlands Defense. “Yet BLM still issued new decisions that enable more livestock grazing in the future, while at the same time it continued with the removal of nearly 1,100 horses from the associated Eagle HMA Complex horse populations.”

Eagle is one of Nevada’s 82 HMAs, and the current WHB population in Nevada is estimated at 51,528, with the maximum number set at 12,811. Nevada has the largest population of wild horses and burros, with California coming in second at 12,241, and Wyoming third at 8,706. California has a maximum AML number at 2,200 and Wyoming is set at 3,795.

The letter concludes, “Addressing livestock-induced ecological problems within BLM Herd Management Areas would potentially restore the ability of these lands to sequester carbon, help climate stabilization efforts, and also address biodiversity issues. If successfully implemented (and augmented further through permanent protection), such an initiative may qualify wild horse HMAs for inclusion in the 30×30 effort.”

But the groups’ intentions are questionable and lacking facts, according to Jim Magagna, executive vice resident, at Wyoming Stockgrowers Association.

“The groups that have sent this letter have clearly demonstrated that they have no understanding of the challenges posed by unmanaged horse populations. The issue is not horses vs. cows. It is excess horse populations vs. sustainable healthy rangelands,” Magagna said. “Their position is driven by emotion and hatred for the livestock industry, not by reality.”

The Trump administration, along with a coalition of ag based groups, including National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Public Lands Council devised a plan two years ago that included fertility controls, more roundups, adoption incentives, and contracts with private lands for grazing.

Ag groups credit cooperation between BLM and livestock producers and believe this cooperation has benefited horse populations and ecosystem health.

“After decades of horse populations spiraling out of control, ranchers and well-meaning conservation groups developed a historic solution that recognized the need to reduce on-range populations to prevent rangeland degradation, protect wildlife and safeguard all multiple uses. This agreement, in cooperation with BLM, is bringing us closer to a time when horses can once again be part of a thriving ecosystem, rather than destroying it,” said NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover.

“Despite some extreme fringe groups’ complete departure from science and fact, the facts are clear to us and to the BLM. The path toward healthy horses, healthy rangelands, and healthy wildlife is championed by those who have been stewards of the land for generations — ranchers,” Glover concludes.

The cooperation also includes a lot of give from private ranches in HMA areas.

“Most of the water sources in the desert areas such as southwestern Wyoming were developed and are maintained by the ranchers. Were this discontinued, the horses would face significant water shortages in many areas especially in drought years,” Magagna said.


The act allows BLM to remove horses that have strayed on to private lands, at the request of landowners, according to Magagna, but the unfenced area in HMA’s makes it nearly impossible to keep horses off private lands. While most ranchers have been relatively accepting of the horses, the growth in horse population is making it difficult.

“As populations have raged out of control, this becomes unacceptable and leads to litigation,” Magagna said.

“At this time, I believe that our approach needs to be to educate the public and decision makers on these realities. We cannot charge BLM and USFS with the mission of managing for healthy landscapes, then burden them with uncontrolled horse populations,” Magagna concluded.

Meanwhile, roundup plans, population control and management discussions continue in overpopulated HMA’s.

Rock Springs, Wyo., has a 30-day public comment period open on a BLM proposal to remove approximately 3,500 wild horses from public land in southwest Wyoming. The public comment period that ends April 30, is a proposal to hold a wild horse gathering on the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin, White Mountain and Little Colorado HMAs.

The environmental assessment proposes the removal of approximately 3,500 horses across the five HMAs. Non-permanent fertility control treatments would also be implemented.

The appropriate management level (AML) for the five HMAs is between 1,550-2,165 horses. The BLM estimates that there are approximately 5,105 wild horses currently within the five HMAs.

In Nevada, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources is reviewing a measure that urges Congress to provide a steady stream of short-term and long-term funding to reduce the wild horse and burro populations back to appropriate management levels. If passed, funding would be allocated toward further helicopter roundups of wild horses and burros.

“We don’t need to change policy, we simply need to implement policy,” said Sherman Swanson, an emeritus professor of rangeland ecology at the University of Nevada Reno and a representative, for the Coalition for Healthy Nevada Lands, Wildlife and Free-Roaming Horses.

Drought continues to spread

For the contiguous 48 states, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 45.49 percent of the area in moderate drought or worse, compared with 45.05 percent a week earlier.

Drought now affects 92,634,827 people, compared with 89,338,129 a week earlier.

For all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 38.01 percent of the area in moderate drought or worse, compared with 37.64 percent a week earlier.

Drought now affects 92,766,639 people, compared with 89,468,469 a week earlier.

To find populations affected by drought for specific states or time periods please visit https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Data/DataTables.aspx.

Just select one of the Population types from the Statistic Type pulldown.

The attachments include the weekly U.S. map, the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands map, the one-week change map and the weekly narrative.

For complete U.S. Drought Monitor statistics and additional products and information, please visit https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

PAUSE moves to Supreme Court: Title Board admits measure is unclear and ambiguous

Coloradans for Animal Care (CAC), comprised of the state’s major agriculture groups, went through the rehearing process of the title language of proposed initiative 16, the PAUSE initiative Wednesday. Objectors and proponents heard two hours of discussion by the Title Board as they made multiple changes to the title in an attempt to make the language clear for voters. In the end, Title Board members called the initiative “ambiguous and incomplete,” describing the difficulty in setting a title. Comments from public participants also pointed to the difficulty they had in interpreting what the measure would do, and wouldn’t do, based on the updated language of the title, this according to a release from CAC.

The motion for rehearing filed by CAC and a second filed by Heather Riley on behalf of the LaPlata Archuleta Cattlemen’s Association, LaPlata Archuleta Farm Bureau, and LaPlata County GOP.

A change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning expanding prohibitions against cruelty to animals, and, in connection therewith, expanding the definition of “livestock” to include fish; expanding the definition of “sexual act with an animal” to include intrusion or penetration into an animal’s anus or genitals with an object or part of a person’s body and allowing an exception only for care to improve the animal’s health and eliminating the existing exception for animal husbandry practices; defining the “natural lifespan” for certain species of livestock and providing that slaughtering those animals is not animal cruelty if done according to acceptable animal husbandry practices after the animal has lived 1/4 of the natural lifespan; removing several exceptions to the animal cruelty statutes, including exceptions for animal husbandry; and providing that, in case of a conflict, the cruelty to animals statutes supersede statutes concerning animal care.

“(The rehearing process) was a long process and it was a process that was confusing,” said Terry Fankhauser, executive director of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “It was confusing for the Title Board, and certainly will be confusing for the voter.”

Represented by Mark Grueskin, the coalition led by Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Livestock Association, Colorado Woolgrowers Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, and Colorado Pork Producers, also includes thousands of individuals and numerous organizations Fankhauser said are joining the fight against the egregious initiative.

Grueskin presented the contents of the motion for rehearing, calling the measure one that addresses multiple subjects with little relationship to one another, thereby not meeting the Constitutional requirements of a single subject. In addition to no fewer than three subjects, Grueskin said the measure contains subjects hidden from the title, including the statutorily prescribed lifespans of livestock, that lacks reasonable connection to the other topics.


“I would point out that my suggestion that this is being done for political purposes is borne out by the proponents’ website where they talk about trying to propose a measure that will address whether an animal is abandoned, abused, neglected, mistreated, or sexually assaulted,” he said. Sexually assaulted. That is their politically charged code to get this past a majority of voters.”

Grueskin also argued that the prescribed lifespan ought to be clearly communicated in the title so voters understand the criminal penalty they may or may not support is one that mandates both the lifespan as a portion of certain numbers of years. The exclusion of this information from the title, he said, leaves out a critical part of a central change to criminal statutes and one that is significant to many voters.

The most extraordinary element of the measure, Grueskin said, is the inclusion of the portion which is designed by the proponents’ website and by their admission in front of legislative staff to be separately identified as a reason to vote for this measure.

“To the extent that this is something — and we cataloged in our motion how it has already been identified as a politically explosive term — to the extent that is true, we suggest there is absolutely no reason to be as explicit or even to use the more general reference of sexual act with an animal,” he said, “There is not a way you can argue that does not or will not inflame voters.”

Proponent Alexander Sage responded, encouraging the Title Board to “ignore the emotional please and the theoretical effects of this initiative on society and the economy,” calling it subjective and irrelevant.

Colorado Veterinary Medical Association CEO Diane Matt commented, telling the Title Board the CVMA is aligned with the arguments brought forward by the opponents of the measure. She said the initiative puts veterinary practitioners and veterinary care at risk.

Title Board member Julie Pelegrin said neither motion convinced her of a single subject violation. Defining the natural lifespan, she said, is part of expanding the criminal statutes against cruelty to animals. Member David Powell said he didn’t want opponents to feel as if the board was being cavalier regarding the single subject requirement but said he doesn’t feel strongly that the language violates the requirement, but both admitted there is room for clarification in the language.


The board went on to make changes to the title language with extensive debate and discussion, ultimately admitting that some of the difficulty in making the title language clear stems from the measure itself being unclear.

“I’m hesitant to change how we have this worded because what we have worded in the title reflects what is worded in the measure and I honestly don’t know how what is written in the measure might eventually be interpreted,” Pelegrin said.

Pelegrin said if she were a defense attorney representing an individual charged under the statutes (if they were to pass), she would raise the defense and argue that the measure is not clear. She also said the accepted husbandry practices actually being criminalized is also ambiguous.

Coloradans for Animal Care released a statement announcing their intent to ask the state Supreme Court to hear their objections to the single subject requirement.

“The title board was wrong in its decision today. Initiative 16 clearly has multiple subjects. The difficulty the title board had in setting the language of the title is clear evidence of that. There are at least three subjects in the initiative and the language of the title is still inaccurate and misleading, and we hope the Supreme Court will agree.”

The LaPlata County group confirmed they will place their support behind Coloradans for Animal Care moving forward in the interest of pooling resources and presenting a united front.

Ag Coalition files motion for PAUSE rehearing

A motion for rehearing on Initiative 2020-2021 #16, or PAUSE, has been filed by objectors representing the state’s major agriculture groups. The objectors argue their motion for rehearing ought to be granted because the title language contains two subjects: removal of the livestock exemption from the animal cruelty statutes and an expansion, for political purposes, of statutes addressing “sexual act with an animal;” the titles set by the Title Board are misleading and incomplete as they do not fairly communicate the true intent and meaning of the measure; and the Title Board impermissibly included political catchphrases in the titles.

The objectors, Janie VanWinkle, Carlyle Currier, Chris Kraft, Terri Diane Lamers, William Hammerich, and Joyce Kelly have asked the Title Board, through counsel, to grant the motion and dismiss the proposal for lack of jurisdiction or, as an alternative, amend the title and ballot title and submission clause. Collectively, the objectors represent Coloradans for Animal Care, a coalition comprised of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Livestock Association, and Colorado Pork Producers Association.

The title designated for Initiative 16 reads:

A change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning expanding prohibitions against cruelty to animals, and, in connection therewith, expanding the definition of “livestock” to include fish; expanding the definition of “sexual act with an animal” to include intrusion or penetration into an animal’s anus or genitals with an object or part of a person’s body and allowing an exception only for care to improve the animal’s health and eliminating the existing exception for animal husbandry practices; defining the “natural lifespan” for certain species of livestock and providing that slaughtering those animals is not animal cruelty if done according to acceptable animal husbandry practices after the animal has lived 1/4 of the natural 2 lifespan; removing several exceptions to the animal cruelty statutes, including exceptions for animal husbandry; and providing that, in case of a conflict, the cruelty to animals statutes supersede statutes concerning animal care.


According to Colorado statutes, ballot initiatives must contain only a single subject, the title set, objectors argue, violates the underlying requirement that a subject pass on its own merits and without comingling support for another subject. According to the motion, the inclusion of the phrase “sexual act with an animal” in the title is a highly charged reference, used to attract supporters who would not otherwise be sympathetic to the measure. Further, objectors said, it is unrelated to the central livestock question of how farmed animals are to be treated before they enter the food chain.

Objectors argue the title contains a third subject which is the requirement that specified animals live one quarter of their new, statutorily designated lifespans prior to slaughter. Objectors argue a mandate for a guaranteed term of years for certain animals is not integrally or necessarily related to either of the prior two subjects.

One of the charges of the Title Board is to “consider the public confusion that might be caused by misleading titles” and ensure that a title “correctly and fairly express[es] the true intent and meaning” of the proposed law. Objectors contend the titles fail to do just that in addition to misleading voters as to the changes the proposal would bring to the criminal statutes, and additionally offer a revised definition of a “sexual act with an animal” that would criminalize even minimal contact with a pet’s anus or genitals when grooming or bathing a pet, for example.

As for the statutorily defined natural lifespan of animals, though the definition is critical to the measure as it defines a new legal standard, it isn’t defined in the title. According to the motion, a voter could not understand the measures lifespan requirement for lawful slaughtering of livestock without the lifespan definition as it isn’t defined in the title.

Another incomplete element of the title, objectors said, is the title’s incomplete identification of the exemptions to the animal cruelty statutes the measure seeks to eliminate. Additionally, the objectors said the phrase “cruelty to animals” is a political catch phrase, the wording of which will “improperly distract voters or appeal to their emotions.” The phrase “sexual act with an animal,” according to the motion, is a socially and politically loaded phrase which impermissibly “tips the substantive debate surrounding the issue” potentially on the ballot. The proponents’ website tells voters that this provision isn’t about changing standards for animal care but it, instead, designed to ensure that farmed animals are not “sexually assaulted.”

Former state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, contributed to the initial hearing before the Title Board. He said he’s interested whether the proponents, neither of whom he thinks actually wrote the proposed initiative, attend the rehearing with an attorney.

“I’m estimating a minimum $5 million campaign to educate voters on how bad an idea this is,” he said. “It can be done. We beat the non-GMO one, but we need a better campaign than the wolf introduction.”


Brophy said the language also bans the spaying and neutering of pets and the castration of farm animals,” he said. “It sets up a court case that would challenge that. You would have to show that it’s medically necessary for the health of the animal.”

The proponents’ website, however, claims spaying and neutering would not be criminalized. For Brophy, proponents can say it isn’t their intent to do so, but the language speaks for itself.

As for the state’s meat processors of all sizes, Brophy said the plants would likely be shuttered without a market for 5-year-old beef. With some of the world’s largest processors in the state, the economic losses would be substantial. This economic hit was acknowledged by Gov. Polis through a spokesperson on March 19, saying “Governor Polis agrees with farmers and ranchers that the PAUSE ballot initiative would hurt Colorado and destroy jobs, and he opposes it.”

Brophy was pivotal to improving the Constitutional amendment process, which now requires signatures of 2% of the electors in each of the state’s 25 Senate districts, as opposed to the ballot initiative process which, in this case, will require just over 126,000 signatures. In the legislative process, alternately, two readings are required of each potential piece of legislation, stakeholders can comment, amendments can be made to clarify language, and intent can be clarified. In the ballot initiative process, Brophy said, it is what it is.

“I’m not a fan of the ballot initiative process period,” he said. “Other than Tabor, I can’t think of anything good that has come through the ballot initiative process at all. Your liberty is at risk to this process and that always makes me nervous.”

Meat In: By the Numbers

Thousands of meals were served as part of MeatIn Day on March 20. Photo by Liz Banman Munsterteiger.
Wil Bledsoe and his daughters, Hayley and Josie, at the Hugo MeatIn.
Members of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association staff at one of the many events they attended.
Support for the livestock industry was on display across the state on MeatIn Day.
CCA president Janie VanWinkle and Howard VanWinkle helped feed Mesa County crowds.
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, addresses the crowd Saturday during the Meat-In event. It was one of nearly a dozen stops Sonnenberg made in support of the beef industry. Photo by Jeff Rice/Sterling Journal Advocate
The MeatIn event in Logan County at Sterling Livestock reported over 2,000 in attendance and over $100,000 raised for a local charity. Submitted photo.
Kelly Schmidt, FFA advisor at Fleming High School, displays one of the t-shirts the chapter was selling Saturday as a fundraiser. Photo by Jeff RIce/Sterling Journal Advocate.
High Plains Cattle Supply in Brush hosted a MeatIn event featuring multiple speakers, including Trent Loos. Submitted photo.
The cowboys were in town at the Meat In event at Kramer’s Wedge in Kersey. Photo by Candace Lohstroh
Platte Valley FFA members at the Meat In event at Kramer’s Wedge in Kersey. Photo by Candace Lohstroh.
Funds were raised to support the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association in Grand County. Photo by Liz Banman Munsterteiger.
Grand County MeatIn, sans llamas. Photo by Liz Banman Munsterteiger.
MeatIn event in Kim, Colorado. Submitted photo.
Wil Bledsoe and his daughters, Hayley and Josie, at the Hugo MeatIn.
Members of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association staff at one of the many events they attended.
Lincoln County cattlemen sleeved up and ready to serve burgers to the crowd. Submitted photo.
Organizers of the Lincoln County MeatIn invited media outlets and the event was covered by 9News.
In Mead, the grill stayed hot and the steaks were cut thick. Submitted photo.
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg speaks at Elizabeth Locker on MeatIn Day.
The Kit Carson County Cattlewomen hosted a MeatIn Day event with all the home cooked fixings.
The Kit Carson County Cattlewomen serving meals at their event.
Surrounding states joined the MeatIn Day to support fellow producers. Submitted photo.
Weld County was home to multiple MeatIn events that were all well attended. Submitted photo.
The Prowers County MeatIn served meals and raised funds to benefit the local FFA chapter.
Livestock Exchange, Inc. in Brush hosted a MeatIn event that included live broadcasts by Brian Allmer and BARN Media.
FFA chapters around the state attended and volunteered at MeatIn events like this one in Montrose. Submitted photo.
The MeatIn events raised funds for a variety of local charities and community groups.
Supporting the beef industry at the Moffat County MeatIn event. Submitted photo.
MeatIn in Montrose included FFA members. Submitted photo.
MeatIn in Pueblo County was well attended. Submitted photo.
A Del Norte area rancher had his #betterwithbeef bull rack on display. Submitted photo.

Roaring Fork Coop offered drawings for buckets of beef-related items, prizes, and beef facts.

More than 35 cities and counties signed proclamations in order to promote the importance of agriculture in Colorado; designating March 20th as “Cattlemen’s Day,” “MeatIn Day,” or other similar designations.

With more than 75 events, plus countless restaurant and retailer specials, meat was on the menu and tables across the state.

At the 75 events alone, more than 25,000 people were offered complimentary barbecue meals, including more than 1,200 food insecure Denver residents.

Over $300,000 was raised for local charities, Beef Sticks for Back Packs, various FFA chapters, and food banks.

Governors of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana recognized their protein industries as valuable, some even inviting Coloradans across the border to their tables.

News coverage was statewide and news of the event was even reported as far away as Germany.