Oct 2, 2014
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June 2014 Archive for Grazing the Net

RSS By: Greg Henderson and Friends, Beef Today

Our editors spend some time roaming the web looking for stuff cattle people and others in agriculture might find useful or entertaining. 

Vegan Child Abuse

Jun 30, 2014

The vegan agenda has led to some tragic incidents involving children. Fortunately, a Florida infant won't suffer the same animal protein deprived fate as several other babies that have passed away due to starvation caused by their vegan parents. Last week Sarah Anne Markham was arrested for child neglect when her pediatrician warned authorities that her 12-day-old baby was dehydrated. Markham refused to feed the child properly and didn't take the doctor's advice to admit the boy into a hospital or receive medicines because "it contained ingredients that came from animals."

Milking Plants

Milk comes from mammals like cows, right? Well not anymore thanks to a booming alternative marketplace that has been driven by plants. Consumers can now find soy, rice, almonds, coconut and even hemp versions of milk in the grocery store, which account for 8% of all milk sales. While some of the movement has been caused by consumers who have allergies or suffer from lactose intolerance, another push has been by people who follow vegan diets. The new "Milk Life" campaign hopes to change some of that non-dairy momentum by promoting a fluid that gives 8 grams of protein per serving.

"It really emphasized the benefits that dairy milk had over alternative beverages," says Victor Zaborsky, marketing director for the Milk Processor Education Association.

June Rally Takes Cattle Prices to New Records

Cattlemen will long remember the incredible bull run of 2014. And it may not be over. Cash cattle prices took out highs set back in March this week, a feat few expect from a June market. But this June market is unlike any we've seen before. Much of the rally has been fueled by strong beef demand at a time when market-ready supplies are tighter than expected. Cash fed cattle traded a whopping $4 to $5 per cwt. higher in the South at $154-$155, and $7 per cwt. higher on a dressed basis in the North at $245. Cash fed cattle prices are roughly 25 percent higher than the same time last year.

Chipotle: Tune In

Tune in to "AgriTalk" on Tuesday at 10:06 a.m. CDT to hear Chipotle's point of view.
Chris Arnold, Chipotle's director of communications will join "AgriTalk" to speak about the company's decision to buy Australian beef and their ad campaigns that are seen as anti-agriculture.

Last week Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples went on the show to discuss a sit down that will happen in the near future with Chipotle's founder and Co-CEO Steve Ells. We'll see if either Arnold or Ells will confess to their #ChipotleLies.

Chipotle Listens

Jun 27, 2014

"Words matter." Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples told AgriTalk's Mike Adams this morning he is "offended" by Chipotle's implication that Australian beef is more responsibly raised than American beef. Staples appeared on AgriTalk prior to his yet-to-be-scheduled meeting with Chipotle CEO Steve Ells, but the dust up over Ells' decision to import Australian beef for the company's burritos is gaining traction. Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold was apparently one of today's listeners, and he contacted AgriTalk following the program. Arnold is now scheduled to appear on Tuesday's program with Mike Adams at 10:06 a.m. Central Time.

GMOs: More Precise and Safer

Who's afraid of GMOs? Not John Stossel, the Fox Business Channel consumer reporter and investigative journalist. "It's easy to scare people about what's in their food, but the danger is almost never real," Stossel says.

When man first created new strains of plants and animals "we didn't even know what genes were." Now, he says, "There's no reason to believe modern methods of altering genes are any more dangerous. In fact, because they're far more precise, they're safer."

Recently, GMO Answers conducted a nationwide survey to see just what consumers wanted to know most about GMOs. The result was a 10-question list.

Prairie Performance

It's an odd place for a concert, but Kansas's Symphony in the Flint Hills has become a must-have ticket for orchestra and rancher lovers alike. Now in its ninth year, Symphony in the Flint Hills, celebrates the history, ecology and culture of the last stand of native Tallgrass Prairie through music and place-based education. Each June the event draws 7,000 kindred spirits to a world-class symphony concert in an unmatched prairie setting.

Modern Farmer says it's no small feat to produce a symphony concert in the middle of nowhere Kansas, but attendees can listen to cultural talks, explore the prairie, munch on a burger, or stay late and stargaze.

Unified Cattle ID Remains Elusive

As cattle producers, occasional reminders are needed to prod us into not forgetting the industry's susceptibility or vulnerability to unforeseen biosecurity issues. As with most issues without resolve, the discussion will come and go. Have the pros and cons changed? Probably not, but the state of seamless animal identification still remains a goal rather than an outcome.

Scientists answer some of life's most vexing questions, like why does asparagus make your urine smell?


Chipotle, Meet Texas

Jun 26, 2014

Call it the "Responsible Summit." That would be the conversation between Texas Ag Commissioner Todd Staples and Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Steve Ells. Ells made headlines earlier this month when he announced Chipotle would begin importing Australian beef for their burritos because they could not find enough "responsibly raised" beef in the U.S.

Understandably, American beef producers cried foul, and last week Staples sent a letter to Ells requesting a sit-down to review some facts. Today we learned Ells has agreed to meet with Staples.

Tomorrow Staples will appear on AgriTalk, Farm Journal’s live, one-hour syndicated talk radio program broadcast on 70 affiliate stations in the Midwest. AgriTalk can be heard live at 10:06 a.m. (Central Time), or listen to the podcast at http://www.agweb.com/multimedia/agritalk.aspx

Burritos Make Strange Bedfellows

We aren't the only ones disappointed in Chipotle. In fact, BuzzFeed lists "9 Disappointing Facts About Chipotle."

Chipolte touts much of its food as "sourced locally," yet BuzzFeed reports a large share of Chipotle ingredients are routed through Chicago-based processors – regardless of where they are produced. That makes for a well-traveled burrito. BuzzFeed also condemns Chipotle's advertising campaigns, saying, "several of the messages these commercials convey are just not true." Finally, BuzzFeed notes that Chipotle's joint CEOs, Steve Ells and Montgomery Moran, were paid a combined $49.5 million in 2013. That brought criticism from Eric Schlosser, writer and producer of Fast Food Nation (2001, 2006), the book and movie that blamed Big Ag and America's fast food industry for just about every human affliction from Global Warming to flat feet. Yet here was Schlosser criticizing Chipotle: "Given the amount of money that Chipotle's paying its executives, I think it can do a better job of paying its workers and American ranchers, without having to go to Australia."

Yes, burritos can make for some strange bedfellows.


We miss Jay Leno. Yeah, Jimmy Fallon is okay as the new Tonight Show host. But we really miss Jay's regular weekly segment "Headlines." Viewers sent Jay copies of actual newspaper and magazine headlines that were... well, ill-conceived. One example: "Cop Makes Arrest In Bathroom After Smelling Crack."

We're sure Jay would get a laugh out of the, ummm... ill-conceived headline Kristinashouse.com used a while back. Kristina writes about homemaking, gardening, travel, entertainment and such. You can find recipes there, which is how the trouble began. Kristina's cousin and his wife are nurses. They're also into competitive barbeque, under the name "Naughty Nurses BBQ." After posting a blog about barbeque under the headline "Naughty Nurses BBQ," Kristina got a lot of traffic from folks seeking recipes for things other than pork ribs and brisket. Jay would be proud.

Judge To Decide Ag-Gag Soon

Idaho's law punishing those who secretly film agricultural operations doesn't limit free speech because the First Amendment right does not exempt trespassing on private property, state attorneys argued. They made the argument in front of U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill during a Wednesday hearing. Attorneys representing a coalition of free speech, environmental and animal right activists countered that deception is protected speech as long as it doesn't directly cause harm.

Shake Shack – A Chipotle Clone?

Jun 25, 2014

Normally, we would be pleased to hear about hamburgers so good people will stand in long lines to get one. But seven hours? Not normal, even for New Yorkers. The beef they were after, however, was not just your average "natural" Angus burger from happy cows raised in pristine mountain meadows where they were routinely sprinkled with angel dust. These were Shake Shack burgers.

First we'd heard of 'em, too, but with 46 stores and growing rapidly, Shake Shack is aiming to become the king of fine casual dining. Think Chipotle burgers. Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti says, "In today's world, companies like Chipotle and ours that care enough to source their ingredients responsibly are doing the right thing, and I believe that's the future." Randy, do the "right thing" and ditch the Chipotle-style marketing campaign.

Lessons in Chef-Speak

Fact: Many TV chefs are "rock stars." That's why agriculture and the food industry should recruit them as allies to promote science-based food education. Foodnavigator.com writer Elaine Watson argues that "pro-science" chefs should "be all in favor of genetically engineered foods, especially if they can add nutrition or reduce the environmental impact of food production." Reality, however, is that most TV chefs that have influenced generations of 'foodies' are anti-GMO. Speaking at the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting in New Orleans, Josh Schonwald said it is "politically incorrect in 2014 for a foodie or a chef to be pro-GMO." He argues if the food and biotech industries want to change perceptions of GMOs, they should engage with chefs at the Culinary Institute of America and the Research Chefs Association.

Cattle Feeding Margins Near $200

Cattle feeders saw a significant, unseasonal bump in profit margins last week. Mid-June typically finds cash fed cattle prices drifting lower as supplies increase. Last week, however, produced a fed-cattle market steady to $2 higher, and the result was nearly a $25 increase in per head profits.

Sell Now or Later?

A red-hot cattle market has producers asking an age-old question. "Should I sell my calves now, or wait?" University of Tennessee agricultural economist Andrew Griffith says the decision process should not change due to changes in market price, and it may be just a fruitful to hold onto those calves.

Drones Target Animal Farms

Jun 24, 2014

Technology is wonderful ... except when it's not. Unmanned drones seem like a perfect example. In the right hands drones can do some amazing things, yet they seem to present more problems than they solve. PETA announced a couple of years ago they planned to use drones to spy on hunters, until some Southern boys promptly shot one out of the sky.

Now, animal rights activists are turning their drones on unarmed targets – farms and ranches. Self-proclaimed journalist and animal activist Will Potter tells Salon.com about his ambitious new investigation – an "aerial exposé" he claims will show "firsthand the animal cruelty that takes place on factory farms and in slaughterhouses." Don't expect Potter's project to go without incident.

Organic Is Not Sustainable

The folks at Grist.org would like us to believe we should all convert to organic farming. Park the tractors and hitch the mules, but be prepared, says Nathanael Johnson, because "organic farming is so much harder than just getting stoned and picking tomatoes."

The trendy organic industry, however, has come under fire of late as even some folks who have never picked a tomato realize total organic would be a total fail. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist at Stanford University, wrote for the Wall Street Journal that organic farming is not sustainable. "More labor with lower yields is a luxury only rich populations can afford."

That sentiment was seconded by James Greiff in the Dallas Morning News who wrote, "organic food isn't cleaner and it isn't toxic-free."


Oregon Wolf Money To Prevent Attacks

Three years into a state program to help Oregon counties contending with wolves, the focus has been on preventing attacks on livestock. Money from Oregon's wolf grant program helps pay for efforts such as removing cattle bones that could attract wolves, installing flagging along fence lines to spook wolves and patrolling rangeland by horseback or on ATVs. Since the late 2000s, wolves have been making a comeback in Oregon, having moved in from Idaho where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves nearly 20 years ago. The latest wolf count found at least 64 wolves in the state, and they are expanding their territories. Through 2013, wolves had killed 75 livestock or domestic animals.


COF Report: No Surprises

USDA's monthly Cattle on Feed report fell within analysts' expectations, producing little near-term impact on the market. USDA counted 10.594 million cattle on feed, about 1.6% fewer than a year ago. Marketings were pegged at 1.865 million head, and placements were called 1.92 million head, 7% lower than a year ago.

El Niño Trigger “Has Been Pulled”

Jun 23, 2014

June rains are a bit overdone in much of the Midwest and plentiful enough to shrink some of the orange out of the National Drought Monitor.

Still, California and much of the Southwest remain far below normal rainfall totals. The situation may change soon, however, if El Niño conditions continue to develop. A monthly report from the U.S. National Weather Service puts the odds of El Niño developing this summer at 70%, and there is an 80% chance that El Niño develops this fall and winter.

There are plenty of indications, however, that the weather phenomenon is already occurring. "The trigger for an El Niño has been pulled," says Shuhei Maeda, senior coordinator for El Niño information at the Japan Meteorological Agency. And it appears that this El Niño could rival the strong one witnessed in 1997 and 1998.

Down Under GM Debate

Genetically modified ryegrass could help Australian dairy farmers meet the growing demand for dairy products from their Asian customers. Approval of the modified ryegrass, however, has met resistance from many who fear contamination of neighboring properties and that existing labeling requirements will not adequately inform consumers. Aussie dairy farmers could add an extra $100 to $125 per acre profit through higher milk yields if the new ryegrass is approved. Such approval, however, is unlikely until 2020.

A Yak In Every Pot?

If you like to try novelty meats, yak might be one to put on your bucket list, though ground yak meat will set you back about $10 per pound. Currently, there are an estimated 7,500 yak in North America, with the meat going to specialty restaurants and butcher shops. Not exactly a glut of yak, still, "There's definitely been a growth spurt in the past five years," says Jim Watson, president of the International Yak Association.

Seminole Pride Beef

Florida may not be top-of-mind when you think of great steaks, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc., aims to change that perception. Launched just a year ago, Seminole Pride Beef expects to market 8,000 head of cattle through the branded beef program this year. Alex Johns, natural resource director for the Seminole Tribe, says, "We are trying to utilize local businesses to bring a local product to the market place. We know that we produce a good product here. We're just trying to showcase it."

What the Frack?

Jun 20, 2014

The process of sending high pressured liquid that typically contains water, sand and chemicals to find deep pockets of oil and natural gas has been used since the late 1940s. But hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has been a hot button issue lately because it has been blamed for well water being ruined to the point where it is flammable and possibly even earthquakes. A recent story from OffTheGridNews.com shares some startling information related to incidents involving cattle. In a report submitted by Cornell University, a U.S. rancher lost 70 head of cows that drank water exposed to fracking fluid. That has us saying, "What the frack?"

World Wide Cows

In last Tuesday's Grazing The Net we shared a link to 40 maps that help explain food in the U.S. Well, we’ve decided to take a global approach to it now and display some maps that show the distribution of cattle, pigs, and chickens around the world. The lesson in geography shows that China has a lot of pigs, about 450 million or 7 times what we have in the U.S. Globally there are approximately 1.4 billion cattle with the biggest hotspot being India, but that pales in comparison to the 19.6 billion chickens that inhabit the Earth.

Titanic Vegan Fail

Hollywood director/producer/vegan James Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, are supporters of what is thought to be the first school to "terminate meat and dairy" form the menu. James is known for his blockbuster movies like Aliens, Avatar, and Terminator, but Suzy hasn't really been in the limelight except for her role in another popular movie of her husband's, Titanic. While promoting the new school program Suzy spouted off, "You can't really call yourself an environmentalist if you're still consuming animals. You just can't." This started a big backlash on Twitter when @NPRFood shared her thoughts. We also would like to say to Suzy that America's farmers and ranchers have done more for the environment than you or your billionaire husband.

Should Cow-Calf Producers Lock In Fall Calf Prices?

Cow-calf producers have a lot to consider when it comes to marketing their calves this year.
"While current price levels offer little or no profit opportunity for buyers of feeder cattle, those same prices could result in record or near record profits for cow-calf producers this year," says Darrell Mark, South Dakota State University economics adjunct professor. Mark shares some considerations that cattle producers will have to make when the time comes to sell their calves.

Feedlot a Total Loss

Jun 19, 2014

Monday a wave of tornadoes descended upon northeast Nebraska in an area that is known for its cattle feeding operations. Unfortunately, the storm wiped out most of the Herman Dinklage Inc. Feedlot near Pilger.

Owner Jeff Dinklage says, "This is a total rebuild." He estimates that hundreds of cattle were lost and millions of dollars in damages were sustained at his three different facilities.

A Google Maps image of the feedyard shows the operation in its once pristine condition, but the devastation of this Facebook picture tells a different story. The surviving cattle can be seen in the foreground of the picture as they are being loaded onto a semi-trailer bound for a different location.

More images from the tornado's damage can be seen on Nebraska Emergency Management Agency's Facebook page. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this storm.

Feasting Like Flintstones

Eating like its 2000 BCE (the Stone Age) has been picking up a lot of steam lately. We're all for this Paleolithic Diet craze since it promotes meat as a staple at all meals. But with the high price of beef and other meats eating like Fred Flintstone is getting pretty costly. Ground beef is up 11% since last spring while pork is at 9% more and even fish has seen a 4% increase. Restaurants like Panera and Taco Bell have been trying to fight the increased prices by promoting "Power Menus" that are high on protein and priced at a fair value.

"WILMA, pass the beef!"

Comic Canucks

If you didn't already know Canada is home to some of the best comedians in the world like Jim Carrey, Mike Meyers, Seth Rogen and even Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford. We also got a good laugh out of a promotional campaign that Canada Beef and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education launched to help consumers properly cook burgers by using a meat thermometer. "There is no more guessing, which means hockey pucks can stay on the ice and burgers can be enjoyed all summer long," says Joyce Parslow, a professional home economist with Canada Beef. Oh Canada!

Greenhouse Effect Could Push Corn to $3.50

This year's growing conditions have been referred to as a "greenhouse," and while problem areas exist, chances are prices are headed lower as producers start to bring in a new record-large corn crop.

"If the weather forecast for the next two weeks is correct, we are looking at a record crop," says Dan Basse, president of AgResource in Chicago. "There have been years in which the average yield was 14 to 15% above trend, so we could see an average yield as high as 180 bu. per acre." Basse expects corn prices to drop below $4 per bu., and says a low of $3.50 is not out of the question.

'Pink Slime' Comeback

Jun 18, 2014

Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB), or 'pink slime' as the news media likes to refer to it, is making a rebound after nearly disappearing from store shelves and restaurants in 2012. Ground beef prices have been through the roof in recent months and now consumers don't seem to be as concerned with the safety issues that ABC News tried to frighten them with. For instance, in 2010 ground beef averaged $2.25/lb. Now, it is more like $4/lb. The price change has been plenty of incentive for Cargill and Beef Products Inc. to continue their partnership. Cargill has now been labeling the product as containing LFTB and even started a website to address any concerns consumers might have about the hamburger.

Steaklockers for All

Ever wanted to pull a dry-aged steak right out of your own kitchen? Well, now you don't have to wait any longer. Thanks to a group of former steakhouse employees, consumers can now perfect the art of dry-aging steak in their own homes. If all goes well, the "Steaklocker" will be available for purchase later in the year at a price of $950. However, if you pitch into the Kickstarter campaign right now a Steaklocker can be yours for nearly half that at $555. Personal wine cellars, cigar humidors and cheese smokers have been all the rage, but forget about all of that nonsense, we want a Steaklocker!

Scientists Couldn't Eat This Burger

Researchers in Japan think they've found the perfect way to eat a hamburger. It requires eaters to put their thumbs and pinkies at the bottom of the bun with the middle three fingers on top. The hamburger is then rotated around until it is devoured and results in no spillage onto the plate, table or floor.

We'd like to see those scientists eat a Holy Cow burger. The mammoth of a burger has 17 types of beef, contains 2,500 calories and costs about $42. Good luck getting your hands (or mouth) around that!

High Prices Continue

All areas of the beef industry continues to see higher price gains.

Andrew P. Griffith from the University of Tennessee reports that fed cattle traded $2 to $3 higher than the previous week. Beef cutout values were up $1.59 from the previous week as well, with Choice carcasses bringing $29.10 more than last year. Select graded cattle saw an even bigger increase at $39.29 over last year’s market price. Slaughter cows and bulls both sold at $1 to $2 higher.

Tornadoes Hit Neb. Feedyards

Jun 17, 2014

Much of Pilger, Neb., was destroyed by a tornado Monday night with two confirmed deaths. The Omaha World-Herald reported the town looked like a war zone.

Officials said four tornadoes hit northeast Nebraska Monday night, an area with many cattle feedyards. More than 300 cattle at a farm just north of Pilger were killed, KMTV reported. The owners of Herman Dinklage Inc. said the storm also destroyed their barn, equipment and house.

Vermont Food Fight

We find it ironic that one of the biggest legal cases involving agriculture this century will take place in one of America's smallest agriculture states. Vermont, where agriculture contributes about 12% to the state's economy, has become ground zero in the GMO labeling fight due to the state's first-in-the-nation law. The brewing legal battle is also shaping up to be a lawyer-feeding sinkhole of cash. For instance, Ben & Jerry's, the famous Vermont ice cream maker, says it will help the state raise cash by changing one of its most popular ice cream flavors to promote donations to the Food Fight Fund. For the month of July, Ben & Jerry's fudge brownie ice cream will be known as "Food Fight! Fudge Brownie." Additionally, the company announced it will donate $1 from every ice cream purchase at its Burlington and Waterbury shops to Vermont's legal fund.


Profit Tracker: Feedyard Margins Steady

Cattle feeding profits continue to roll in this spring as margins remain above $170 per head. Cash negotiated hog prices jumped $5.65 per hundredweight, boosting farrow to finish margins $8 per head. The modest decline in profitability for cattle feeders was due to higher cash costs for feeder cattle against fed cattle marketed last week, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. Sterling president John Nalivka now estimates annual cow-calf margins will be $3.65 for 2014.

U.S. Beef Prices Set Records

U.S. beef prices are up 74% since 2009 to the highest on record, after a seven-year decline in the herd left the fewest cattle in at least six decades, government data show. Meat costs are rising faster than any other food group, eroding profit margins for retailers.

Hey, Steve! #ChatwiththeCommish

Jun 16, 2014

We've campaigned for two weeks for folks to speak up about Chipotle's shenanigans, and Thursday (June 12) we paired with two California ranchers on AgriTalk asking Chipotle to end its deceitful marketing. Now, Texas' Ag Commissioner has joined the effort. (We don't know if he reads GTN, but we're claiming him as a fan now.) Today, Commissioner Todd Staples sent a letter to Chipotle CEO Steve Ells claiming it's "misguided" and "irresponsible" for Chipotle to believe that Australian meat is raised more responsibly than cattle in Texas – or any other U.S. state, for that matter.

Staples said he wants to chat with Ells about Chipotle importing grass-fed beef from down under, as Ells implied the burrito giant will do.

Our Twitter campaign to call out Chipotle @ChipotleMedia is still active with the hashtag #ChipotleLies. But let's add another nudge to Ells #ChatwiththeCommish.

Tallgrass on Tour

Kansas rancher Bill Kurtis – okay, so he's also a famous broadcaster – is busy these days promoting his company's branded grass-fed beef.

Kurtis worked 30 years for CBS "traveling the world," as he says, but the Kansas native bought a Flint Hills ranch over a decade ago and launched Tallgrass Beef, which has earned critical reviews in Chicago. Younger cowboys will recognize Kurtis' deep and distinguished voice in the 2004 news comedy "The Legend of Ron Burgundy" starring Will Farrell.

Vermont Sued Over GMO Law

It took all of 35 days for trade groups to file suit against Vermont’s GMO food labeling law.

That's warp speed in legal time. Calling the law "a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling polices that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers," the Grocery Manufacturers Association joined three other groups filing suit: the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers. A flock of anti-GMO groups support Vermont's law, and many voiced their support in light of the announced lawsuit. Both sides anticipate a long legal battle, but Vermont's legislators seem hesitant to commit for the long-haul as the law they passed caps state funding for legal defense at $1.5 million. They'll rely on donations from supporters like the Organic Consumers Association for the rest. The lawsuit says the state's unwillingness to use its own funds to defend the law is "express confirmation that Vermont does not have a 'state' interest in the survival of the law."

Baltimore Police Shoot Escaped Steer

A steer escaped from a slaughterhouse in Baltimore on Friday, causing quite a scene in the Mount Vernon district. Part of the escape was captured on cell-phone video.

Witnesses described an athletic and increasingly agitated animal that traveled nearly two miles before police cornered and shot it to protect public safety. We're hoping the police commissioner issues lariats for police cruisers in case of future bovine breakouts. That would make entertaining video.

A Dog's Life

Jun 13, 2014

We believe every cowboy should have at least one good horse and one good dog in their lifetime. We've had one of each, and we've been on a mission to find adequate replacements since their passing. Our current dog Bandit, however, falls well short of adequate. We've been at a loss to figure out what to do with Bandit until we saw this story on Modern Farmer, and another at BuildingPeace.org. It's about dogs that sniff out land mines. Seriously. This story says it takes a special dog to learn to sniff land mines. Hey, Bandit's special! We're going to sign him up for training. Don't worry the mine-sniffing success rate is 97%.

Drought Reshaping Cattle Industry

America's ongoing drought has driven cows to market and many to new homes in far-away states. Since 2010, Texas has lost 24% of its total beef herd. Oklahoma is down 13% and Missouri 8% lower. But it's not just ranchers that are affected by the drought. Feedyards are feeling the pinch, too. Earlier this year, Nebraska passed Texas as the state with the most cattle on feed.

All of which leaves us searching for a silver lining to this long dry, and we thought we found it when researchers confirmed there are fewer mosquitoes. Except...those same researchers say the surviving mosquitoes are bigger, nastier and more persistent.

Pigs Can't Fly

We were shocked by this video of what appears to be a full-size market hog making a daring escape while in route to the slaughterhouse. No, not surprised pigs can't fly. But, utterly dumbfounded by the cell-phone recorded evidence of hogs being hauled to market in a dump truck rather than a vehicle designed for livestock.

Beef Recalled For Specified Risk Materials

Approximately 4,012 pounds of fresh beef products were recalled due to concerns about specified risk materials (SRM), a component of the firewall against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). FSIS officials say the safety risk for consumers is remote.

"Superbug" Invades Food Supply

Jun 12, 2014

Canadian researchers found a strain of bacteria in the North American food supply resistant to carbapenems. That could be a problem if your food supply includes squid, which is where the bacteria was found. We breathed a sigh of relief, since we consider squid bait. Not that we shouldn't be concerned about a potential "superbug," but there is a tendency to over-hype any food danger, as Salon.com does with their report.

Shrimp Slaves

A disturbing investigation by The Guardian reveals major U.S., British and other European retailers sell shrimp produced with slave labor. The six-month investigation found the world's largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some supplies that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves. Men who have managed to escape from the fishing boats detailed horrific conditions, including 20 hour shifts, beatings, torture and execution-style killings.


Hunting Becomes Hip

We've always considered America's sportsmen as allies with agriculture. They obviously like the outdoors, physical activity and eating meat. But now we're not so sure. That's because hunting is becoming vogue among the "bearded, bicycle-riding, locavore set." According to this story on Slate.com, "many new hunters are taking up the activity for ethical and environmental reasons." How's that, you ask? Christie Aschwanden, a self-described "tree-hugging former vegetarian," says, "It feels more responsible and ecologically sound to eat an animal that was raised wild and natural in my local habitat than to eat a cow that was fattened up on grain or even hay, which is inevitably harvested with fuel-hungry machines." Hmmm...doesn't sound like Christie is an ally. Maybe we should encourage her to go back to hugging trees and eating vegetables.

House Passes Extension to Depreciation Rule

Today the U.S. House voted 274 to 144 to pass a handful of tax extenders, including the expiring section 179 expensing provisions for small business. National Cattlemen's Beef Association President and Victoria, Texas cattleman, Bob McCan says this is a victory for rural America. "The passage of these tax extenders is a good move for cattlemen and women." Specifically for agriculture, this legislation includes an extension of Section 179 expensing for capital investments. On January 1, 2014, expensing levels under Section 179 were reduced from $500,000 to $25,000. This and other important tax extenders still await action in the Senate.

Clean Cow Project

Jun 11, 2014

Natural. Organic. Free-Range. Maybe soon we'll have "Clean Cows," as opposed to the "dirty" variety you're raising now. An international task force of scientists are feverishly working on a multimillion-dollar project for Dutch life-sciences giant DSM some are calling the world’s best chance to avert climate disaster. Yep, they’re studying cow gas. Or, more specifically, how to prevent cows from producing so much methane as part of their normal digestive process. Karen Beauchemin and her colleagues at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) are developing a greenhouse gas-slashing compound that cows eat with their daily feed. Results sound promising for the flatulence-fixing formula – potentially reducing a cow’s methane production by 60 percent, hence the name "Clean Cow." Which begs the question, "Got Clean Cow Milk?"

GTN Readers Want to Know...

We try to keep Grazing the Net stories short, which sometimes leaves readers wondering just where we stand on a particular subject. We’ve been called cynical, smart-assed, sarcastic, liberal and conservative (both intended as insults) and a few other names that would make a mule skinner blush. But we don’t ignore reader questions. Recent reader inquiries suggest we provide more information, so today we’re starting a regular GTN feature with answers in a blog post.

Q. In response to last week’s story about Chipotle, Pat asked in an email, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you against COOL? What does it matter where in the world Chipotle sources its beef from? Or maybe you're upset that consumers actually know where their food comes from?"

A. Thanks for the question, Pat. You’re correct we oppose country-of-origin labeling (COOL) as a costly program to everyone in the production and marketing chain, while providing little information to consumers. In fact, consumer research indicates that few meat shoppers wanted COOL information. More importantly, when COOL went into effect in 2009, Canada and Mexico objected to the World Trade Organization, claiming the labels were a barrier to free trade that reduced the value of their beef and imposed burdensome regulations.

Not surprisingly, the WTO agreed. In response, the USDA implemented even stricter labeling requirements, which means the U.S. could face sanctions from the WTO.

That’s a foolish position we’ve put ourselves in, given the fact that U.S. beef exports currently account for more than $260 of the value of a fed steer.

Regardless of our views on COOL – and the debate is ongoing – they have nothing to do with our objection to Chipotle sourcing some of their beef from Australia, as CEO Steve Ells says he will do. It has everything to do with the image of American beef producers (and pork producers) Chipotle portrays to their customers.

Chipotle’s slogan is "Food With Integrity." Apparently that integrity doesn’t carryover to their marketing and promotion. Here’s why we feel so strongly about this issue. In his recent announcement first published on HuffingtonPost.com, Ells wrote:

"When it comes to beef, for one thing, there are many different ways to raise cattle -- from conventional (with antibiotics and hormones) to the higher standards we require for our Responsibly Raised brand beef (without antibiotics and hormones), and from grain-finished to entirely grass-fed cattle.

So, according to Ells, no hormones and no antibiotics are "higher standards," and consumers should consider beef at his restaurants "Responsibly Raised." Hogwash. What Ells is doing is selling burritos by implying that cattle raised using products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are unfit for human consumption. How does that make you feel? You should be mad as hell, especially if you know you’re doing everything in your power to raise safe, wholesome beef.

But Ells isn’t done. He says Chipotle can’t find enough "Responsibly Raised" beef in America so they’ve turned to Australian producers. Ells says, "Serving (Australian beef) is an important step in our never-ending journey to help build a food system based on what we call Food With Integrity."

How do you think a soccer mom in Virginia or an insurance agent in New York views that statement? Here’s the CEO of a $3 billion burrito barn who says he can’t find enough "Responsibly Raised" beef in America. Wow, just wow!

And that, Pat, is why it matters "where-in-the-world Chipotle sources its beef from."
Last week we asked you to call Ells and Chipotle out for their lies. Do so by telling Chris Arnold via Twitter @ChipotleMedia and use hashtag #ChipotleLies.

El Niño Expectations

Much of America's heartland has experienced at least moderate drought relief the past two weeks, and more rain may be on the way, according to forecasters.

The late-spring rain certainly helps crops, but in many cases it fell just-in-time for parched rangelands.

But weather extremes may become more prevalent in the coming months as the NOAA says there's a 70% chance an El Niño event will develop this summer. Some El Niño-like events have already occurred, such as record-breaking Hurricane Amanda in the northeastern Pacific basin. El Niño events famously bring abundant rain to some regions, while others suffer droughts. Climatologists also warn El Niño could drive up average global temperatures.

Complete Coverage of Today's Reports

Today was a big day for agriculture reports. The lineup includes USDA's Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). Total meat production forecasts for 2014 were lowered, despite increased pork and turkey production. AgWeb.com editors have it all covered.

#howmatters...to Scientists

Jun 10, 2014

Sometimes clever marketing associates can rapidly undo what scientists spend years developing.

No, we’re not talking about Chipotle’s deceitful marketing campaign again.

We’re referring to Chobani yogurt’s stumble over a slogan for their "Simply 100" yogurt, which contains 100 calories. Lids on the product were printed with this claim: "Nature got us to 100 calories, not scientists. #howmatters." It certainly does, and a lot of scientists told Chobani via social media how stupid that slogan was.

Using the company’s own tag, #howmatters, folks pointed out just how much science was used to engineer the yogurt. The company responded by doing something very un-Chipotle-like — they apologized. In a statement to ABC News, Chobani said they hope to make peace with all the yogurt-loving scientists they offended. "We were being tongue in cheek and perhaps a bit too clever for our own good."

Wilting Organics

Has the popularity of organic foods peaked? That’s a question we’ve pondered in recent weeks as Whole Foods Market’s stock prices plummeted. The stock lost a fifth of its value in May, mostly on fear of increased competition from startups like Sprouts Farmers Market and the dreaded entry of Walmart into the field.

Evidence is growing, however, that consumers of organics have been sold a pig-in-a-poke. Two systematic reviews, one from Stanford University and the other by a team of researchers based out of the United Kingdom, turned up no evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or lead to better health-related outcomes for consumers. So why do consumers believe otherwise? A report by Academics Review says the $63 billion organic industry has engaged in a "pattern of research-informed and intentionally-deceptive marketing and advocacy related practices."

40 Maps That Explain Food in America

Where are the oldest farmers? You might be surprised. Which counties have populations most affected by food deserts — defined as no car and no grocery store within a mile? How far do you live from the nearest McDonalds? Those answers, and many more can be found on this unique site with 40 maps, charts and graphs that show where our food comes from and how we eat it, with some drinking thrown in for good measure.

Cattle Feeding Margins Rise

As America’s cattle market continues to defy historical trends, cattle feeding margins have benefited with solid profits most of the year. So far, June has produced weekly increases to per head feedyard profit margins, a rare occurrence in historical feedyard closeout data.


Pot Load of Pot

Jun 09, 2014

Smuggling in marijuana from Mexico just got a little more interesting this past week when a cattle hauler in Arizona was stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol. The agents found 4,450 pounds of bundled weed in the cattle pot that was valued at $2.2 million. There were cattle inside of the trailer at the time, but officials grew suspicious of the vehicle when a number of ventilation holes appeared to be covered. From the looks of the pictures the marijuana was hidden in the "jail" of the trailer, but now the smuggler will be the one stuck in jail.

Impacts of High Prices

Cattle rustling has been a problem for centuries and with today's record high prices one would think that theft would be on the rise, too. However, that has not been the case in Nebraska where a team of nearly 100 people work for the Nebraska Brand Committee to help reduce the problem. Steve Stanec, executive director of the Brand Committee says, "We haven't seen any major increases in the number of reports." Meanwhile, in the Sunshine State ranchers are optimistic that the good times will keep rolling thanks to increased global demand. Florida is home to 1.7 million cattle and 3 of the top 5 cow-calf operations in the country.

Sky High Prices

The feeder cattle market is on the rise while exports continue to hold strong. Feeder cattle contracts cracked the $200 ceiling this week with August through November contracts ending above $200/cwt.

Corbitt Wall with USDA Market News reports that feeder and stocker cattle sold higher again this week, $1 to $6 higher with most $3 to $5 higher across the country.

U.S. beef and pork exports continued their positive growth trend in April, too.

Urban Grazers

Don't try grazing your goats in the abandon neighborhoods of Detroit, that's what a group of would be urban farmers learned. Last week a goat farm that was operating out of Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit was shut down after only one day of grazing overgrown, weed invaded property. The 18 goats will now be sold with proceeds from the sale benefiting nonprofit organizations in that neighborhood.

Bunch of Tree Huggers

Jun 06, 2014

Yesterday 2,001 tree huggers gathered to do just that—hug trees. A world record was accomplished when a group of students in Nepal celebrated World Environment Day by holding trees and beating drums for two minutes. This trumps the previous Guinness World Record that was set in Portland, Ore., last July by 936 like-minded individuals.

It's too bad we can't get people to be this passionate about growing grass...wait, there are people like that, but the plant is more of a weed. We’d venture to guess some of those tree huggers in Portland might have been smoking some of it, not so sure on the Nepalese students.

His Boys Can't Swim

On the topic of marijuana, apparently it may be bad for male fertility. A study published in a medical journal for Human Reproduction, researchers from England found that the morphology (size and shape) of sperm was affected by marijuana use in young men. Data was collected from 1,970 men who provided semen for fertility assessment and 318 produced abnormal sperm. "Cannabis smoking was more common in those men who had sperm morphology less than 4%," said Dr. Allan Pacey, lead author on the study. "Cannabis affects one of the processes involved in determining size and shape." We'd venture to guess that turning bulls out on a patch of Cannabis may not be best idea before performing a breeding soundness exam or breeding back cows.

Pork Industry in Peril

The pork industry is now entering its second year battling the deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). Thus far, there have been 8 million pig deaths traced back to PEDV in 30 states. Pig die offs have caused pork prices to jump to all-time highs with pork chops selling for $4.044/lb. this April. AgDay's Tyne Morgan reports that help could be on the way thanks to a new vaccine being produced by Hank Harris, president and CEO of Harrisvaccines. The vaccine is currently available through a veterinary prescription in the U.S. and through an emergency permit application to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Canada. He hopes the vaccine will receive a conditional license from the USDA, soon.

CDC Links Beef to Death

Health officials say a Texas patient is the fourth person in the U.S. to die of a rare brain disorder that is believed to be caused by consumption of beef products contaminated with mad cow disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in a statement that recent laboratory tests confirmed a diagnosis of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the patient. It is believed that the death was caused by beef consumed in Europe or the Middle East.

Did We Get Red Meat Wrong?

Jun 05, 2014

For decades we’ve been told Americans are eating too much meat. The facts, says Nina Teicholz, suggest otherwise. Writing for The Atlantic, Teicholz notes that a food budget published in the New York Tribune in 1851 allots two pounds of meat per day for a family of five. "Even slaves at the turn of the 18th century were allocated an average of 150 pounds of meat a year." How does that compare with today? Americans eat roughly 100 pounds of meat per year, about half of which is poultry. "Yet this drop in red meat consumption is the exact opposite of the picture we get from public authorities," she says. It implies that Americans’ health problems are associated with a rise in meat consumption – a claim that is just not consistent with the data.

Rancher Without Limbs is Amazing

Alberta Canada rancher Chris Koch is an inspiration – to other farmers and all of humanity. Although born without arms or legs, Koch doesn't let his handicap hold him back from living life to its fullest, and he hopes to inspire others to live their life to their greatest potential. He can golf, ski, snowboard, and play the piano. Check out these amazing videos.

#ChipotleLies, Day Two

Yesterday, we told you Chipotle Mexican Grill claims it can't find enough "responsibly raised" beef from American ranchers to fill its burritos, so CEO Steve Ells says the company will buy Australian beef to make up the shortfall.

Ells says using Australian-sourced beef "is an important step in our never-ending journey to help build a food system based on what we call Food With Integrity." We believe Ells and Chipotle get it wrong, as do two California ranchers who responded with their own message.

We launched a Twitter campaign to encourage you and other ranchers to tell Chipotle to end their deceitful marketing tactics. Today we’re asking you to keep it going. Send a message to Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold via Twitter @ChipotleMedia and use hashtag #ChipotleLies. Or, you can go to @BeefToday and retweet one of our messages to Chipotle.

Rebuilding with Bluegrass Heifers

Thanks to record high cull cow prices and an ongoing drought, America's cow herd is at its lowest point in 60 years. A group of Kentucky cattlemen intend to change that trend. The Central Kentucky Premier Heifer Sale hopes to aid in rebuilding the national beef herd through their twice yearly female auction and private treaty sales.


Jun 04, 2014

Remember the name Chris Arnold. After you've become sufficiently outraged by this story, Chris Arnold needs to hear from you. He's the propaganda communications director and "official spokesman" at Chipotle Mexican Grill. Chris bows reports to Steve Ells, the founder and CEO of the overhyped, overpriced burrito chain that sold more than $3 billion worth of beans, beef and pork wrapped in tortillas last year. In the 20-plus years since Ells launched Chipotle, the business has grown to more than 1,600 stores with 45,000 employees. Along the way he's managed to piss-off slander most of mainstream agriculture and brainwash indoctrinate a generation of America's youth with Chipotle's version of Kool-Aid. Chipotle's two videos – Scarecrow and Farmed and Dangerous – are pure snake oil.

To be blunt, Chipotle's advertising is damned lies deceitful. They've touted "Food With Integrity" for years, all while implying the beef, pork and crops you raise are somehow poison unfit for human consumption. Customers are encouraged to believe that the cows and pigs on Chipotle's menu spend their lives frolicking in pristine, sun-coated pastures before they happily give their lives to become banquet burritos. Wait...there's more. Ells has just bloviated announced that he can't find enough American beef that is "responsibly raised," so he's turning to Australia.

Ells says using Australian-sourced beef "is an important step in our never-ending journey to help build a food system based on what we call Food With Integrity."

It's a new low for Ells and Chipotle, and you need to call him out. Do so by telling Chris Arnold via Twitter @ChipotleMedia and use hashtag #ChipotleLies.

Cowboys Respond to Chipotle

Want "responsibly raised beef?" Call us, say two California ranchers. Darrell Wood is a cow/calf producer in Vina, Calif., and president of Panorama Meats, a supplier of certified organic, 100% grass-finished beef to retailers in the Western United States. Darrel Sweet is a cow/calf producer in Livermore, Calif., who raises cattle on grass then sells them to a feedyard in California that finishes the cattle on a combination grass and grain. The two Darrel(l)s provided their perspectives on the announcement that Chipotle will now source grass-fed beef from Australia.

Is Grass-Fed Beef Bullsh!t?

While you're waiting for your blood pressure to simmer down after reading about Chipotle and their search for more grass-fed beef, Josh Ozersky writes in Esquire that grass-fed beef is a "scam."

He says it's like bragging about "soil-grown potatoes." Writing for Chicagoist.com, Melissa McEwen expands on Ozersky's description, claiming that grass-fed is "now a meaningless platitude used to market sub-standard products to gullible consumers."

Yeah, don't high-five Melissa, though. In the rest of the article she tries to convince us she's a knowledgeable foodie with dirty-boots experience raising cattle. She gives herself away as just another food charlatan with a keyboard when she writes, "I'd rather my beef eat some hay with some occasional high-quality corn than a diet of chopped rotting GMO corn stalks that technically count as 'grass.'" Yeah. Then there's this: "America would be a better place if the most miserable feedlots were regulated out of existence and consumers didn't have to scrutinize menus to avoid junk." No, Melissa, America would be a better place if people didn't pass themselves off as experts about subjects they know little about. Then we wouldn't have to scrutinize websites to "avoid junk."

The Little Things Count

It's the little things — like bees and microbes — that help feed the world. According to Becky Timmons, global director of applications research and quality assurance at Alltech, these two naturally occurring organisms will play a crucial role in feeding the world's growing population. In order to feed 9 billion people by 2050 agricultural yields need to increase 75% to 100%, Timmons said, during the closing session of the 30th Alltech Symposium in Lexington, Ky., last month. "Without microbes there would be no plants or animals."

Grazing for Dummies

Jun 03, 2014

The popular "For Dummies" series of instructional/reference books is missing a key topic – Grazing for Dummies. It would have helped Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a business consultant and author by profession, a cattleman by hobby. His definition of hobby includes buying "a few hundred calves" each year to graze. Such a "hobby" puts him in a tax bracket we'll never see, but his cattle venture gave him a unique perspective on hiring business professionals. The first season Fernández-Aráoz grazed calves the results were "spectacular." They doubled their weight and prices were sky-high. The next year he bought higher quality calves to graze. Oops! You know where this is going, right? When he bought better calves "their average annual weight gain kept dropping, along with my revenues." A cowboy could tell Fernández-Aráoz about compensatory gain – buying calves starved for groceries and turning them out on lush pasture. No dummy, however, Fernández-Aráoz took the lesson and applied it to business. The best employees, he says, are called "portable" – able to "effectively transition from one role, company, industry, or country to the next. While cattle from fertile farms don't gain as much weight at regular farms, the survivors of poor environments flourish. Likewise when a star executive moves to a weaker firm, his or her performance is likely to lose its luster; if the person moves to a stronger firm, by contrast, he or she will keep shining."

Dairy Dollars at Work

Advertising and marketing works. That may seem obvious, given that companies such as McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Nike spend billions of dollars enticing us to buy their products. But advertising by some commodity groups continues to be controversial. Marketing and business pioneer John Wannamaker once said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." That philosophy seems appropriate for today's dairy industry. Dairy Today editor Jim Dickrell says despite record milk prices, he continues to hear frustration with dairy checkoff programs, though he doesn't share such frustration. Dickrell reports that Oral Capps, a Texas A&M economist, told Congress that for every dollar invested in dairy promotion, consumers spend $3.05 more on dairy products. Dairy today and Beef Today associate editor Wyatt Bechtel did a deep dive into the Milk Life campaign designed to re-energize fluid milk advertising.

Cow Blamed for Oil Patch Spill

Officials are blaming a cow for spilling about 20 barrels of natural gas condensate in western North Dakota. It is believed a cow rubbed against a tank valve causing the valve to open and produce the leak. The incident prompted North Dakota State Environmental officials to remind oil companies they need to ensure that their production and storage facilities are bovine-proof.

Profit Tracker: Feedyard Margins Rebound

Cattle feeding margins increased nearly $8 per head higher last week to average $164. The slight increase in profitability was due to steady cash cattle prices and a decline in the average cost of gain, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. Profit margins for pork producers held steady at $72.66 per head. Packer profits increased substantially.

Why Ranchers Hate the EPA

Jun 02, 2014

Yakima, Wash., rancher Jack Field is concerned newly proposed regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could significantly hinder his business.

But Andy and Katie Johnson have run afoul of EPA's current rules, and provide a classic example of why ranchers distrust the feds.

They built a stock pond on their property in 2011, after receiving a permit from the Wyoming State Engineer's office and a letter stating, "All of the legal requirements of the State Engineer's Office, that were your responsibility, have been satisfied for the Johnson Stock Reservoir." Unfortunately, that didn't satisfy the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which notified the Johnsons in January they had violated the Clean Water Act and now face threats of $75,000 a day in fines. If you know a rancher, you know where this is headed. "We're going to fight it," Johnson says.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association have asked EPA to reconsider, and both AFBF and NCBA provide web links to write directly to EPA and tell them to ditch the rule.


Cowboy College Accepts Chinese Student

The Chinese Internet has been abuzz over the acceptance of a Chongquing high school student to a prestigious American cowboy college. Deep Springs is a private, alternative college in Deep Springs, Calif., known for a curriculum that combines traditional book studying with cattle wrangling. Tuition is free – if you can get in. The school accepts only 26 students to the two-year program, but 200 to 300 apply each year. That means the acceptance rate is approximately the same as Harvard. Most Deep Springs alumni go on to finish their studies at some of the world's most prestigious institutions such as Cambridge, Oxford, Yale and Harvard.


"Human-Caused Problems Plague the West"

Cliven Bundy's much-publicized confrontation with the Bureau of Land Management earlier this spring also generated considerable attention to public lands grazing fees, fueling the perception Bundy and cowboys like him are "welfare ranchers." However, RANGE Magazine editor C.J. Hadley says the reality of ranching on public lands "does not meet the welfare test." Hadley, an outspoken critic of "human-caused problems that plague the West," says most journalists do not understand grazing fees nor do they understand what it takes to make a living wrangling cows in America's most remote regions. "The lack of commonsense and understanding is maddening and frustrating, and the federal government's explanation is a bureaucratic boondoggle."


Watering your garden in Russell, KS, is forbidden. So is washing your car.

That's not news to those in the West and Central Plains affected by the ongoing drought. What's amazing is that Russell, KS, is just 250 miles west of Kansas City, an area on the dry side for sure, but nothing close to the drought experienced in Russell. Just three inches of rain have fallen on the city so far in 2014. View the National Drought Monitor.

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