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Monday, March 14,2005

Checkoff ruling possible by early April

by WLJ
The fate of the U.S. beef checkoff program could be known by the end of March or first week of April, according to sources from both sides of constitutionality lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court could issue its decision in the case during its next set of dates set aside for announcing decisions from cases argued in late 2004. The next decisions from the court are scheduled to be announced on March 22, 23, 29, 30 and April 4. John McBride, director of information for the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), said it has been indicated to officials with his group that a large majority of the decisions from cases argued in front of the Supreme Court in November have already had the decisions published. “Our checkoff arguments were heard Dec. 8, which means the program’s unconstitutionality should be among the decisions announced by the court this next go around,” said McBride. Defendants in the case—USDA, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Nebraska Cattlemen, Inc.—have argued that the checkoff program is protected as “government speech,” loosely defined by court cases as the government’s ability to express a point of view. In addition, they argue that the benefits of the program have been far-reaching across the U.S. beef industry, and that cattle producers will lose those benefits if the program is scrapped. In addition, the plaintiffs have had a major complaint about the way the legal proceedings have moved ahead since an original compliance complaint was modified into the current challenge of the program’s constitutionality. Sources with USDA and the Department of Justice, who filed the original request with the Supreme Court, have indicated that federal Judge Charles Kornmann, District of South Dakota, overstepped his authority when he asked plaintiffs to amend their suit to include asking for a ruling on the program’s constitutionality. LMA contends the checkoff is not protected as government speech because it isn’t a federally funded program. “The beef promotion program is funded not from Congressional appropriations, but by mandatory payments that all members of the beef industry must make to their respective state beef industry associations,” LMA said in filed briefs. “The Supreme Court has never recognized a government speech defense, unless the speech in question was funded by taxpayers. Furthermore, the program is not government speech because the government’s control over the program is minimal. USDA loosely oversees compliance with the program’s conditions, but it does not initiate, create, devise, compose, fund or implement any of the board’s activities.” In addition, LMA said the checkoff is unconstitutional because it forces people to fund and be affiliated with advertising and promotions that they may not be in favor of or that promotes a “commodity product” when they produce a better quality product. Some producers have said advertisements funded by the checkoff program hurt their businesses rather than promote it. The First Amendment prohibits government from preventing free speech, but the Justices will have to consider if the First Amendment also prevents the government from compelling speech with which federally-mandated contributors may disagree. A total of seven amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs representing 70-plus organizations were filed alongside LMA’s briefs with the Supreme Court on Oct. 15. Background The suit was initiated in 1997 when LMA tried to force a referendum to re-authorize the program. However, in the middle of that process, Kornmann asked the plaintiffs to amend their complaint into a constitutional challenge, which they did. In June 2002, Kornmann ruled in favor of the plaintiffs citing the “compelled speech” argument. An appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals wound up with a three-judge panel upholding Kornmann’s decision in October 2003. The same appeals court was asked to rehear the case, but refused, and that resulted in the Department of Justice, on behalf of USDA, CBB and Nebraska Cattlemen, filing a hearing request with the Supreme Court. If the program is deemed unconstitutional, there is protocol in place by which funding granted and implemented for fiscal year 2005 will remain in place until completed. Any non-implemented programs will be disbanded. Any remaining funds will not be refunded to producers, according to administrators of the program. If disbanded, between $85-90 million a year will be lost in promoting beef to U.S. consumers, USDA statisticians said. According to the Beef Research and Promotion Order, if the court rules the program unconstitutional, up to 11 trustees of the checkoff board of directors will be retained and continue to pay any outstanding funds to programs approved prior to the checkoff’s termination. Any money that is not used to fund previously approved programs will not be reallocated back to producers assessed checkoff funds, the order added. Diane Henderson, communications director for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, has said it would be almost impossible to refund money to producers because of the number of people that would entail, and there would be no fair way to prorate how much of the money would be given back to each producer. “There is absolutely nothing in place to refund the money,” she said. “It would be very hard to do so, and would be a major nightmare.”

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Monday, March 14,2005

Colostrum vital for new calves

by WLJ
Colostrum intake is critical for the newborn calf, says Greg Lardy, a North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist. "At birth, a calf's immune system is not fully developed," he says. "The calf must rely on colostrum from the cow until its own immune system is totally functional (about 1 to 2 months of age)." Colostrum contains antibodies or immunoglobulins, necessary protection from disease. For colostrum to be most effective, Lardy recommends the calf receive 1 quart within six hours after birth and a total of 2 to 3 quarts within 12 hours of birth. After that, the calf's gut begins to "close" and absorbing the antibodies in colostrum becomes more difficult. At six hours after birth, calves absorb 66 percent of the immunoglobulins in colostrum, but at 36 hours after birth they are able to absorb only 7 percent of immunoglobulins. Colostrum contains 22 percent solids, compared with 12 percent solids in normal whole cow's milk. Much of the extra solid material in colostrum is immunoglobulin, but colostrum also is an important source of protein (casein), sugar (lactose), fat, and vitamins A and E. Breed type and cow age affect the amount of colostrum a cow produces, Lardy said. Dairy breeds produce more than beef breeds and mature cows produce more than heifers. Cows on higher planes of nutrition also produce more colostrum than cows on a low plane. Calves that experience a difficult or prolonged birth tend to take longer to stand and nurse, resulting in a weak calf that lacks the proper immunoglobulin protection to fend off disease threats. These calves may need to be tube fed colostrum or colostrum substitutes, Lardy said. Handling and storing colostrum Some cows don't produce an adequate amount of colostrum. That means producers sometimes have to use colostrum from other cows or stored colostrum to ensure that each calf receives an adequate amount. For optimum results, colostrum should be collected from cows within 24 hours of calving and fed fresh. Colostrum also can be collected at calving, stored frozen and used at a later date. Lardy suggests that to make storing and thawing easier, store colostrum in Ziploc bags or Serving Savers containers. The bags or containers will store flat in the freezer and producers can use a size that makes thawing individual "servings" (1 or 2 quarts) of colostrum easier. Colostrum should not be thawed and refrozen. Antibodies and immunoglobulins in colostrum are protein. Correct thawing is important to prevent colostrum from being damaged. It should be thawed slowly, either in a microwave or warm water. Lardy suggests these methods: • Place frozen colostrum and its container in warm water (110 F) and stir every five minutes. The colostrum should be warmed to 104 to 110 F. • Thaw colostrum in a microwave oven. Set the oven at no more than 60 percent power for gentle thawing. Agitate or stir the colostrum frequently to assure even thawing and warming. This is important since many microwaves do not heat material evenly. Warm the colostrum to 104 F. How much colostrum does a calf need? As a general rule of thumb, a calf should receive five percent to six percent of its body weight as colostrum within the first six hours of life. That same amount should be fed again when the calf is about 12 hours old. Colostrum weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon. For an 80-pound calf, this equates to approximately 2 quarts (4 pounds) of colostrum per feeding. The Johne's disease risk Johne's disease (Myobacterium paratuberculosis) can be spread to herds through infected colostrum. Producers using colostrum from another cow as a supplement should be sure the cow from which they get it is free of the disease. "Proper colostral management is essential to the health of newborn calves," Lardy says. "Making sure calves get adequate colostrum will improve health and ensure the calf gets off to a proper start in life." — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Corn stocks to rise

by WLJ
Allendale Inc. is expecting Thursday's U.S. Department of Agriculture March supply and demand report to show an increase in domestic corn ending stocks. U.S. wheat ending stocks are pegged at 548 million bushels, which would be 10 million lower than the February report. Corn stocks are seen at 2.045 billion bushels, compared to 2.01 billion in the last report. Domestic soybean stocks are estimated at 455 million bushels. February's report had bean stocks at 440 million. World wheat ending stocks are estimated at 145.12 million tons, compared to 145.38 million in the previous report. Corn ending stocks are pegged at 119.42 million tons; February's report showed corn stocks at 117.27 million tons. Allendale is estimating soy stocks at 59.02 million tons. Last month the USDA pegged international bean stocks at 59.02 million tons. Allendale also issued some grain production estimates. Corn production in Argentina is estimated at 18 million tons, up 500,000 from the USDA's February report. Brazilian corn harvest was lowered 1.5 million to 40 million tons. South African corn production is seen steady at 9.7 million tons. 2004/05 soybean production for Brazil is pegged at 60 million tons, down 3 million from the previous estimate. Soybean production for Argentina was lowered a half million to 38.5 million tons. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Federal air regs affect livestock industry

by WLJ
Pork, dairy, poultry and egg producers have until May 1 to decide whether to sign a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After a series of court cases, the EPA announced in January that federal air quality laws would retroactively apply to certain livestock production facilities. Applicable regulations include the Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act; and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act provisions. Livestock producers need to be aware of this consent agreement with the EPA and familiarize themselves with existing EPA air quality regulations, said Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska livestock bio-environmental engineer. "This issue may not be on producers' radar screens and could have significant ramifications," the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources engineer said. "Producers need to make an informed decision which should not be taken lightly and should be reviewed by an attorney." "These (EPA) laws were originally meant for the smokestack industry," said John Thorne, a consultant with C&M Capitolink in Washington. Thorne and other livestock industry and government representatives spoke at a recent air quality consent agreement information meeting sponsored by Nebraska Cooperative Extension and livestock industry representatives. The meeting can be viewed on the Web at http://webvideo.unl.edu/airquality.shtml. The EPA is now applying these regulations to the livestock industry based upon recent court decisions involving livestock and poultry producers. What's needed is a clearer understanding of how these regulations apply to animal production, he said. To find that out, the consent agreement will allow the livestock industry and others to conduct a two-year air quality study. After the study, the EPA will produce air emission factors that will be used to compare emissions from animal facilities to existing regulatory thresholds in the Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act; and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Emissions that will be studied include particulate matter, such as dust, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. The consent agreement was negotiated by pork, dairy, poultry and egg industry representatives and the EPA. The beef industry believes the Clean Air Act regulations do not apply to emissions from feedlots and have pursued alternative discussions with the EPA, Koelsch said. Pork, dairy, poultry and egg producers who decide to fill out the consent agreement form, must send it to the EPA postmarked no later than May 1. Forms are available at www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks1.html. The EPA will review the consent agreement and return it to the producer. At that time, the producer will pay a penalty ranging from $200 to $100,000, depending on size and number of farms a producer owns. This penalty would range from $200 to $1,000 for a single farm. In addition, fees must be paid to cover the two-year study. National commodity associations for the pork and egg industries are paying this cost through check-off funds. The consent agreement will protect producers from liability for past air quality violations and violations during the EPA study period. Producers who do not sign the consent agreement will be liable for past violations and still will be required to comply in the future. Completion of the emissions study and development of emission factors for animal production will be completed in the next five years, said Karen Flournoy of EPA Region 7. "The fundamental question is whether or not a producer wants to sign this consent agreement with the EPA," Koelsch said. Signing the agreement admits no wrong doing, Thorne said. However, it isn't clear who is in violation of these laws because air quality emissions from livestock and poultry facilities are unknown at this time. The Clean Air Act includes only particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, said Joe Francis with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. However, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide soon could be added. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act, and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, no more than 100 pounds of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds or particulate matter can be emitted per day. "Right now, we think the Clean Air Act will only apply to the very large producers," said Rick Stowell, a university animal environmental engineer. However, the Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act, and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requirements may apply to smaller farms. "Right now we don't know where the thresholds are," Stowell said."Only estimates can be made." The two-year study will determine what the emission factors will be. Stowell estimated a livestock facility that holds 2,000 swine could emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia per day under these two acts. However, it would likely take 10,000 to 15,000 hogs to violate the Clean Air Act provisions. These are estimates only and the actual animal thresholds determined from the two-year study could be different. For more information about what the EPA air quality consent agreement, visit EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/agreements/caa/cafo-agr-0501.html. For more information from Nebraska Cooperative Extension, including information from the recent meeting, consult Nebraska's Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning Web site at http://cnmp.unl.edu and click on "EPA consent agreement" or contact a local extension office. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Federal agency sells horses to rescue group

by WLJ
Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke announced a sale on Wednesday of 13 wild horses to Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, a California-based group dedicated to wild horse protection. The horses, all mares, were sold under a new law that Congress passed in December 2004. The new law directs the BLM to sell wild horses and burros that are more than 10 years old or have been unsuccessfully offered for adoption at least three times. The BLM announced its first sale of wild horses on March 1; that sale involved 200 mares and went to Wild Horses Wyoming, LLC, a southeastern Wyoming company committed to wild horse preservation. “The BLM is committed to finding long-term care for wild horses and burros affected by the new law,” said Director Clarke. “We are so pleased that groups committed to caring for these animals are stepping forward. We are reaching out to other groups and people who want to care for horses.” Clarke noted that other sales are pending and will be announced in the near future. Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue has also recently adopted foals born to two of the horses sold as part of this sale. Jill Starr, president of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, based in Lancaster, CA, said, “I am thankful that the BLM is offering opportunities for the sale-mandated horses to be placed in caring homes and safe sanctuaries. They are making efforts beyond what the new law requires, which proves the BLM is really trying to help horses. I am pleased to be able to offer sanctuary for some of the horses and their foals, and I wish we could do more." The Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue ranch comprises 46 acres and supports more than 130 wild horses. The group, which operates on contributions from the public, is also developing 160 acres in Twin Oaks, California, which will become the "Born to be Wild" natural habitat sanctuary for rescued mustangs. The BLM manages wild horses and burros under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act. Federal law authorizes the BLM to remove wild horses and burros from the range to control herd sizes; those animals removed are cared for in short- and long-term holding facilities and thousands are placed into private ownership through adoption each year. Since 1973, the BLM’s adoption program has put more than 203,000 animals into private care. Currently there are about 24,000 wild horses and burros cared for in short-term facilities in the West and long-term facilities in the Midwest. There are about 37,000 wild horses and burros on public lands managed by the BLM in 10 Western states. The Bureau has determined––on the basis of its analysis of rangeland conditions ––that 28,000 is the number of wild horses and burros that BLM-managed rangelands can support in balance with other resources and other approved uses of the public lands. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes on the range can double about every five years. As a result, the current free-roaming population exceeds by some 9,000 the number that BLM-managed rangelands can sustain. The cost of holding and caring for wild horses and burros in both short- and long-term facilities is projected to be about $20 million in Fiscal Year 2005, which will be more than half of what the agency expects to spend on the wild horse and burro program in the current fiscal year. The cost of caring for and feeding a wild horse in a long-term facility is about $465 per animal per year. The BLM has set up a toll-free number for those interested in buying a wild horse or burro (800/710-7597). Interested groups or individuals may also contact the Bureau at a new e-mail address regarding the purchase of wild horses or burros (wildhorse@blm.gov).–– WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

International support for mandatory animal ID in U.S.

by WLJ
A general agreement that a U.S. cattle identification and traceability system should be mandatory with a goal of 100-percent compliance was reached by more than 200 industry leaders attending the 2005 International Livestock Congress March 2-3 in Houston, TX. The group, consisting of cattlemen, academics, trade associations, industry service providers, government representatives, and international guests, agreed that the system should be electronic with limited and controlled access to data by governments, as well as begin with the birth of calves and extend to packing plants, and should initially focus on providing the necessary information to contain animal health crises. Following presentations outlining animal identification and traceability systems in seven countries (Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Uruguay, The Netherlands, and the U.S.), six "cluster" breakout groups received background information and instructions from Dr. Gary C. Smith of Colorado State University. Smith described ten differing "purposes" for implementing animal identification and traceability systems, and outlined a method for characterizing systems (first described by the USDA Economic Research Service) that provides for delineation of the depth, breadth, and precision of animal identification and traceability systems. Depth is "how far forward or backward" in the marketing chain that traceability is maintained; breadth is the "amount" of information required to be collected by the system to be effective; and precision is the "degree of assurance" with which the tracing system can "pin-point" movement of a particular food product or its characteristics—the amount of verification that is required to instill confidence in the effectiveness of the traceability system. Cluster groups then met to develop "recommendations" for (a) international standardization, (b) marketplace expectations and economics association with animal traceability systems, (c) public versus private ownership of traceability data, (d) provisions for implementation of new traceability systems, (e) focus and definition of a country's first effort to develop an identification, traceability, and verification system, and (f) communication with stakeholders in an identification and traceability system. Dr. John Paterson of Montana State University then summarized panel consensus recommendations and conclusions. Lastly, participants heard from representatives of McDonald's, USDA and academia on current issues associated with animal identification and traceability capabilities of countries. Generally, international participants expressed that other countries perceive the U.S. beef production industry as progressive and receptive to implementation of new technologies that improve beef quality and safety. Nonetheless, participants at ILC concurred that, in general, the U.S. has fallen behind the rest of the world in adopting a strong identification and traceability system. Although some disagreement among individual participants was apparent, cluster groups conveyed general agreement that a U.S. cattle identification and traceability system should be mandatory with 100-percent compliance as the goal, should be electronic with limited and controlled access to data by governments, should begin with the birth of calves and extend to packing plants, and should initially focus on providing the necessary information to contain animal health crises. Required data fields for purposes of controlling animal health issues would include information on animal ID, premises ID, and tracking information concerning animal movement in relation to time. Participants further supported the notion that implementation of a new U.S. animal identification and traceability system should be confirmed and audited by a third party. The system also should provide many additional fields for data entry that allows private and confidential information to be added for purposes of marketing and product differentiation. That information, though, would be subjected—on a voluntary basis—to third party process verification for compliance with production management, cattle age, or any other parameter that might be included as marketing and labeling criteria with final products. Supported in part by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and managed by the International Stockman's Educational Foundation, under Chairman Russell Cross, PhD, the event also featured animal identification and traceability service providers who displayed their wares at a trade show. Twenty-five international students from 19 universities and eight countries were recognized as ILC fellows (supported by the Vivian L. Smith Foundation) during the meeting. Dr. Elsa Murano of Texas A&M University and Robert "Bob" Funk of Oklahoma were also inducted into the International Stockmen's Hall of Fame at ceremonies held during the Congress. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Help offered in U.S., Japan beef dispute

by WLJ
Bernard Vallat, the director general of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), said his group would use scientific means to help settle a beef trade dispute between Japan and the United States, according to a Reuters’ news report. Vallat added that the OIE was ready to mediate talks if both countries made the request. Japan banned imports of U.S. beef in December 2003 after the United States discovered its only case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Japan insisted that the U.S. test all of the cattle presented for slaughter for BSE. In October 2004, the two countries agreed to resume shipments of beef from animals 20 months old or younger, which are considered at low risk for the disease. However, the deal stalled as the two sides debate how to accurately determine the age of the beef cattle. “The OIE will be open to help if Japan and the United States agree ... The OIE could help with the use of our scientists, but it will be a scientific mediation, not a political mediation, not an economical mediation,” Vallat told Reuters in an interview. Vallat said it was difficult to comment on the progress of the talks between the two countries. "I'm not sure whether the discussions are based on OIE standards because of other problems than science ... there are social, political and economical problems, so it's difficult to give an opinion in this context," he said. Vallat is in Japan to attend the first regional steering committee meeting of the Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases. He is also scheduled to attend at a public meeting on Thursday, which is sponsored by Japan's government-affiliated Food Safety Commission to explain the standards of the OIE related to BSE. "I will explain our standards and how they are decided and what is the basis and will give details ... but it is not my objective to convince consumers or convince politicians," Vallat said. The Food Safety Commission, the body responsible for discussing policy changes, is in the process of revising current domestic policy on the testing of cattle for BSE from a blanket test on all cattle to a system that excludes animals aged 20 months or below. Political pressure is increasing in the United States as the U.S. beef industry presses for a quick end to the ban. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Legislative meltdown costs farmers

by WLJ
On March 1, Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives walked out, effectively bringing the legislative session to a halt and resulting in the procedural death of over 130 bills. Several key pieces of agricultural legislation were lost. Funding for a new Colts stadium and a provision to move the state to daylight savings time were also among the measures that died. The director of the soon-to-be Department of Agriculture blasted House Democrats for not showing up to do their work and, in effect, killing the bills that would have directly benefitted Hoosier farmers and ag producers. “The House Democrats played games, and Hoosier farmers and producers were among the biggest losers,” said Commissioner Andy Miller. “Do they not understand how many farmers fight to survive financially and that these bills could have helped? Do they not understand the bills they were supposed to vote on could have saved farmers money, created jobs and developed opportunities? How could they be so blind that they would not see how their grandstanding would hurt hardworking farmers across the state?” Among the farm legislation killed was House Bill 1367 which would have immediately lowered the base property tax rate on productive farmland. After property tax reassessment, farmers were hit hard with a base rate of $1,050 per acre. HB 1367 would have decreased the rate to $880 per acre; translating into a 28 percent savings in taxes paid. House Bill 1724, also lost in the House meltdown, would have provided tax incentives to agri-businesses that either invested $1 million in facilities and created five new jobs, or increased the number of full-time jobs by 10 percent. HB 1724 would have made the climate friendlier for agri-businesses to improve operations and create jobs. House Bill 1573 is legislation that would have eliminated the need for license plates on certain pieces of agricultural equipment that spend their “lives” on farm fields. Farmers would have potentially saved hundreds of dollars by not having to buy license plates for implements that never hit Hoosier roads. “Governor Daniels and Lt. Governor Skillman have made it very clear that they are committed to Indiana agriculture. We are positioning this state to become a leader in the nation, and world, in many ag-related areas,” said Commissioner Miller. “This inaction is a step backward on many levels. I am only thankful that our soy bio-diesel and ethanol legislation originated in the Senate, where Republicans and Democrats worked for the good of all Hoosiers.” House Bill 1008 that creates a new Department of Agriculture had already passed the full House before the walkout and is thus unaffected.

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Monday, March 14,2005

Limited grassland funds available

by WLJ
Allen Green, state conservationist of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Lewis Frank, state executive director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA), recently announced the availability $2 million dollars for the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) in Colorado. The GRP is designed to help landowners protect grasslands from conversion to other uses and to support continued stewardship on viable, working ranch lands. Applications received through March 25 will be considered for the limited 2005 funding. “Land eligibility is fairly straightforward,” said Dennis Alexander, assistant state conservationist for programs. “Land to be enrolled in the program must be grassland, contain forbs or shrubland, or be land that historically has been dominated by grassland, forbs, or shrubs.” Production crops (other than hay), fruit trees, vineyards, or any activity that requires breaking the soil surface are ineligible. “The program is designed to protect our very vulnerable and fragile grasslands and their native species,” Alexander said. “Given our limited funding, we anticipate that competition for enrollment will be intense.” Landowners have several enrollment options including easements and agreements. One can enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement or choose to enroll in a 10-, 15-, 20-, or 30-year agreement. Two separate funding pools will be used for easements and for agreements. Each pool will receive 50 percent of the total GRP allocation. Landowners should consult their local conservation district, NRCS, or FSA office for further details regarding the differences between easement and agreement payments. “Funds will be targeted to native, natural grasslands that support certain plant communities and habitat types. Offers most likely to be funded will be part of a sustainable, working ranch unit and consist of natural and native grassland that are in good condition,” Alexander said. Other priorities for funding will include the existence of adequate fencing and watering facilities, as well as evidence of sustainable grazing management. Four plant communities will be targeted in 2005, including Shortgrass Prairie, Sand Sage, Sagebrush Steppe, and Sagebrush/Wet Meadow Complex. Eighty percent of the offered acreage must support one or more of these plant communities. Alexander said, “We have designed this program to be as responsive to the needs of Colorado’s land users as possible by permitting grazing that maintains viability of the grassland, as well as haying, mowing, and harvesting for seed production which is subject to certain restrictions during the nesting season.” In Colorado, GRP will target lands that are under some threat of conversion to rural residential development, as well as land that is threatened to be converted to cropland or other agricultural uses. To apply for this program and for additional information regarding it, landowners are encouraged to contact the local conservation district office or the local NRCS or FSA office that services their county. These are located in USDA Service Centers across the state. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Last call for National Beef Cook-off

by WLJ
Time is running out to enter the 26th National Beef Cook-Off. Family chefs are encouraged to show off their “skill-ets” in the kitchen and submit their favorite beef recipes by March 31. This summer, 20 amateur family chefs will be notified that their beef recipes have made them national finalists. The finalists will compete Sept. 19-21 in Rapid City, SD for the $50,000 “Best of Beef” grand prize and eight other cash prizes. More than $100,000 will be awarded. On behalf of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Federation of State Beef Councils, the American National CattleWomen, Inc. are partnering with retail grocer Albertsons to promote the 2005 Cook-Off. The amateur beef-cooking contest has been held for nearly three decades. This year, the Cook-Off has introduced a “Family Favorites” category to showcase original beef recipes that families enjoy during the week or for special occasions. The Cook-Off, sponsored by America’s Beef Producers through their $1-per-head checkoff, comes as the demand for beef continues to increase. The Cook-Off seeks to drive awareness and purchase of undervalued beef cuts, such as those from the chuck and round. Chuck and round cuts are very affordable and offer consumers a great value, while still providing tenderness and great taste. “With Americans’ enduring enjoyment of beef, the Cook-Off offers the best opportunity for family chefs to share their beloved recipes and secrets with everyone,” said Sherry Hill, Cook- Off project manager. “And the fascinating thing is that the winning recipes always reflect and celebrate America’s changing tastes in beef.” Amateur chefs have until March 31 to enter the following four categories: Beef Market Basket, Grilled Beef, Family Favorites and “Inspired By” Beef Recipe. Each of the categories has specific requirements. Each must be prepared in 45 minutes or less and most limit the number of ingredients to eight. • Beef Market Basket participants choose from a list of beef cuts and up to five listed market basket ingredients, and no more than two “wild card” ingredients to make a main dish. • Grilled Beef includes grilled beef main dish recipes. • Family Favorites includes beef recipes that entrants’ families enjoy during the week, for special occasions or get-togethers. • “Inspired By” Beef Recipes includes entrants’ own original creative beef recipes adapted from another recipe from a friend or family member, a restaurant dish entrants have tasted, or a recipe published in a cookbook or culinary publication. More detailed information and a complete version of the Cook-Off rules is available at www.beefcookoff.org. Contestants can enter recipes through the Web site or send by U.S. mail to: National Beef Cook-Off Entries, ANCW, PO Box 3881, Englewood, CO 80155. The deadline for sending in entries is March 31, 2005. Entrants must be at least 18 years of age by March 31, 2005, and a legal resident of the U.S. or Puerto Rico. The 20 finalists will be notified in May.

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