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Monday, February 21,2005

Bill limits farm payments

by WLJ
U.S. Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced a bill Feb. 15 that would place a $250,000 limit on federal farm payments. The senators introduced similar legislation in March 2003. Currently, a farmer can receive up to $360,000 in commodity payments a year. In addition, by using a marketing loan device known as generic certificates, the largest operations can receive unlimited payments. "This bill would bring sensible reform to our farm policy. Because of the loopholes in the Farm Bill, about 60 percent of farm payments go to 10 percent of producers––allowing the largest farm operations to grow with tax-payer dollars, while family farms get squeezed out. This step to level the playing field for small family farmers is long overdue," Hagel said. The bill would tighten payment limits in two ways: Strip the largest farms of the ability to receive unlimited payments by limiting generic certificates; Tighten limits for farmers under the three entity rule––from $360,000 to $250,000. In 2002, during the farm bill debate, Hagel, Grassley and Dorgan worked to implement real payment limits. The amendment received 66 votes in the Senate, and was adopted as part of the Senate Farm Bill, but was stripped from the Farm Bill conference report. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Beef safety advancing, more to do

by WLJ
At a forum on beef safety at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio earlier this month, food safety experts led a discussion of recent advancements made in BSE prevention and E.coli reduction. A common theme among the speakers was that while the beef industry can be very proud of the advancements it has made in improving food safety, it must continually strive for improvement. Ongoing beef safety research is funded by America’s Beef Producers through the $1-per-head Beef Checkoff Program. It is coordinated on behalf of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and state beef councils by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which serves as one of the Beef Board’s contractors for checkoff-funded programs. While bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has received heavy news coverage since a single case was confirmed in the United States in December 2003, E.coli remains a concern for the beef industry and its consumers. Guy Loneragan, B.V. Sc. Ph.D., provided an up-to-date look at pre-harvest research efforts addressing intervention development and approval of management steps in reducing the incidence of E. coli. Dr. Loneragan is an assistant professor of Beef Cattle Health Management at West Texas A & M University. “The beef industry has worked hard and has had many successes in reducing E. coli, helping to maintain consumer confidence in beef,” Loneragan said. “In fact, illness rates attributed to E. coli have almost reached the 2010 goal of 1 case per 100,000 people.” But Loneragan emphasized that the industry still faces challenges in reducing the presence of E.coli. He feels the industry needs to examine pre-harvest intervention options, especially with regard to hide and feces. Several pre-harvest intervention options are being evaluated. A lacto bacillus-based product that is added to feed has significantly reduced the number of animals testing positive for E. coli on both the hide and feces. Another intervention option being researched is vaccination. Studies have shown cattle that are vaccinated are much less likely to carry the bacteria, but it is unclear how effectively the vaccine reduces E. coli on the hides. Neomycin is an antibiotic not labeled for E. coli control. However, Loneragen said that two large feedlot studies have shown that it reduces E. coli in the feces by 98 to 100 percent, and in hides by 85 to 90 percent. Recent strides in reducing E. coli O157 in beef carcasses are also among the ongoing checkoff-funded research efforts highlighted in Building Demand through Research, the research annual report published recently by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. A complete copy of “Building Demand through Research” is available at http://www.beef.org/dsp/dsp_locationContent.cfm?locationId=892. At the same issues forum, Dr.Terry McElwain provided an overview of the BSE surveillance program. McElwain is a professor and the executive director with Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. McElwain reported that the goal of the program, which was initiated in June of 2004, is to test 268,500 animals in a 12-18 month period. The target population consists of animals showing some type of disorder that has compatible, clinical signs of BSE. Examples include central nervous cases, condemned cattle and downer cattle. The number to be tested is based on an estimated 464,000 possible animals that fit into the target population. By completing this number of tests, the industry can state with 100 percent confidence that five or fewer infected animals exist in the nation’s cattle population. Initially, seven labs are performing BSE testing. Biorad rapid ELISA assay was chosen as the test, in part because results can be produced in one day. All lab results are tracked through sample accession––an automated process that avoids any recording mistakes. Negative results are reported electronically to the NAHLN database and to USDA. McElwain explained that if the test yields a single well reactor, it is immediately rerun in duplicate. If it turns up negative, no more testing of that animal is needed. If the second test yields a reactive well, the sample is sent to the NADC for confirmatory testing. As of Jan. 30, more than 213,000 samples have been taken and analyzed, about 1,700 per day. Dr. Don Knowles, a professor at Washington State University, also discussed BSE risk, current research and infectious dose levels at the issues forum. “It is important that the industry and those involved in BSE research and related policy remain vigilant, but the news concerning BSE is currently positive. Transmission of BSE is understood and appropriate control practices are in place. Therefore, BSE and vCJD should continue their decline. A note of caution is necessary, however. We must remember that when dealing with biology, change and unpredictability is the rule,” Knowles said. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

CattleWomen install new president

by WLJ
— Remaining officers, new mission statement approved. Marlene Strickland, Sarasota, FL, was installed as the 54th president of the American National CattleWomen (ANCW) during the 2005 Cattle Industry Annual Convention, held February 2-5 in San Antonio, TX. “We are really looking forward to the discussion results that will be compiled from the input we received from members and cattle women who participated,” Strickland said. “This input will be a catalyst for meeting the needs of women in our industry.” Strickland brings years of commitment to the beef industry at the county, state and national level to the position of ANCW president. She is a past president of the Florida CattleWomen, and since 2000 has served on the executive committee of ANCW as a Region II director, president-elect and vice president. Strickland has enjoyed many years working with youth in 4-H, and especially with the National Beef Ambassador Program. Strickland and her husband Don, raise Angus cattle and have been 4-H leaders for 30 years. They have two children and four grandchildren and this past year celebrated 40 years of marriage and 20 years as owners of Land Electric, Inc. Other officers and region directors were installed at ANCW’s annual meeting. Remaining members of the 2005 executive committee are president-elect, Nancy Stirling-Neuhauser, South Dakota; vice president, Wendy Pettz, Arkansas; secretary, Kim Strickland, Florida; parliamentarian, Trudy Carey, Florida; historian, Karen Andrle, Florida; Region I director, Bonnie Bargstedt, New York; Region II director, Doris Teeter, North Carolina; Region III director, Leslee Lohrenz, Wisconsin; Region IV director, Rosemary Brizendine, Texas; Region V director, Leslie Hendry, Wyoming; Region VI director, Joan Hemsted, California; and Region VII director, Nanci Agnew, North Dakota. The new leadership will be working with the Advisory Team, an ad hoc committee created in 2004 to develop “recommendations and concrete ideas that will guide our national association” by addressing the needs of cattle women involved in the beef industry. The 2005 leadership will operate in a year of transition, as organizational strategies are being discussed and crafted for 2006. In setting priorities for ANCW, the mission statement adopted by the general membership states, “The American National CattleWomen, Inc. is a voice for women who share a passion for the U.S. beef industry. Our mission is to promote and support the beef industry as well as encourage women in beef and related agribusiness.” The leadership believes this statement articulates what ANCW does and why, and who the organization is intended to serve. Award winner The group also remembered one of its most active members with a award for her lifelong contributions and commitment to the U.S. cattle/beef industry. Frances Raulerson, New Smyrna Beach, FL, was named the Outstanding CattleWoman of the Year for 2004, during the annual awards banquet. Bayer Corporation sponsored the award, which is given to a cattle woman that has excelled at continued beef promotion on the local, state and national level, while contributing dedication, commitment and support to ANCW. This year, the Outstanding CattleWoman of the Year Award was given posthumously, as Raulerson passed away March 25, 2004, after an automobile accident. Along with her husband, Sam, survivors include three daughters—Teresa Clancy, Lisa Farher and Elaine Figueroa; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Raulerson was an active member of the Volusia County CattleWomen, Florida CattleWomen and ANCW since 1967. She held every office and head every committee possible for her state and local CattleWomen chapters since 1967, including 13 years of service on the Florida CattleWomen Executive Board. She also found time to attend and participate in six National Beef Cook-Offs and served as ANCW’s 2003 National Beef Cook-Off Chair. She has received both ANCW’s Prime Beef Educator Award and Beef Promotion Award. Frances and Sam, her husband of almost 50 years, bought acreage and built a house in Samsula in 1960. Over the years, she and her husband gradually expanded their ranch, raising horses and cattle. She was a tireless worker for the beef industry for over 37 years on a local, state and national level, according to ANCW leaders. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Budget shift opposed

by WLJ
Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), sharply criticized the Bush administration’s proposal to transfer $300 million out of a program for U.S. farm commodity donations. The proposal, presented in the fiscal year 2006 budget for the U.S. Department of Agricu1ture, would shift the funds from USDA’s P.L. 460 Title II foreign food assistance program to a U.S. Agency for International Development program that doesn’t rely solely on U.S. goods for donations. Goodlatte, in a statement released Feb. 14, said the funds should be kept for the USDA program because it helps American farmers since the money is used to purchase American agricultural products and thereby stimulate the U.S. economy. This proposal would pull $300 million out of taxpayers’ pockets and drop it into foreign markets.” An official with USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service said the proposal to shift the funds to USAid that can use the money to buy foreign food closer to disaster victims, was made in response to the tsunami that hit Asia this year. But Goodlatte said: “In the rare case that American products cannot reach the hands of the recipients quickly and efficiently, I think it is acceptable, after consultation with the agriculture committee, to use the money in local markets to ensure the aid is delivered swiftly. It is absolutely foolish to set aside a large portion of the budget for such limited occurrences.”

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Monday, February 21,2005

Brazilian beef production expected to rise

by WLJ
Production of beef and pork in Brazil is estimated to increase in 2005 by six and three percent, respectively, reflecting a rebound in domestic demand and higher exports, although at a lower pace than last year due to a less competitive exchange rate relative to the U.S. dollar, according to an attache report posted Feb. 15 on USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service Web site. Economic analysts foresee economic growth in 2005 in the range of four-five percent, lower inflation rates around 5.6 percent, a further decline in the unemployment rate, and higher real income. These indicators are likely to influence consumer confidence as domestic consumption supports economic growth in 2005. Last year, exports accounted for most of the growth in the GDP. However, market analysts are also cautious about this optimistic outlook for the economy in 2005 because of the Central Bank's tight monetary policy with higher interest rates (currently the prime rate is fixed at 19.5 percent) and the appreciation of the Brazilian currency relative to the U.S. dollar (currently averaging 17 percent). Brazilian beef production is projected to increase six percent in 2005. Higher consumer confidence and purchasing power will increase demand for beef and higher beef exports, although at a lower rate than last year, will both contribute to increase in beef production in 2005. However, some analysts estimate that the current Real/U.S. Dollar exchange rate (a US$1 equals R$2.60 at the moment the report was written) could adversely impact exports of beef in 2005. Pork production is also expected to increase by nearly three percent in 2005, due to a combination of higher domestic demand and higher exports. However, pork producers are expecting lower profitability due to the relative increase in production costs and the appreciation of the Brazilian currency relative to the U.S. dollar. The increase in production will come mostly from new investments in production. Beef production is expected to reach nearly 8.5 million metric tons in 2005. The revised estimate foresees an increase in domestic demand for beef due to higher consumer confidence and purchasing power; another record in beef exports, although the increase in exports will be at a lower pace than last year due to problems with Russia, a less competitive exchange rate relative to the U.S. dollar, and a combination of domestic economic factors. Some of these constraints may be minimized with increased exports to China and other markets. Beef exports are projected to increase by an average of 14 percent in 2005 and to set another record. However, the increase in beef exports will be at a lower rate than last year because Brazilian meat exporters are facing some impediments. Those include a less competitive exchange rate and a Russian ban on most Brazilian meat imports. Except for the state of Santa Catarina, which is not a beef producing state but is a main pork and poultry producer, Brazilian beef from other major states is not allowed to be exported to Russia. The ban is due to the outbreak of FMD in the state of Amazonas, but has mushroomed into an ongoing political dispute between the two nations. Pork production is expected to reach nearly 2.7 million metric tons in 2005, slightly higher than our previous estimate made in the annual report, and nearly 3 percent higher than last year. The increase is the result of higher demand from both export and domestic markets. Pork exports are expected to increase by 3 percent in 2005, and set another record, despite the problems of related the appreciation of the Brazilian currency and the Russian ban on Brazilian meat in general. The Russian ban was partially suspended on November 20, 2004 to allow exports from the State of Santa Catarina, which partially benefits pork exports. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Cheeseburger bill in

by WLJ
Last week, the Wyoming House passed a bill that would shield restaurants, advertisers, ranchers and other form lawsuits by obese people claiming their weight and health problems were caused by the long-term consumption of food or drink. Fourteen states have enacted so-called “common sense consumption” acts, dubbed “cheeseburger bills” by some, that bar people from seeking damages in court from food companies for weight gain and associated medical problems. Wyoming is one of 18 additional state considering such legislation. The U.S. House approved a similar bill last year, but the Senate did not act on the legislation. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

ContiBeef, Smithfield merge feedlot business

by WLJ
The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) has expressed concern about the proposed merger of the second- and third-largest cattle- feeding companies in the U.S. because it would create the largest such firm and consolidate power into the hands of the country's largest hog producer. Smithfield Foods Inc. announced last week a deal to merge its MF Cattle Feeding subsidiary with ContiBeef, a subsidiary of ContiGroup Companies Inc. The combined entity would be the nation's largest cattle-feeding company, with more than 1.6 million cattle marketed per year, based on filling available one-time capacity two times a year. "We are very worried about potential market impacts resulting from this merger," said Keith Mudd, OCM president, in a release. "Smithfield grew from meager beginnings in Virginia in the early 1980s to become the major force integrating the hog industry and destroying market access for tens of thousands of independent hog producers in the Southeast and later the Midwest." The venture would surpass Cactus Feeders of Amarillo, Texas, as the U.S's largest cattle feeder, OCM said. Cactus Feeders was one of the first to feed cattle in large scale on contract to a packer, a practice that gives packers "captive supplies" that several groups, including OCM, have credited with taking packers out of cash fed cattle market. Cactus Feeders has a one-time capacity of about 480,000 head with an estimated annual marketing double that amount, OCM said. “We now have the pioneer of captive supply in hogs overtaking the pioneer of captive supply in cattle as the dominant feeding company in America,” said Mudd. “Joseph Luter, CEO of Smithfield, lives in a New York City Park Avenue apartment affecting the lives of millions in Rural America with lower income and reduced independence.” "We fear market access and captive supply problems will increase with this new merger. It is hard to believe Smithfield will not purchase a major packer to integrate its production business, and further thin the fed cattle market volume,” said Mudd. "This event heightens the urgency for states and the federal government to prohibit packer ownership and reduce the percentage of captive supply cattle marketed.”

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Monday, February 21,2005

EU urges U.S. ag reform

by WLJ
The U.S. needs to match European Union efforts to reform agriculture trade policy, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said Feb. 11. The EU is working to update its Common Agricultural Policy. This has the potential to cut “distorting trade subsidies” by two-thirds, eliminate export subsidies and offer improved market access for many products, he said. “We look to others to match this, including the United States. In particular we need to see how the U.S. plans to reduce and discipline agricultural domestic support and export credit.” Mandelson said in prepared text for a speech to the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. Mandelson said international trade officials need to move faster on the issue of anti-dumping rules. Many countries are adopting trade defense regimes that could turn into protectionism. “Unless we reach rapid agreement on how to handle this issue, the opportunity for reform will be lost and countries across the world will lock in unsatisfactory and restrictive regimes damaging world economic growth,” Mandelson said. Mandelson said he hopes the U. S. and Europe are heading into a new era of cooperation. Both sides of the Atlantic need to set aside past differences and work to create stability in Iraq and progress toward peace in the Middle East, he said. U.S. President George W. Bush’s upcoming visit to Europe will be an important step renewing this relationship, Mandelson said. He said Bush should renew U.S. support for European integration, as well as broader transatlantic themes. “This is the strongest signal he could send of support for what we are doing to reunite our continent in democracy and economic development, and to build a Europe more capable of assuming its global role,” Mandelson said.

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Monday, February 21,2005

Fast food offered to U.S. military

by WLJ
U.S. soldiers in Iraq spend hours—sometimes days—on patrol hunting insurgents and dodging roadside bombs. But when they get back to base, they can pick up a case of Dr. Pepper, buy the latest DVD and get a Pizza Hut meal back to the room to relax after a hard day at war. A soldiers life isn’t what it used to be. Commanders say providing a good quality of life is essential to keeping volunteer troops in the military. Having a chance to skip the mess hail and go to Pizza Hut, Burger King or Subway—Popeye’s Fried Chicken and Taco Bell will be added this month—makes a big difference, soldiers say. I think it’s great. The dining facility gets old after a while, said Spc. William Oates. 25, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier from Asheboro, NC, after finishing a Whopper at Camp Liberty, just outside Baghdad. The Army & Air Force Exchange Service operates 23 fast food franchises at 16 U.S. bases in Iraq, with 25 more approved and under construction. They also have Seattle’s Best and Green Beans coffee shops. Terry McCoy, the food program manager for Iraq, opened the first Burger King at Baghdads airport in May 2003, before the military even set up its first mess hall. “This generation of soldiers has grown up with name—brand fast food.” McCoy said. “It’s the taste from home that they’re missing. It not only gives them that little moment of comfort, I like to think it...takes them back home for just the 15 minutes they are enjoying a Whopper.” The staff is a mix of American AAFES employees who volunteer for combat duty and workers from third countries hired through a labor company in Kuwait. Part of the base is set aside for their living quarters. Armed convoys deliver the fast-food ingredients to the bases along with regular military supplies, McCoy said. Making sure the stores have enough stock for those times when the supply convoys don’t run for security reasons is the biggest challenge, he added. While the fast food is extremely popular, AAFES’ main mission is to operate 3,150 retail stores for troops on bases in 35 countries. Their motto is “We go where you go,” and stores range from medium-size tents on remote fire bases to large department stores at the main camps. At Camp Liberty’s post exchange, or PX, soldiers can buy anything from a 50-cent granola bar to a $3,499 42—inch, plasma—screen television. AAFES sells everything at prices comparable to those in the United States, with profits going toward troop morale programs. Through its Web site, www.aafes.com, AAFES lets people donate phone cards and gift certificates to wounded troops overseas. The Camp Liberty PX is on track to sell $80 million worth of goods this year, said Rick Mora, the general manager for Baghdad. The store is second in sales only to a larger facility at Kadena Air Base in Japan, he added. AAFES also operates a phone service with AT&T so soldiers can call home cheaply. Troops can buy new cars and motorcycles that can be picked up when they get home. Iraqi vendors are rented space so they can sell souvenirs, art and other things to the troops. Spc. Rakesh Pal, 23, from Modesto, Calif., said he likes to walk through the PX when he has free time, even if doesn’t intend to buy anything. “It reminds me of being back home at the mall,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like I’m in Iraq when I’m in the PX.” — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Letters

by WLJ
Re: Cattle Identification Attention: Sarah Swenson: Why do not cattlemen insert “microchip IDs” in the cattle as they do in dogs now? They would not be very easily removed at all—and would surely simplify the procedure as well as decreasing costs! Just was thinking about this after reading the article in WLJ. I am retired now and have sold all our cattle since my husband (Clyde) passed away in 1994. Just always loved the cattle business! Audrey Carner Carner Hat C Ranch (no longer in business) Chino Valley Long-term solutions required Since BSE was discovered in Canada, a tangled web of media hype, international politics, scientific investigation and economic theory have intertwined to create strong opinions and ample miscommunication in the cattle and beef industry. After the events of the past months, one common theme has emerged—Montana ranchers do not want the border reopened in a way that jeopardizes their livelihood. Our livestock organizations are in agreement on this. Our differences, however, come from two different rationales. Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) is concerned about economic impact, while others promote fear in the safety of beef. Other countries have closed their borders to U.S. beef exports because we had a case of BSE. They do not make the distinction that it was not a native born cow. Based on this, it is important to establish rules for dealing with a minimal risk country. We must develop rules and protocol that instill confidence in our consumers and trading partners. MSGA has demanded that five very stringent requirements are met-based on sound science, economics and fair trade. We realize that eventually, trade will resume. And instead of demanding a complete and indefinite closure, we are asking that reasonable, realistic conditions be met. To promote Canadian beef as unsafe because they have had BSE in their country is to set ourselves up for disaster if we ever have a native case in the U.S. The December 23 case, although of Canadian origin, was a shot across our bow. Industry experts agree it is quite possible that we will discover an indigenous case, and we must be prepared. It is imperative to maintain consumer confidence in our beef. With the current food safety protocols in place, both in the U.S. and Canada, no infectious BSE agent ever reaches the food supply. Beef is safe. To attempt to protect our markets by using hysteria and scare tactics will result in the shot going through our bow not over it. Bill Donald MSGA President Melville, MT Concern about opening Canadian border Dear Sirs: The neighbors and I back in the hinterlands of Idahos’ Owyhees are a bit confused and need enlightenment. We don’t savvy how opening the border to Canadian live cattle in the face of confirmed BSE cases and speculation over tainted livestock feed will encourage Japan to import our beef. We refer to BSE, mad-cow disease, as wild cow disease because it’s perceived as a wild card that’s being played at our industry and the consumers expense. As the little boy admonished Shoeless Joe Jackson, “Tell us it ain’t so Joe?” Yours truly, Michael L. Hanley IV Jordan Valley, OR One Nation Under God I was raised on a small ranch near Wild Horse, CO, and went to a country school the first eight years. One room with eight grades, 21 children, and one teacher. Looking back, I realize how wise my teacher was, teaching all grades reading, writing, arithmetic, and English. Teachers are not that versatile today. Each morning we would pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, with liberty and justice for ALL. I grew up understanding what patriotism really was, having great respect for the President of the USA, and reverence and faith in God. I was taught to honor my parents and respect my fellow man. Many things have changed in the last 40 to 50 years. Ten commandments cannot be displayed in a public building. God and prayer has literally been kicked out of our schools. Atheists are petitioning to remove God from the Pledge of Allegiance and from our currency (in God we trust). I’d like to remind these unbelievers that there are still places on earth where they could go and not have to associate with God fearing believers. I have been traveling around the country extensively lately. My awareness has increased to the people around me and how they react to different situations. I was at the R-CALF Convention and we always ask God’s blessing before meals and the same at the NCBA Convention. At one NCBA meeting, we all stood to pledge allegiance to the flag (we did not leave God out, he was right there). For the most part, these two organizations are comprised of producers with a reverence for God and a love for the land upon which they make their livelihood. While in San Antonio, me being an Irishman, I decided to stop at Dirty Nelly’s Irish Pub. It was a full house, people having a good time. Steve Palmer was playing the piano and singing some Irish songs. Time was taken to ask God’s blessing and protection on our soldiers at war. There was a Viet Nam Veteran there who had been wounded and burned in service to our country. He sang a song, then Steve asked all to stand and sing the Star Spangle Banner. Let me say, these are my kind of people. This is what America should be like. The BEEFMAN Tom Connelley Belle Fourche, SD

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