Who's riding the best horse at the end of this long gather?
When you look at all the facts and figures and all the psychology, we are in for a fortunate era in the beef cattle raising industry. Be sure that you don't forget that you want to be riding the best horse at the end of the drive. I'm talking about beef demand. I'm talking about what business do you want to be in and what business should you stay in? As long as the Lord gives you grass and hay and grain and worldwide demand, He's providing you the opportunity to be aboard the stoutest, strongest horse in the race for the food dollar in the world. Don't forget: the United States is the greatest food and red meat producer on earth! Make the most of it because it's going to be a long, wonderful, exciting ride!
Oh, what a blessing it is to have grass in the hills, hay in the meadows, and a promise of a grain-bin-busting crop of corn and soybeans in the fields. In addition to that, Cattle-Fax just released its study on the long-term outlook of the beef cattle trade in America. Bullish is hardly a big enough word. Cattle-Fax brings out the fact that price increases in excess of $250 per head for fed cattle and feeder cattle are driving records through the ceiling as each week passes by, and the per capita beef supplies, they say, are projected to be two pounds per person less and, they say, it could be down as much as three pounds by the end of the year. Further studies show where the per capita net beef supplies are projected to be two pounds per person smaller and that too could be down to a projected three-pound change per person in America.
Beef demand at the same time has led to one of the biggest bull markets in the history of the cattle business, so the study shows. They talk about China, Vietnam, and Hong Kong being the major buyers of beef around the world, and China has now taken over the number one beef importer in the world.
We're looking September to November as the largest delivery and feeder cattle selling dates throughout the United States. With the shorter supply and demand so large, it excites the industry into a situation where those who own good cows, those who own the product are going to be riding the best horse at the end of the trail!
Texas AG says state will sue EPA over water rule...
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott put the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on notice last week that the State of Texas will sue the agency if its proposed Clean Water Act rule isn't withdrawn. "If the proposed rule is not withdrawn and is made final, then the state of Texas will have no choice but to challenge the rule in federal court where it will surely be struck down as violating federal law, exceeding the agency's statutory authority, and contravening the U.S. Constitution," he wrote in a seven page letter to the EPA. "The Clean Water Act was enacted pursuant to Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce under Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution," said Abbott. "As a result, regulatory agencies violate the Constitution when their enforcement of the Act extends beyond the regulation of interstate commerce."
Abbott, the Republican nominee for Texas governor, said the agency has misinterpreted recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings in proposing the new rule that redefines what waters fall within the EPA's jurisdiction. Abbott is particularly concerned about EPA's proposed definition of "neighboring" as meaning "waters located within a riparian area or floodplain of a jurisdictional water, or waters with shallow subsurface hydrologic connection or confined surface hydrologic connection to such jurisdictional water." Abbott wrote in his letter that, "Under this proposed definition, it is difficult to envision any lands -- especially those that lie near the coast -- that are not potentially within the ambit of federal jurisdiction. This broad and overreaching definition would impose virtually no limit on federal jurisdiction." (Editor's note: Maybe you know but I did not that the fancy word "ambit" means sphere or scope of influence. LG)
Property Rights Conference...
It's all about control!
By Lisa Schmidt
It is all about control.
Speaker after speaker quoted those words at the two-day Montana Property Rights Conference as they explained the single underlying motivation of a multi-layered Dagwood sandwich of property rights issues that many attendees felt have been skewered, roasted, and served up on the bread of federal takings. The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution says, in part: "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
The conference, hosted by United Property Owners of Montana and held last Thursday and Friday, touched on a broad array of current issues, including defending private roads from public access, the current state of the pending free-roaming bison plan, land exchanges, eminent domain, sage grouse, and the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed changes to the definition of the waters of the United States. Also, throughout the conference, attendees spoke publicly and privately about the disputed potential consequences if the Flathead Water Compact is approved during the upcoming legislative session.
Paul Beard of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit pro-bono organization, began the conference by defining two ways a government entity can take away property rights.
- First, when an agency invokes eminent domain, either it condemns property and assumes ownership, or it forces the landowner to accept a use - such as a utility - creating involuntary shared ownership.
- Second, a government entity can "take" a property right through a regulation such as requiring unrelated conditions before approving a permit.
The Pacific Legal Foundation won two Supreme Court cases that helped limit regulatory takings. In a 1987 case, Supreme Court justices decided that any conditions added to a permit must directly relate to the permitted use and that the government has the burden to prove those conditions are actually related. In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided that money, not just land, is property that is protected by the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Conference speaker Andrew Morriss related an example of how the EPA maneuvered around these laws and the classic unintended consequences that ensued: The EPA is specifically barred from requiring U.S. manufacturers to build diesel engines that measure emissions a particular way, but diesel engines made in the U.S. must be certified by the EPA that each one passes emissions regulations, Morriss said. So, the EPA told the manufacturers that no certificates would be issued unless the manufacturers voluntarily agreed to measure emissions the way the EPA was specifically barred from requiring. Attorneys for the manufacturers said they were 95% sure that they could win this case. If they lost, the manufacturers would be out of business. The manufacturers caved in to the EPA's blackmail, received their emissions certificates, and raised the price of their motors. Now almost all diesel engines are manufactured in Europe because imported engines do not need EPA emissions certificates.
Morriss, the dean of Texas A&M law school, also spoke about eminent domain. Besides having a professional interest in the subject, Morriss' in-laws were the victims of an electric utility deciding to build towers on their ranch that had been in the family since 1879. The electric company refused to discuss any terms besides price. "What about keys to the gate? How many will be issued and who will have them? What about weed control? Will they wash their trucks before coming on our land? What about metal gates under the transmission line? We found out later that they had grounded theirs, but not ours. What about garbage?" Morriss related.
He defined the crux of the problem when he contrasted every other property co-ownership with co-ownership with a utility. "In every other joint ownership, all have an exit plan. It is an ongoing voluntary relationship. Long term impact on development potential is considered," Morriss said. With eminent domain, the utility is not required to negotiate terms beyond the price, and courts are not allowed to decide terms beyond price. Courts are not allowed to determine access restrictions, range management, potential expansion of the easement, indemnification for liability, or mitigation for impacts.
Morriss offered solutions to these issues. "The big one would be to limit eminent domain power for utilities. Make them negotiate. They will. This solution is not likely to happen, though," he admitted. Another solution would be to limit the time of the easement to the life of the utility line. A judicial solution would be to allow courts or a commission to set terms beyond price.
Morriss even offered amendment to Montana's code. "Add this sentence to MT 70-30-301: 'In addition to awarding damages, the commissioners may alter the terms of the easement or other interests in the property proposed by the condemnor.' Also, add this to MT 70-30-304(4): 'The courts may determine the terms of the easement or other interest condemned in any suit brought under this chapter,'" Morriss said. "Make the law the same as any other joint ownership contract."
Bootleggers and Baptists...
Morriss also addressed the political strategies used in the battle for control over property with an anecdote about bootleggers and Baptists in Texas. Texas law requires liquor stores to close on Sundays. Many Baptists live in Texas, and politicians know they do not condone alcohol consumption so the Sunday liquor law is a nod to the Baptist voting block. "But Baptists don't want people to drink any time, and the liquor stores are open Monday through Friday," Morris noted. The illegal bootleggers compete with the legal liquor stores so they support the Sunday liquor laws, too. Bootlegging business is bustling on Sundays. "Politicians need a strong public moral purpose and the silent economic back-patting purpose," Morriss said.
Montana Senator Taylor Brown led a panel that discussed the alternatives being considered by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to allow free-roaming bison in Montana. "If you think this is about bison, you are wrong. This is about much more than bison," Brown said. "This is an assault by a small, small group fueled by apathy and ignorance of a great number of people who do care about animals and plants."
Landowners must pay the price...
The risk of falling into an abyss of fear and loathing was high at the conference, but speakers attempted to pull attendees back from the edge with their suggestions for solutions. Every speaker urged landowners to get involved. Attorney Hertha Lund said it best when she quoted from Thomas Jefferson, who said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Lund modified Jefferson to say, "The price of your rural lifestyle and providing the best food and fiber in the world is you have to come to meetings and participate. We need to shape the minds of the people. We're not getting ahead. We need to organize and be smarter."
The conference keynote speaker, William Perry Pendley, who is the president and chief operating officer of the non-profit Mountain States Legal Foundation, emphasized landowners' responsibility to participate when he quoted Ronald Reagan's second inaugural address: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"
Senator Brown offered specific suggestions about how to be involved. "Stay engaged. Show up with a written plan. Communicate by being truthful and transparent. It will take tenacity to stay in this for the long haul. Know the end game. Improve your skills and abilities. Remove the heat and anger that damage your credibility and hold the higher ground because you have it," Brown said. "Remember that: You have the high ground."
Property Rights Conference...
Panel explains free-roaming bison alternatives
By Lisa Schmidt
Three landowner representatives from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' (MFWP) Bison Working Group updated attendees of the recent Montana Property Rights Conference in Billings, Montana, about developments in the effort to release free-roaming bison in Montana. "The good news is that Jeff Hagener, Fish Wildlife & Parks director, admitted that free-roaming bison are not realistic," said Montana Senator Taylor Brown. "But free-roaming bison is a buzzword. The end game is more control of property. This is not about restoring bison numbers. We have 10,000 bison in 80 herds in Montana. We have 330 at the National Bison Range at Moiese, plus 4,900 in Yellowstone National Park."
Brown, along with state representative Mike Lang and Montana Farm Bureau director of state affairs Chelcie Cremer sit on the MFWP working group that has suggested four alternatives to be considered in the MFWP bison environmental impact study. That working group met in July to review and improve those alternatives.
The conference panel members kept the discussion limited to the MFWP EIS alternatives and did not address bison migrating south from Canada's Waterton International Peace Park, Ted Turner's bison, the Yellowstone National Park bison, or the American Prairie Foundation's expansion plans.
Property Rights Conference...
You CAN influence federal land management
By Lisa Schmidt
Attorney Hertha Lund and Prairie County Commissioner Todd Devlin offered tips to make comments about and to protest state and federal proposals at the Montana Property Rights Conference last week. Lund and Devlin used their experience with Bureau of Land Management's Draft Resource Management Plans (DRMPs) that changed range management because sage grouse might be added to the Endangered Species list. Seventeen Montana counties protested three DRMPs. So far, the BLM has not replied to their protests. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service precipitated the DRMPs when the agency petitioned for sage grouse to be added to the Endangered Species list.
The lengthy USFWS document implied several causes for sage grouse population declines, but on page 143, it specifically listed grazing and ranching as the primary reasons. "The USFWS is an agency divided," Devlin said. "The predator and rodent control portion of the agency used 1080 to aggressively control predators in the 1950s and 1960s. Now, a 2003 study shows that bird populations increased when coyotes decreased. Sage grouse population increases were manmade, and they were so high that they moved out of their core habitat. Populations dropped when 1080 was banned (and coyote populations increased)."
Devlin asserts that the USFWS would rather not be forced to admit that artificially high sage grouse populations were a direct result of actions the agency took and that significant population declines were a direct result of other agency actions to protect carrion-feeders. Essentially, the 2003 study demonstrates that the USFWS sacrificed sage grouse to protect eagles. "This is a political issue that has nothing to do with sage grouse. It has to do with protecting the agency at all costs," Devlin said.
Idaho's Lake Pend Oreille... Power play: Feds openly robbing state water
Part one: Fish = Power
Threatened fish used as pawn in power game
By Erika Bentsen
An online petition is circulating in a grassroots effort to halt a rampant federal government takeover of Idaho's state water rights. Lake Pend Oreille Alliance, the petition sponsor, fears this federal government action will spread across the state if left unchecked. Signatures must be in prior to September 24.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), as a part of the Federal Columbia River Power System (a federal government consortium that includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) and the Bureau of Reclamation), recently entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Kalispel Tribe. In a nutshell, BPA will pay the 400-member tribe nearly $40 million to adjust the Pend Oreille River's riparian areas and plant bull trout, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The fish will be released downstream from the Albeni Falls Dam, the powerhouse on the lake's outlet. Because this threatened species needs cooler water than the river provides throughout the summer months, BPA will then be "forced" to release more water through its cash cow dam systems in order to protect this fish they paid the tribe to bring in.
One detail this federal consortium conveniently overlooked: this lake water legally belongs to the State of Idaho.
For several years, the BPA and the COE have been lowering water levels of Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho panhandle more than state laws allow. By running lake water through the powerhouse at the Albeni Falls Dam into the Pend Oreille River and subsequently through 10 more hydroelectric dams on the main channel of the Columbia River, BPA can generate millions of dollars' worth of power supplying the Northwest. By quietly sealing the deal with the Kalispel Tribe, BPA has now enabled itself to take a lot more lake water that they haven't been able to touch. As a result, BPA stands to make a fortune and, through the ESA, take the water from state control and turn it over to the feds. Area landowners and businesses that rely on Lake Pend Oreille for their livelihood are furious that they weren't consulted in what is amounting to a theft of their state-allocated water and a decimation of the 148-square-mile lake with destructive 4.5-foot summer drawdowns.