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12-Year-Old Powell Farmer Is Wyoming’s Youngest Crop Insurance Holder

in News/Agriculture

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By Tessa Baker

It’s been a busy year for Tag Thompson. He bought his first tractor, using money he earned from selling his steers. He farmed his first field, signing a contract with Briess Malt & Ingredients for his 10 acres of barley. He also paid off a loan that had helped finance the purchase of his first two cows while continuing to raise cattle through his own company.

And he turned 12 years old.

For the ambitious young farmer, agriculture is a way of life.

“I was born into a farm family,” Thompson said. “They’ve told me I don’t have to choose agriculture, but I’ve always been interested in farming. I finally got to be a part of the farm more and more every year, and I kind of just merged into it.”

When he was 5 years old, Thompson started showing goats and chickens at the Park County Fair. He wanted to continue with chickens, but the fair’s poultry show happens at the same time steers are shown.

“I can’t sell a chicken [at the Junior Livestock Sale], so I’d have to do what I could sell, so I chose steers,” Thompson said.

Steers require a lot of time and investment as a 4-H project, and for Thompson, it’s become a daily commitment throughout the year. Rather than just taking on one or two steers, he had greater ambitions and founded Tag Thompson Cattle Co. in 2020. His brand — T slash inverted T — represents his initials, TNT.

“He wanted his own brand, because he paid for his own calves,” explained Maria Berchtold, Thompson’s mom.

NILE Merit Heifer

Thompson’s herd currently includes one bull, two calves, two cows and one heifer. He soon will be adding to his herd, as he recently was named a NILE Merit heifer recipient for 2022. Through the NILE Merit Heifer Program, breeders donate a heifer to each youth and then mentor them.

“I think the mentorship is just as cool as winning the heifer,” Berchtold said.

Christensen Red Angus of Park City, Montana, is donating a heifer to Thompson and serving as his mentor. After an entire year of lessons, conference calls and monthly reports, Thompson will show at the 2022 NILE and then take full ownership of the animal.

Thompson is one of 19 youth selected for the 2022 Nile Merit Heifer Program, and one of only two recipients from Wyoming.

Youth between the ages of 12 and 16 are selected based on their merit, future goals, commitment to agriculture and ability to care for the animal.

Thompson’s commitment to agriculture is unwavering.

“This is my lifestyle,” he said.

In his application for the NILE Merit program, Thompson said that “cows are my world.”

“But I would like to add on to that — agriculture and cattle are my world,” he said.

Thompson would like to make stickers of the slogan. Through Tag Thompson Cattle Co., he already sells stickers and hats bearing his brand, and he hopes to sell other merchandise.

The young farmer is setting high goals for his business, hoping to one day become nationally known. Thompson would like to raise registered seedstock, and sell his bulls and heifers at the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he can talk with more people about his company.

He wants to see Tag Thompson Cattle Co. continue to expand, without going into too much debt so that he can “make a good financial future for myself in the cattle industry.”

In addition, Thompson wants to keep the family farm’s legacy going. The 12-year-old is in it for the long haul.

“I want to grow old with this company,” Thompson said.

First field, first tractor

Earlier this year, Thompson’s grandparents, Steve and Julie Thompson, leased him 10 acres to farm south of Powell. Thompson contracted with Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. and planted barley. He worked with Farm Credit Services of America to insure his crop.

“Something cool about that is, they said I’m the youngest person to buy crop insurance in Wyoming,” Thompson said. “I would say that’s an achievement for me.”

Throughout the summer, he did all of the field work, and finished watering the field for a final time right before the Park County Fair.

After harvesting the barley on Aug. 10, Thompson stood in the field as the sun was setting, and he said he felt a little sad.

“I grew this all summer, and it’s just emotional for the first time,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.

Thompson hired his grandpa to bale the straw and then found buyers. He carefully tracks his revenue and expenses, and saves for big purchases. Berchtold helps Thompson manage his finances, and she said her son’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident at a young age.

“He was selling buckets of water at a barrel race when he was about 4 or 5 years old,” Berchtold said with a laugh.

One of his largest investments yet came in the spring: his own tractor.

Thompson had hoped to buy a tractor before his 12th birthday in May, but it was hard to find an older model he could afford.

“I started to give up, and then I saw this one in town,” Thompson said. “Grandpa said it was a good buy, and I thought it was a good buy.”

The International 986 was in Thompson’s price range, and he bought the tractor in March.

“Her name is Reba, because she’s red,” he said.

Thompson has a knack for coming up with creative names for the cattle and equipment on the farm. There’s Beastbine the combine, inspired by a YouTube video. Thompson has christened calves Friendo Nintendo and Fatticus. A steer he showed at the 2019 fair was named BenJammin Franklin Rodriguez the 3rd Cubit.

This year, he kept things simple with his market steers: Frank and Chuck.

Family heritage

Thompson is finishing his fourth year with the Lonestar League 4-H Club, and he stays busy with a variety of activities. Earlier this year, he learned to weld, and completed his first welding project for the Park County Fair. At the 2021 event, he also had projects in agronomy, veterinary science, public speaking and fashion, modeling in the 4-H Fashion Revue.

Thompson took a Limousin heifer and two market steers — Frank and Chuck — to this year’s fair, and sold Frank at the Junior Livestock Sale. Dick and Cody Eastman, who own Lesco Enterprises, purchased Thompson’s steer.

In his 4-H record book, Thompson included pictures of the first show he attended with Frank, and then saying goodbye after the final show. After spending hours a day caring for his steers and becoming attached to the livestock, Thompson gets emotional when talking about the goodbyes. It’s the hardest part of the job, but one that he accepts.

“I raise them to show and get attached to, but also to feed a family,” he said. “That’s what Frank went to, and that’s what Chuck went to — they fed a family.”

Leading up to the fair, Thompson worked hard to invite buyers to the Junior Livestock Sale, delivering invitations to local businesses. With the slogan, “The Tradition Lives On,” the invites included a picture of his Great-Great Grandma Blackburn at the Park County Fair in the early 1960s, as well as photos of his Grandpa Steve, Grandma Julie and his mom.

Thompson appreciates the lessons he has learned from his parents and grandparents, as well as other family members and friends. He spends a lot of time farming with his grandpa.

“I want to farm with him as long as I can and learn from him,” Thompson said.

As Thompson gets older, his responsibilities also grow.

“This year I stepped up even on Grandpa’s land more than I ever have,” he said. “I can’t do as much as Mom or Grandpa. I can do everything I can, but I can’t do as much.”

Berchtold said they don’t want Thompson to work all the time — they also want him to have fun and be a kid.

While he gets together with friends and plays video games like most kids his age, oftentimes, Thompson can be found on the farm.

“It’s just my job — that’s all I have to say,” he said. “It’s just what I do.”

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Sugar Beets: Counting On A Fall Finish

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By Dave Bonner, Powell Tribune

September growth is pivotal for the 2021 season within the Western Sugar Cooperative’s Lovell Factory District.

And as area growers sail through the early dig, with beets still in the field taking on valuable weight, the outlook appears favorable. The early dig of beets in the local area began Sept. 7, with all-out harvest scheduled to start in October.

“At least we got through Labor Day without a freeze this year,” chuckled Tod Stutzman, North End grower and Western Sugar beet board member.

He was only half jesting. A year ago, an early freeze on the Labor Day weekend took everyone by surprise.

“Our family had been boating on Lake DeSmet at 97 degrees last Labor Day,” he recalled. “We were in swimming suits and flip-flops all weekend. We came back over the Bighorns that Monday, and it snowed on us. Being from Wyoming, we were prepared  to change to long pants, tennis shoes, sweatshirts and jackets.”

But it proved to be a bad omen for a start-and-stop harvest through the fall of 2020. 

Roller coaster weather

The quick freeze on the Labor Day weekend of 2020 was followed by unseasonably warm temperatures through the month of September. The thermometer actually climbed to the point that the regular harvest was held back a few days until Oct. 10.

Less than two weeks later, beets took a hit when an arctic weather blast plunged temperatures to single digits and even some readings of below zero. The harvest was briefly suspended and continued a roller coaster ride into November.

Those memories live on. With the first hard freeze, growth of the beets “just stops,” Stutzman said. 

Weather watching

He and a lot of other growers are keeping their eyes on the September and October weather forecast, and at least at mid-month, they liked what they were seeing. The temperature is going to start cooling down.

He even managed a smile when he added, “But we don’t have any arctic vortexes coming.”

That is a critical factor this year, Stutzman noted. He estimated the beet crop is about two weeks behind a normal year due to a cool spring and hot, dry summer that made it a challenge to get enough water to the beets.

“We need continued September growing days,” he emphasized.

“September is the tonnage month. We can put on three tons a week in September if the conditions are right. Sugar steadily increases this time of year,” he added.

Stutzman said field sampling projects a district-wide 2021 crop with yields of about 26 tons to the acre. The first field harvested by Stutzman Farms in September was probably close to the 26-ton mark, “though we don’t have the final ticket yet,” Stutzman said. 

Reduced district acreage

Overall in the factory district of Park and Big Horn counties, planted beet acreage is down this year to roughly 15,000 acres.

“Sugar beets remain an important crop for the region. Being diversified is important, and beets help accomplish this,” he said. “With the beet payment increasing for last year’s crop and a good expected payment for this crop, we look forward to beet acreage growing in the future.”

To offset a slightly smaller crop in the region, Western Sugar Co-op beets harvested in the Bridger, Montana, area are being trucked to the Lovell factory this year.

Factory pace picks up

“The co-op is facing inflation across the board, like most other companies,” Stutzman noted. “Fortunately, the price of sugar is keeping pace with inflation, and demand remains strong.”

All factories have started the processing campaign fairly well, especially the Lovell factory after investment made by the cooperative since last year’s campaign, he observed.

“This is the first time in many years Lovell is processing over 3,000 tons per day on average,” he said.

In total across the combined Western Sugar factories — in Lovell; Billings, Montana; Fort Morgan, Colorado; and Scottsbluff, Nebraska — the current slice is around 20,000 tons of beets per day in their round-the-clock operations.

Sugar content in 2021 crop is looking good

The Lovell sugar processing factory is performing well as the 2021 factory campaign picks up steam, said Ric Rodriguez, Heart Mountain beet grower and a member of the Western Sugar Cooperative board of directors. 

In the September dig, Western Sugar tries to keep three days of beets piled at Lovell, ahead of factory need. There were no worries about excessive heat in the storage piles at mid-month, said Rodriguez.

Receiving stations across the district continue to open in preparation for the all-out regular harvest to commence Oct. 6. 

There is good news in reported sugar quality in the early going, said Rodriguez. The Lovell factory was averaging 16.99% sugar extraction in mid-September. 

“It’s a good measure at this period. Beets haven’t set in piles for very long; they are fresh,” he noted. “The longer they are stored, the less sugar will be in them when it’s their turn to be sliced.”

The company had projected a 17% average sugar content for the 2021 crop and “we should exceed that,” Rodriguez said.

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Early Dig Brings On Beet Harvest

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Powell Tribune

With September, beet trucks will be on the roadways in Western Sugar’s Lovell Factory District.

The early harvest of area sugar beets starts Tuesday, Sept. 7.

Receiving stations will be open five days a week through September and the first couple of days in October.  The regular harvest is scheduled to begin on Oct. 6, depending on weather and forecasts, said Ric Rodriguez, Heart Mountain grower and Western Sugar Co. board member. 

“Yields are projected to be down somewhat from recent averages, but we have had good growth in September before,” and growers are hopeful that is the case this year, said Rodriguez.

Sugar content is expected to be about average for Lovell district growers, he added.

The processing campaign at the Lovell factory also begins Sept. 7 with early-delivered beets.

Receiving stations at Bridger, Montana, and at the factory in Lovell will be the first to open.  The Bridger beets will be brought to Lovell to offset some of the acreage loss in the Powell area, guaranteeing adequate tonnage for the Lovell factory.

West Powell receiving station will open Wednesday, Sept. 8, followed by Heart Mountain station on Sept. 14.  

Growers will deliver 10 to 15 percent of their crop in the early dig, depending on factory performance. All receiving stations will open for the regular harvest Oct. 6.

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What Is The Price of Tomatoes In Texas?

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By Cowboy State Daily

A reader did not appear to like the topic of a story we published on Cowboy State Daily.

In her protest, she questioned why we wrote it and “what it had to do with the price of tomatoes in Texas?”

We have no idea. So as a public service, we decided to find out.

The price of tomatoes in Texas varies from community to community.

To purchase two pounds of tomatoes in Dallas, it would cost — on average — $2.24.

In Houston, however, it’s a different story. Two pounds would run about $3.40.

An argument might be to travel to Dallas to get tomatoes in order to save money. However, it’s a 239 mile drive from Houston to Dallas.

To get the best bang for the buck, it would seem logical to buy 200 pounds of tomatoes so it’s worth the drive.

At 27 miles per gallon, assuming the driver is in a 2021 Suburban, that would take about 10 gallons because the advertised fuel efficiency usually seems to be exaggerated.

To fill the tank, it would cost roughly $50.

Let’s hope there’s not a parking fee in Dallas. But to be safe, let’s add $8 for that.

Thankfully, we can take Interstate 45 which is not a toll road.

If our cousin Sully is driving, there’s a guarantee of a speeding ticket. So don’t invite Sully.

100 pounds of tomatoes should cost $170. Add $50 for the gas. Add $95 for the Suburban rental.

It would seem like a crime not to stop Woody’s Smokehouse because it’s on the way to Dallas and it’s the jerky capital of the world.

Woody’s has wild hog jerky so get ready to fork over $40 on that.

While in Dallas, it’s always fun to stop by Milo Butterfingers and enjoy a cool one. Blatz is preferred. $2 for the beer. Leave a buck for the bartender. Unless it’s Lenny. Screw him.

If Sully made it, he’ll drink a six pack in nothing flat. That’s $12 more.

He’ll want a pack of smokes for the trip back. He only smokes Parliaments. That’s $7.

Sully stills owes 5-large to the bail bondsman. That needs to be paid. Suck it up and pay it. Sully — eventually — will be good for it.

Traffic is not going to be good heading back.

Consider spending the night at the Motel 6 on the Thornton Freeway. Sure, the Trip Advisor review says “Worst Hotel Experience Ever” but you’ll save money. It’s only $59. Sully can sleep on the floor.

Chances are the Suburban got stolen overnight.

Tomatoes are gone.

Who knows what happened to Sully.

A bus is the only way back to Houston.

That’s $25.

If money is tight, selling blood or plasma is a possibility. It will cover bus fare.

The total cost of tomatoes in Texas was $968 (deducting the $1 tip if Lenny was the bartender).

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The Corn Is Popping: Hot Temperatures Have Been A Boon For NW Wyo Crop

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Reprinted with permission from The Powell Tribune

Abnormal weather can spell disaster for farmers. It’s nice when it comes as a benefit. 

Cool weather crops, such as alfalfa, have struggled in the heat this summer, but corn, on the other hand, is doing really well. 

“The corn loves the heat so long as you keep it wet,” said David Northrup, who farms on the Willwood. 

The rule of thumb for corn is “knee high by the Fourth of July,” meaning if the plants are as high as your knee on that day, you’re doing good; Scott George, co-owner of George Dairy Farm between Ralston and Cody, said it was up thigh-high by July 4. 

“It thrives in hot, humid weather, which is what we have now,” said Jeremiah Vardiman, agriculture and horticulture extension educator for the University of Wyoming Extension. 

It’s hard to say how extraordinary this year is for farmers just based on the weather. Farming is a business that is at the mercy of unpredictable weather events, so it’s hard to say what’s normal and what isn’t.

“Every year is different,” George said. 

In terms of weather data, it has been a very hot summer. Through June and July, the Powell area saw a few days of triple-digit temperatures, and the daily highs were consistently above average. 

Corn is one of the largest crops grown in the U.S., and in 2019, it was the largest, with over 90 million acres planted, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. About 1/3 is grown for feeding livestock. When grown for feed, the corn is sometimes grown to fatten the cows up and sometimes to feed throughout the year.

Typically, farmers begin harvesting corn in September, but it depends on a lot of factors, including weather and availability of equipment. 

The corn also needs to dry out before it can be stored or it will rot. Farmers sometimes use dryers to get the moisture out, but that can add extra costs.

“You’re a lot better off if Mother Nature does it for you,” George said. 

This year, some farmers may be a few days ahead on their harvests, as the dry spring led to some to plant a bit earlier. 

However, in some cases, corn is harvested as late as January. This can be a means to store the crop when a producer runs out of space in the silos and wants to save money on storage costs. It means more work throughout the year, but the farmer can just harvest it as he or she needs it for winter livestock feed.

Alfalfa, which does better with cool nights, is seeing low yields this year. This is sending hay prices soaring and really cutting into the profits for ranchers. Not only are they having trouble finding hay for sale, they’re having to go a lot further to get it, which adds increased shipping costs. The solid corn crop this year will help mitigate the feed shortage to some extent. 

“It should be a really good crop for everyone in the Basin,” George said. 

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Park County Junior Livestock Sale Shatters Previous Records, Bringing In $645,442

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By Tessa Baker, Powell Tribune

It’s hard to describe this year’s Park County Junior Livestock Sale with words — so just look at the numbers. In about four-and-a-half hours, the animals put up for sale on Saturday fetched an astounding total of $645,442.

That’s an increase of 41% — or just over $188,000 — from last year, which was itself a record-setting sale. The 2021 event also marked the first time in county history that the Junior Livestock Sale exceeded a half-million dollars, skyrocketing right by that benchmark.

“The sale was absolutely unbelievable,” said Joe Bridges, chairman of the sale committee. “I don’t know how you go about describing such a tremendous event and to give the accolades to the businesses and individuals that were willing to come and show their support for the kids.”

Across the board, average prices were up for all animals, with some reaching record highs.

A total of 248 youth with FFA and 4-H sold livestock on Saturday, which was 13 more animals than 2020, when the auction broke records at $457,430. There were 15 more steers, but those upticks alone weren’t responsible for this year’s increase in the grand total.

In a normal year, the increase in big-ticket animals like steers may have netted an additional $40,000 at most, Bridges said, “but nowhere close to a $200,000 increase.”

“The big story is really how dedicated everybody was to coming and supporting these kids and just being extremely generous,” he said.

Buyers were excited to get out and attend the sale in-person, Bridges said, as online bids dropped from 2020.

“Obviously, there were still bids and still buying that was done online, but it wasn’t as active as it was the year before,” he said. “I think that was just because everybody was excited to get out and go do something, you know, to get things back to normal.”

‘It was crazy 

to watch it take off’

Saturday’s sale started off strong, and that momentum carried through to the final bid. 

“You’re always nervous when they start off high that you’re gonna have a cliff at some point in time,” Bridges said. 

But that drop never came.

“The crazy thing was, even with them spending this much money, there were still buyers at the end going, ‘I still haven’t bought what I need yet,’” Bridges said. “Prices actually ramped throughout the sale instead of dipping off.”

For the first time, the highest-selling lamb was the very last lamb through the sale.

“It was crazy to watch it take off towards the end,” Bridges said.

The overall number of lambs and goats at the sale dropped from 2020 and pigs stayed about the same, while there were more steers and double the number of rabbits.

Even with the uptick in steers, the average price was up 5 cents per pound, which Bridges called “phenomenal.”

This year, 26 rabbits sold for an average of $758 apiece — up nearly 48% from last year’s average of $513.

In years past, one rabbit could jump to around $700 or higher, but as an outlier, Bridges said.

It’s rare for a rabbit to reach $1,000, “and we sold quite a few over $1,000,” he said.

“As prices escalated on some of these other animals, some of the buyers — just to utilize the money that they wanted to spend there — they started chasing the rabbits,” Bridges said.

Buyers often come with a certain amount they want to spend.

“They truly are trying to give it to the kids, and so at the end of the day, they want that budget spent,” Bridges said. “They’re there with one thing in mind and that’s to help the kids as much as they possibly can.”

Core group sets the tone

As the longtime chairman of the sale committee, Bridges said the Junior Livestock Sale is “a tremendous thing to be involved with,” commending the faithful buyers and dedicated volunteers.

A core group of buyers sets the tone for the sale, he said.

“They don’t want to be singled out and recognized, so I won’t name them, but they know who they are,” Bridges said. “… They really bring the sale along and help those kids out, and they do it year in and year out.”

If things get uncertain as to whether the sale is going to hold or move, “they will hold it there and move it forward,” he said.

With the increase in steers this year, the core buyers ensured kids got good prices.

Cody Regional Health

“… they bought a lot of steers, because they were trying to hold that price for those kids,” Bridges said.

In addition to the faithful businesses and individuals who show up every year, the 2021 auction also saw new buyers. Bridges thanked all the buyers who supported the sale, both in-person and online.

For the first time, add-ons could be submitted online. With an add-on, a supporter contributes a specific amount of money to a youth without purchasing the whole animal. 

Colby and Codi Gines — who own MM Auction Services — added that function, which Bridges called “a super neat thing.”

He said MM Auction Services did a nice job handling both the in-person auction and online bids. A TV monitor was added above the ring, so buyers could see the current bid and other details.

The work of closing the books on the 2021 sale will continue into October, before the committee starts working on the next one in December. Bridges said accolades go to sale committee secretary Jennifer Triplett and treasurer Andrea Mehling, as they do the bulk of that work.

Throughout the year, many tasks — from weigh-ins to helping out during the sale to printing materials — are completed by volunteers. As just one example, Bridges asked his nephew to get the TV set up on Friday night, and it was ready by Saturday.

“There’s a ton of different people out there that step up to the plate and make things happen,” Bridges said. “…There’s no way for us to ever keep track of how many man hours there truly are, but it doesn’t happen without the whole community.”

Livestock Sale Numbers

• Steers

Average: $3.89/pound (up from $3.84 last year)

Highest seller: Grant George at $5.50/pound

Buyer: Rimrock Tire

• Hogs

Average: $10.31/pound (up from $7.43 last year)

Highest seller: Oaklee Smith with $17/pound

Buyer: Yellowstone Sports Medicine

• Lambs

Average: $15.03/pound (up from $10.06 last year)

Highest seller: Veronica Kovach with $26/pound

Buyer: Valley Ranch

• Goats

Average: $18.06/pound (up from $14.16/last year)

Highest seller: Onyx Miller with $50/pound

Buyer: Heritage Health Center

• Rabbits

Average: $758 (up from $513 last year)

Highest seller: Barrett George at $1,500

Buyer: Big Horn Co-op

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Spraying For Grasshoppers Leads To Severe Reaction To Pesticide

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Republished with permission from The Powell Tribune

Grasshopper numbers had gotten to such levels in Jeri and Jack Ogborn’s rose garden last June he drew his weapon of choice from storage — dimethoate, an organophosphorus insecticide.

The grasshoppers later just about got their revenge.

Ogborn wound up having a weirdly out of body experience and his wife, Jeri, wondering whether she should call 911. The Torrington couple looks back on the events of June 2020 with some humor now. They didn’t then.

Ogborn doesn’t remember when he purchased the large container of dimethoate, a systemic insecticide.

“You don’t need very much of it,” said Ogborn, who celebrated his 85th birthday in January. “Every year I decided to spray because the grasshoppers were just devouring our rose garden and everything else. So it really worked on grasshoppers.”

So he sprayed last June.

“Incidentally, when I bought the spray I also bought a very nice mask that had breathing filters on each side,” he said. “It was quite nice. But it was really hot that day, so I never wore it.”

Ogborn sprayed the yard, keeping the wind to his back. Then, “I came in the garage when I finished. That’s when the funny stuff started. It was weird.”

He evidently decided to take his clothing off since they might have some of the spray on them. “That’s about the last thing I recall,” he said. “I came into the house and my wife asked, ‘Why are you naked?’”

He had no answer.

“I said I don’t remember. I don’t know why I’m naked, but I’m naked for a reason. I can’t tell you exactly what that is.”

Jeri remembers asking what he had been doing, and Jack answered he had been in the weeds. “I asked why, and he did not know,” she recalls.

“It was really weird,” she continued. “When he would try to say a word or name an object, it was not the right word and he knew it was not the right word, but he couldn’t say what he wanted to say.”

Jeri initially thought he had had a heat stroke and had him lie down on a couch.

Cody Regional Health
“It was like I was kind of in another body,” said Jack. “Not another place because I was familiar with the place, but it just didn’t seem like me. I was getting questions and my answers were ‘I don’t know, I just don’t know.’”

Dimethoate is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs and through the skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pesticide degrades with a half-life of approximately two to four days, based on soil conditions.

If one suspects poisoning, read the label to find out what the recommended course of treatment should be, said Jeff Edwards, University of Wyoming Extension pesticide safety education program coordinator.

“If the person is unconscious, call 911 and tell them that there has been a suspected poisoning with a pesticide and supply the trade and chemical names of the product,” he said. “If the individual is transported to the hospital, the label and Safety Data Sheet should also go with them — give this information to the healthcare workers.”

Jack took a shower after his couch rest. “That helped a great deal,” said Jeri.

He recalls the absence of his ability to talk.

“I think it just wiped out part of your brain that is very important for communicating,” he said.

Several days would pass before he felt normal but a couple more weeks would pass until he could really feel good.

“It took a long time to get a total memory back, and it was scary,” he said.

Edwards recommends disposing of old pesticides. He suggests that pesticides one is unsure of be taken to toxic waste collection days. Park County Weed and Pest has tentatively scheduled hazardous waste collection days for Sept. 10 in Powell and Sept. 11 in Cody. Several organizations partner for the annual collection days in Park County.

There is a moral to the Ogborns’ story.

“Always read, understand and follow the entire label — including the bits on first aid and disposal of containers,” said Edwards.

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Stock Growers Exec: Initiative Criminalizing Animal Slaughter, Breeding Would Never Work In Wyoming

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On climate change and cattle

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A recently proposed initiative that would basically criminalize the slaughter and breeding of farm animals in Oregon would never gain any traction in Wyoming, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive vice president said this week.

Jim Magagna told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that an initiative proposed for the Oregon ballot in 2022 that would classify animal slaughter as aggravated abuse and redefine artificial insemination and castration as sexual assault likely won’t pass in that state, either.

“I’ve never heard of an initiative like this ever popping up in Wyoming, but the chances of it ever passing here are exactly zero,” he said.

However, he was concerned that an initiative like this would even be proposed.

“It makes me wonder if there’s any common sense left in Oregon,” he joked. “Colorado proposed something similar to this, although not nearly as extreme, but it was thrown out by the courts. If something like this were to pass, it would effectively be the end of the ranching industry in Oregon, which saddens me.”

According to Farm Progress, Initiative Petition 13 would remove farmer exemptions from existing laws barring animal cruelty and specifically target practices used for “(b)reeding domestic, livestock, and equine animals.” A group called End Animal Cruelty is sponsoring the initiative.

The proposed Abuse, Neglect, and Assault Exemption Modification and Improvement Act would delete all references to “good animal husbandry” from state statute and only allow an animal to be injured in cases of a human’s self-defense.

A veterinarian’s spaying and neutering of household pets would still be exempt from cruelty laws.

While Magagna understood that there have been horror stories concerning the slaughter of animals for meat, he said the agriculture industry has taken major steps in recent years toward raising and slaughtering animals in an ethical and humane way.

Magagna said that if the proposed initiative were to pass, Oregon’s cattle would be sold off and go to other states, Wyoming likely being one of them, that have strong livestock production industries.

There could be a slight uptick in economic impact for Wyoming should the initiative pass in Oregon, but Magagna said it would be a hit for the ranching industry overall.

“Things like this are a sign of the direction a segment of our population is going,” he said. “If some of those ideas garner a lot of strength in Oregon or California, it could lead to some policies at the federal level that could be detrimental to Wyoming.”

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Nonprofit Makes First Grant for Climate Wellness Through Soil Health

in News/Agriculture

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By staff reports

Wyoming’s nonprofit Synergy for Ecological Solutions made their first grant to Carbon Asset Network’s landowner member, Hellyer Ranch in Lander on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

This grant will enable the ranch to execute a customized plan for greater soil health developed by both Hellyer and Carbon Asset Network’s certified professional agronomist, Neal Fehringer.

The increase in soil health is a result in improving plant production, which causes an increase in photosynthesis. More photosynthesis removes additional carbon dioxide from the air and, in turn release more oxygen into the air and secures more carbon into the soil by increased root growth from more vegetative growth. This is the basis for ‘carbon sinks’ and ‘carbon sequestration,’ which is Nature’s method of cleaning our air.

“Sometimes it’s not understood that there’s a natural connection between improving our soil and reducing carbon in our air,” says John Robitaille, Director of Carbon Asset Network (CAN). “CAN works with the manager of the land to develop a customized science-based solution to increase soil health and meet their land goals. This is the new way forward.”

The manager of the land, called Land Stewards, enlists in the You360 program, which provides funding to develop the soil for one year. The Land Stewards can be ranchers, farmers, or managers of any open land, such as parks or golf courses. This is not connected to any government program and the funding comes from donations to the nonprofit, Synergy for Ecological Solutions.

“At Hellyer Ranch, we have taken some steps towards soil health, but with this grant, we can accomplish major goals,” says Jim Hellyer. “You’ll never find a better steward for our environment than someone who manages land.”

The nonprofit has developed a unique way to fundraise for climate wellness, using donated funds to clean our air, which empowers individuals and businesses to be advocates for the environment.

“There are many people who wake up each day, concerned about our climate. And, businesses are looking for ways to meet ESG goals. Yet, until now, the only solutions offered were to eat vegan, recycle, and perhaps protest fossil fuels. SYNERGY gives the opportunity to donate in order to improve soil health,” says Jeff Holder, Director of Synergy for Ecological Solutions. “We encourage a change of mindset. Rather than wishing for a carbon neutral future in the next few years or decades, let’s make a change right now, today. Finally, everyone can do something that has a direct impact on our climate.”

In the You360 program, donors can donate towards one acre of land for $30 a month/$360 a year. It’s a one-year commitment and the funds pay for agronomy/soil testing and development, with the lion’s share going directly to the Land Steward.

The funds are often used for additional equipment such as a no-till drill or for fencing and labor to help with mob grazing, a practice that has proven to sequester more carbon.

“We celebrate this new way to help ranchers improve their soil,” says Jim Magagna, Executive Vice-President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. “With funds from CAN, the rancher is able to adjust their operation with the result of healthier soil and healthier land.”

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Ex-BLM Head: Wyo Rancher Suing Biden Over Racial Discrimination Gets Help From Legal Ruling

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By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming rancher suing the federal government because of race-based exclusions in a coronavirus relief program may be helped by a recent Tennessee ruling that prioritizing relief based on race and sex is unconstitutional, according to a former director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

William Perry Pendley, a Wyoming attorney who served as acting director of the BLM from 2019 to 2020, said even though the lawsuit filed in Wyoming addresses agricultural loan forgiveness programs and the Tennessee case addressed COVID relief funds, the two cases share similar roots.

“This will help the Wyoming rancher,” Pendley told Cowboy State Daily. “Though the ruling of the (U.S.) Sixth Circuit (Court of Appeals) is not precedent that the Wyoming federal district court must follow, it is persuasive, especially given that it is a federal court of appeals, that the Wyoming court is likely to follow and cite as authority.”

Leisl Carpenter, a 29-year-old rancher in Laramie County, is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture over a loan forgiveness program under the American Rescue Plan Act pandemic relief funding that forbids her from applying because she is white. 

“It’s brazen discrimination,” said William Trachman, associate general counsel for the Mountain States Legal Foundation who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in May.

The American Rescue plan, which was signed into law by President Biden in March, offers $4 billion in loan forgiveness for “socially disadvantaged” ranchers and farmers throughout the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is interpreting the phrase to mean the only people who can apply for aid must be “Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, or Asian, or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.”

Such discrimination by the federal government is constitutionally forbidden, the lawsuit said.

“(The federal government’s) use of race discrimination as a tool to end ‘systemic racism’ is patently unconstitutional and should be enjoined by the court,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said the loan forgiveness program does not necessarily target farmers or ranchers who suffered economically because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Under the relevant provisions, it forgives the loans of farmers or ranchers whose race matches the race of a group whose members have suffered discrimination, per the (USDA),” it said.

The lawsuit asks the court to find the program unconstitutional because of its limits on who can apply for loan forgiveness.

Trachman said he is being contacted by other farmers and ranchers who were prevented from applying for the loan forgiveness program.

Trachman said he is also encouraged by the ruling of the federal appeals court in Tennessee, which issued an injunction against the U.S. Small Business Administration to keep it from prioritizing COVID relief funds based on the restaurant owner’s race and sex.

The court’s decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Antonia Vitolo, owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee.

Vitolo applied to receive federal relief from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that was created as part of the ARPA. He was told restaurant owners who were women or minorities would be prioritized to receive the federal funds.

The appeals court found such a prioritization system was unconstitutional and barred the Small Business Administration from applying it in the future.

Pendley, who is not involved in Carpenter’s lawsuit, said he hopes the ranchers and other people filing such lawsuits do not stop the legal action if the U.S. Department of Justice agrees not to enforce the rules in their cases.

“As (appeals court) Judge (Amul) Thapar pointed out, these rules have been on the books for decades and continue to be enforced,” he said. “That DOJ says it will not apply them in a particular case does not mean the constitutional injury goes away.”

The government has 60 days to respond to Carpenter’s Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief. 

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