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Burger King Removes Ad After Wyoming, National Protests

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Within days of protests from farmers and ranchers from across the country, including Wyoming, Burger King has decided to pull a recent ad that discussed methane emissions.

A national advertisement released earlier this month featured country singer Mason Ramsey, who talked about how Burger King plans to reduce methane emissions by adding lemongrass to its cows’ diets.

“Since we are a part of the problem, we are working on a solution,” Ramsey said in the ad.

However, a scientist’s tweets and protests from across the country got Burger King to reconsider the ad.

According to AgWeb, University of California-Davis animal science professor Frank Mitloehner tweeted that some of BK’s information in the ad was misleading or inaccurate.

“IT’S. NOT. THE. COW. FARTS. Nearly all enteric methane from cattle is from belching,” Mitloehner tweeted after seeing the commercial. “Suggesting otherwise turns this serious climate topic into a joke. Reducing methane is a HUGE opportunity. That should be a goal. But we shouldn’t trivialize it for trendy marketing. #COWSMENU.”

Mitloehner said in a podcast interview later that he doubted lemongrass, at the level the company will feed it, will have the desired effect.

BK officials contacted Mitloehner after seeing his response to the commercial, saying they were surprised by his reception. They also asked the scientist to work with them moving forward.

Protestors in Torrington last week also let their opinions be known about the ad, with one telling the Torrington Telegram that the campaign felt like a slap in the face.

Goshen County is Wyoming’s top beef producer, with Carbon County coming in second.

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Wyoming Ranchers Protest Burger King Ad Campaign

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By Tom Milstead, Torrington Telegram. Photo: Tom Milstead, Torrington Telegram

A recent ad campaign by fast food giant Burger King proved to be the last straw for a group of Goshen County ranchers.

Burger King released the Impossible Whopper in August 2019, a controversial to some product which features a meat-free patty made mostly of soy instead of beef.

The latest ad campaign features BK’s plan to introduce lemongrass to cows’ diets to reduce methane emissions.

In it, teen pop-country singer Mason Ramsey sings about how the new BK diet reduces emissions by more than a third and ends with plain text over a shot of a carnival, stating, “Since we are a part of the problem, we are working on a solution.”

That commercial was the tipping point, said Lori Shafer, one of the event’s organizers.

Local cattle producers decided to take a stand. They did so by lining the streets and adjacent parking lot near Burger King in Torrington on Friday with all manner and makes of pick-up trucks and trailers adorned with pro-beef signs and American flags.

“Our goal is to educate the public. We all know that agriculture is struggling right now,” Shafer said. “We need to bring visibility to agriculture in a positive light, the beef industry in particular is taking some really hard hits right now. Our message is meant to be positive to provide that much needed education for the general public to know that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in Goshen County, and has been for forever.”

The ad campaign was a national campaign, and not supported by the local Burger King franchise.

“As franchise owners, we stand with our ranchers and do not support the recent Burger King advertisement,” Tim Force, owner, said. “We are proud of our agricultural community.”

Goshen County is Wyoming’s top beef producer, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture. In 2018, Goshen County produced 115,000 head, 23,000 more than No. 2 Carbon County.

It’s the biggest game in town and it always has been. According to Hugh Hageman, who participated in the demonstration, the beef industry is the local economy’s main driver.

“When you get down to the North Platte Valley, you can start wherever, but if you just started at Whalen Dam, where the diversion dam is and diverts into the canals, and then you go from there and you head down the North Platte Valley and it widens out, and you go as far as you want to go in and everything you see on all sides. There’s a few beans, a few beets, and other than that, everything you see revolves around the beef industry,” he said. “The hay, the corn, all the feed that’s grown is, whether you have any beef cattle or not, our entire valley is totally for beef cattle. And we just feel like it’s time to start standing up for our industry.”

And for longtime producers like Linda Nichol, the fact a company like Burger King – which has made billions from beef products – would release ads that seem to target the very industry that made it is unthinkable.

“It’s like a slap in the face,” she said. “It angers me because Wyoming ranchers the ultimate conservationists. Ranchers produce more grass, more clean air, more wildlife, more water. They produce a better life. They stop the development of open spaces, which open spaces are disappearing and they’re very important.”

The ranchers weren’t alone, either. They held court in the former Shopko parking lot for around two hours, and the entire time cars and trucks blared their horns in a show of support for the industry.

“It’s very encouraging,” Morgan Cross-Shoults, one of the demonstrators, said. “It kind of counters what you see when, as a rancher and a producer, you first see the ad. All the honking and the support from us being out here captures those same feelings. It shows that people do support and people are standing with farmers and ranchers.”

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States peaked in the mid-2000s, but have been in decline ever since.

The Center for Climate Change and Energy Solutions reported that by 2025, US emissions would be 18% below the peak in 2005. According to the C2ES, agriculture accounts for 9% of the US’s emissions, and about a quarter of that is due to methane produced by cattle, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those numbers are small compared to transportation, which accounts for 28% of emissions, electricity, which accounts of 27% and industry, 22%.

The beef industry is shouldering too much of the blame, Hageman said.

“It’s been going on a long time, where the beef industry is being blamed for too much carbon footprint, global warming, climate change – whatever you want to call it,” he said. “Then, when these bigger corporations start going out and piling on, then when you have this pandemic just crushing the industry, as far as prices go, and you’ve got all that together and people really want to start standing up for the industry and start going out there. Basically, we’re going out there and telling the truth. We really need to get the truth out there about our product, about what we do.”

According to Cross, the attack on the beef industry is indicative of a further erosion of values.

“This shows so much of where our country has fallen to,” she said. “We see on the news every day that people are tearing down the statues of the people who made our country great, who made our country what it is. And that’s the same thing of America. They forgot who got them there, and that was the ranchers of America producing this amazing beef – and now they’re trying to sell lab-made beef. We’re forgetting the blessings that made us what we are.”

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Report: Wyoming Residents Receiving Strange Seeds From China

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of farmers from across the country, including Wyoming, have reported receiving strange seeds from China that they didn’t order.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture is warning anyone who receives seeds in the mail from China that they didn’t order to not open the sealed package or plant them and to report what they receive.

“Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock,” WDA wrote in its Facebook post.

If a Wyoming resident receives unsolicited seeds in the mail, they should keep the seeds and packaging and contact the local USDA-APHIS office at 307-432-7979 or Bruce.A.Shambaugh@usda.gov to get instructions on what to do next.

According to a Facebook post from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the seeds are sent in packages that usually state the contents are jewelry. This is known as agricultural smuggling.

Other states such as Virginia, Kansas and Utah have reported residents receiving similar packages.

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Residential Use Of Herbicide Reason For Laramie Brown Trout Deaths

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The use of herbicide on home lawns and gardens was the likely culprit in a number of brown trout deaths in Laramie’s Spring Creek in late May, according to the state Game and Fish Department.

According to a news release, Laramie residents contacted the regional office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on May 26 after finding several dead brown trout in Spring Creek.

Fisheries biologist Steve Gale conducted an evaluation of Spring Creek from 15th Street downstream to Eighth Street and observed numerous dead trout within that section. Multiple size classes of brown trout were affected, but no other species of fish was found dead.

Brown trout are the most abundant fish species in Spring Creek.

Gale’s tests of the creek’s water quality revealed no problems, so he sent more than 20 of the dead fish to the department’s laboratory for examination.

“Our meter measures the quality at the time of testing, so whatever had happened had already gone through the system,” he said.
  
Brandon Taro, coordinator for the department’s Fish Health Program, said an examination of the fish indicated that herbicides were responsible for the deaths.

“All the fish had enlarged livers, which is consistent with the effects of herbicides on fish,” he said.

Laramie regional fisheries Supervisor Bobby Compton told Cowboy State Daily that a heavy rain in late May caused runoff tainted with herbicide to enter the creek.

Gale said algae were dead from where a storm drain empties into the creek below the 15th Street Bridge downstream to the Ninth Street Bridge. The algae above the storm drain were still green and apparently unaffected.

Compton noted that while this type of poisoning isn’t common, it does happen every two to five years when the city experiences a heavy rain. While he doesn’t expect any long-term effects from the deaths, he did point out that the incident could be prevented.  

The department’s news release included recommendations for how Laramie residents can safely use herbicides to avoid such poisonings in the future.

“Proper application, storage and disposal would definitely eliminate this type of situation,” Compton said.

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Enzi, Barrasso Call For Reform In Meat Processing Industry

in News/Food/Agriculture/Business
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyoming, called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday to look into reforming the meat processing industry.

The two joined a bipartisan group of legislators in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him to consider areas for regulatory and programmatic reform in the industry.

“When high-capacity processing facilities experienced (coronavirus) outbreaks amongst employees, operations were forced to shut-off or slow down production, leaving the rancher with livestock they could not move and the consumer with either empty grocery shelves or overpriced products,” the senators wrote. “These pitfalls can be avoided in the future if we take action today to promote a diversified food supply chain. Regulations must be streamlined to remove barriers impeding small and medium-sized meat processors.”

The legislators included Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In April, Wyoming legislators Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, called for an investigation into meat processors, accusing them of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to make record profits.

They both criticized the four major meat packing companies, Tyson, Smithfield, JBS and Cargill for creating a monopoly that hurts ranches and small cattle producers.

Driskill recommended the public call for an investigation into these companies and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in livestock, dairy, poultry and related products.

Lindholm blamed the companies’ misuse of the Federal Meat Inspection Act as one of the problems behind rising beef prices for consumers, but not ranchers. 

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Rancher Videos 2,600 Sheep Crossing Bridge By Drone

in News/Transportation/Agriculture
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2600 sheep crossing Ten Sleep Creek, but don't try to count them…you're liable to fall asleep. No sound…double-time.

Posted by Don Anderson on Saturday, May 2, 2020

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Our friends over at the radio station 95.5 My Country, spotted something pretty interesting the other day: an aerial view of 2,600 sheep crossing a river in Wyoming.

Seems like a rancher up in Ten Sleep got the idea to launch a drone above a bridge over Ten Sleep Creek and then began moving the sheep across the bridge.

What’s it like? It’s popular. Don Anderson said the video has been viewed more than 10,000 times now.

We think it looks a little like driving down to Denver International Airport on I-25.  It starts off at a good pace. Someone gets confused or drives slowly in the passing lane (which should be a felony) and all of a sudden, there’s mass confusion followed by a pileup.

Thanks to sheepdogs (and they are amazing to watch in this video) and a few cowboys, the traffic gets going again.

The Colorado Highway Patrol could learn something from this video.  Enjoy!

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Enzi, Barrasso Call For Investigation Into Meat Packers

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s U.S. senators on Tuesday joined a bipartisan call for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices in the nation’s beef packing industry.

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso joined 17 of their colleagues in signing a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr asking for the Justice Department to look into allegations of price manipulation and anti-competitive behavior in the cattle industry.

Ranchers have long complained that because four major companies control more than 80 percent of the cattle industry, those companies in effect control the industry and keep prices paid to ranchers for their beef artificially low.

The letter said recent price differences between the amount received by beef packers and the amount they pay ranchers are threatening the survival of cattle ranches.

“Cattlemen across America seriously question the ability for their children to take over what are frequently multi-generational family-owned operations that serve as the engines for their communities and our country’s food supply,” the letter said. “It is critical for the DOJ to act expediently to investigate these concerning circumstances.”

The letter noted that since February, the price paid to producers for cattle has dropped by more than 18%, while wholesale beef prices have increased by as much as 115%.

Without action, America’s beef supply chain could collapse under the weight of poor prices, the letter said.

“It is critical for the DOJ to act expediently to investigate these concerning circumstances and evaluate potential competitive harms,” it said.

Eleven state attorneys general have also asked for investigation, as have a number of individual senators.

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Wyoming Hunger Initiative Ropes Local Cattle Producers For New Program

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Hunger Initiative (WHI), headed by First Lady Jennie Gordon, is launching a new program in conjunction with various state entities aimed at getting Wyoming-produced goods to the tables of families in need of food.

“Food from the Farm + Ranch” is a collaboration between WHI, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Custom Meats, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies. The collaboration is intended to use Wyoming products to care for Wyoming citizens.

Three beef cattle have been donated by Wyoming producers to be processed at Wyoming Custom Meats, which is located in Hudson. The meat will be donated to Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies to be distributed throughout the state as a vital source of protein.

Employees from the Wyoming Department of Ag donated the processing fees for two of the cattle. WSGA members donated the processing fees for the third. Additional processing dates have been scheduled for later in May to accommodate donations from other local producers.

“Being a producer myself, my initial vision for the Wyoming Hunger Initiative was to encompass a component of agriculture that would be part of the solution to food insecurity in our state,” Gordon said in a news release. “I am beyond excited about the immediate partnership between so many entities working together to ensure longevity of the program.”

The end goal of the program is to reach a point beyond the coronavirus pandemic where families and pantries across the state can purchase meat from local producers instead of seeking an out-of-state supplier.

While farmers and ranchers are supporting the food bank during this time through the donation of livestock and processing fees, the hope is that residents will support Wyoming producers now and in the future.

Wyoming currently has two United States Department of Agriculture-approved beef processors.

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Wyoming Hog Farmers Facing Doom Without Federal Aid Plan

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s pork producers could face hard times following closures of major meat processing plants across the U.S., but a federal program is in the works to lessen the blow.

With three of the country’s largest pork processing plants — Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, JBS pork processing in Worthington, Minnesota, and Tyson Fresh Foods in Waterloo, Iowa — closing during a portion of the pandemic, Wyoming is running out of places to send its pigs, said Jeremy Burkett, the Wyoming Pork Producers Council executive director. 

“We’re going to see the trickle-down effect in Wyoming,” Burkett said. “It’s just a matter of weeks before we see no need for our pigs.”

The closures were a result of extremely high COVID-19 infection rates among pork plant workers. Nearly 900 of 2,200 workers tested positive at a Tyson plant in Indiana.

After 850 workers tested positive for COVID-19 at Smithfield’s South Dakota plant, the facility was closed. However, it is partially reopening in the face of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on April 28 compelling some meat processors to continue operations. 

Reopening the plants could help some producers, but the biggest initiative to prevent the nation’s hog farmers from going under comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) could provide ag producers with about $19 billion in relief funding during the next few months, said Derek Grant, a Wyoming Department of Agriculture spokesperson.

“About $9.6 billion of that is going to be directed toward livestock,” Grant said. “And we’ve heard about $1.6 billion could be set aside for hogs, but a lot of the numbers are still fluid.” 

If eligible, ag producers could receive $125,000 per commodity, allowing producers with diverse crops or livestock to apply for more relief, but Grant explained no entity can receive more than $250,000. 

Burkett said the largest pork producers in Wyoming focus solely on hogs. 

“There is roughly 750,000 weaned pigs shipped out of the state every year,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of corn and soy beans here, so we provide the weaned stock to finishers in the Midwest.” 

Finisher operations take in weaned livestock and feed them a special diet, fattening them up before sending the animals to a meat processor.

Pork operations are active throughout the state, but are most common in Laramie, Platte and Converse counties, Burkett said. 

The lack of markets for Wyoming’s pigs has put producers in a difficult position, Burkett said.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” he said. “We’re working closely with the USDA, our producers and all the professionals in our industry to come up with a means and measure to cope with the certain circumstances we have.”

Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan said not having a place to send weaned pigs is a major problem for producers.

“Once those pigs are past a certain age, the become less marketable,” Logan explained. “But, it’ll really depend on the type of the operation whether or not this will have a huge affect on them. I do, however, think it will affect everybody in some way.”

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Magagna: U.S. Needs Investigation Now on Price Gouging by Meat Packers

in News/Coronavirus/Agriculture
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An investigation into price gouging by major meat packers is a welcome action for Wyoming beef producers, Jim Magagna, Exeuctive Vice President of the Wyoming Stockgrowers, said on Friday.

Magagna, appearing on Town Square Media’s “Economy Town Hall” broadcast on the company’s Wyoming radio stations, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s formal investigation on pricing practices in the meat industry is necessary.

He said the problem is that there are thousands of beef producers in America but there are only four major meat packers and those meat packers get to control the price of beef for consumers.

“It is hard not to see that they are making huge return on their investment buying live cattle and then marketing box beef,” Magagna said. “And that price of that box beef has gone up very significantly.”

How big is the disparity?

Lex Madden, from the Torrington Livestock Markets, told the Casper Star Tribune that meat packers make between $500 to $600 per head of cattle while producers earn $105 to $100.

“It’s just frustrating how greedy and ruthless the packers are,” Madden told the newspaper. “They’re smart business people but they’re so ruthless and greedy that they do not care about the American rancher, farmer or producer.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in early April it would look into the difference between the prices received by meat packers for beef and what is paid ranchers.

In addition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s investigation, Magagna said the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association has reached out to President Trump and Attorney General William Barr to conduct an investigation.

“We’ve asked for a full investigation because we need to determine if laws are being broken,” he said.

“Beyond that, this is a wake-up call for our industry. We face some fundamental structural problems,” he said.

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