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Gordon Upset By Closure Of Lamb Processing Plant

in Agriculture/Mark Gordon/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The impending closure of the country’s second-largest lamb processing plant in Colorado is more evidence of unhealthy consolidation of the country’s meat packing industry, Gov. Mark Gordon said in a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gordon, in the Thursday letter, said he was distressed about the announced purchase of Mountain States Rosen’s lamb processing facility by JBS USA Holdings, a Brazilian company.

“This transaction marks the end of on-site lamb processing and represents further consolidation of the packing industry and increased foreign influence on American markets,” Gordon’s letter said.

JBS was the winning bidder for the Greeley, Colorado, plant in bankruptcy proceedings. JBS, the largest importer of lamb in the country, said it has no plans to process lambs at the plant in the future.

The MSR plant serves sheep ranchers in at least 15 states, Gordon said, and the JBS takeover leaves sheep ranchers in Wyoming and elsewhere with nowhere to process their sheep.

Gordon said he is worried about what the closure will mean to the agriculture industry.

“As a businessperson, today I see a giant getting bigger; as a rancher, I wonder where my neighbors will take their lambs; as a father, I worry for those next generations; and as Governor, I worry about what this loss means to the state and our producers as a whole,” he wrote. “I do not believe there is any realistic way to avoid repeating what is happening today unless we set our eyes on the future.”

Gordon said MSR was itself created in an attempt to resolve the consolidation of the meat packing industry in the hands of a few large companies.

“They rose to become the second-largest lamb processor in the nation and yet, at the end of the day, they are trampled by a monolithic foreign corporation,” he said. “I question whether or not this becomes an antitrust issue. We can dismantle AT&T but cannot look at the companies that supply food to our citizens?”

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso in May joined members of Congress from other states in urging Attorney General William P. Barr to look into allegations of price manipulation and anti-competitive behavior in the beef packing industry.

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Unusual Good News In 2020: Videocamera Catches Grizzlies Not Mauling People But Playing Instead

in Grizzly Bear Attacks/News

Grizzly Cam!Every year Fish and Game biologists place GPS collars on grizzly bears to learn about their reproduction, survival, and distribution across the ecosystem. A recently retrieved game camera shows a female grizzly as she emerged from her den in late-April with three cubs in tow.The antics of these three cubs playing together was too cute not to share. Watch as they play together and learn just how far they can push mom’s limits as she watches over them.

Idaho Fish and Game Upper Snake இடுகையிட்ட தேதி: வியாழன், 30 ஜூலை, 2020

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It’s kind of a weird twist for 2020 — actual good news.

Recently, most of our bear stories haven’t been that positive.

There was the story about the Choteau, Montana man who had his shoulder nearly ripped off.

Then there was the story of the hiker in the Shoshone National Forest who surprised a grizzly and got flattened in the process.

Then there’s the more humorous story of the trail runner who literally ran into a grizzly, bounced off the grizzly, became interlocked with the grizzly, and rolled down the trail with the grizzly.

Today, we have a story of some bears who are just cute.

As it turns out, the Idaho Fish and Game Department have something they call “Grizzly Cam.”

Every year, they say, biologists place GPS collars on grizzly bears to learn about their reproduction, survival, and distribution across the ecosystem.

A recently retrieved game camera shows a female grizzly as she emerged from her den in late-April with three cubs in tow.

“The antics of these three cubs playing together was too cute not to share,” the department said. “Watch as they play together and learn just how far they can push mom’s limits as she watches over them.”

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Campbell County Man Believes In Second Life For Powder River Basin Coal Ash

in Energy/News

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By Jennifer Kocher, County 17

Good news is hard to come by today with regard to Wyoming’s lagging energy industry, particularly in the Powder River Basin, but at least one man is optimistic about the county’s future.

Where there’s a bust, Phil Christopherson believes, there’s a boom to follow, which may come as early as 2022.

His glass half-full mentality stems in part from his work as CEO of Energy Capital Economic Development (ECED), where the crux of his job is to attract new businesses to Campbell County, and ignite and revive local industries.

He looks to the long-term with regard to driving economic diversity to keep the economy robust, regardless of downturns in energy.

Generally speaking, he noted, the county has a lot going for it. Lots of space, for one, as well as easy access to Interstate 90, rail and commercial jet transportation, business-friendly regulations and taxes as well as top-notch recreation and business incubator facilities.

He sees several promising opportunities on the horizon, including a pretty hefty investment on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources (SER), ECED as well as funding from both city and county governments among other developments currently in the works.

Moreover, as a Wyoming native, Christopherson wholeheartedly believes in the tenacity, grit and resourcefulness of its people, particularly those in Campbell County.

He points to its long history as the nation’s leading energy provider and reveres it as home to several world-class companies like Liebherr, Cyclone Drilling and L&H Industrial. Yes, times are a little hard, he admitted, but there are equally lucrative days to follow.

The future site of Atlas Carbon near the new Highway 59 buildout (left).
The future site of WyIC, near HWY 59 buildout.

Sitting at a table in his corner office of the Energy Capital Building in south Gillette last Tuesday, Christopherson slid a press release across the laminated surface, detailing news about a new pilot-scale production facility currently in the design phase at Energy Capital Economic Development’s Wyoming Innovation Center (WyIC).

It’s scheduled to open next year as part of the exploratory project, where scientists will attempt to extract rare earth elements from coal ash.

The $1.62 million project is funded through a partnership between the city, county, university and federal agencies including a federal grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) Technology Commercialization Fund earmarked for helping to develop promising energy technologies.

The three-year project entails a partnership between the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in conjunction with UW’s SER and will entail identifying and extracting rare earth elements and other critical metals from feedstocks in the PRB to test efficacies and economic value.

Currently, Christopherson’s ECED team is in the process of finalizing the designs for the facility, which they hope to have nailed down in August or early September.

“This project is an important step forward in diversifying and expanding Wyoming’s economy through value-added coal projects,” he said.

The project has already garnered the sign-off from Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King, who touted both the partnership as well as the potential for the project.

“We always knew that this was the perfect site, and it is gratifying to know that others recognize the potential of the Powder River Basin to assist our nation,” Carter-King said in an ECED release announcing the project.

Quoting studies that have shown the PRB coal has had high extractable REE content compared to other coal ash sources in other parts of the country, Christopherson also touted the high volume of available coal ash stocks with up to 270 to 690 tons produced by a single power station per day.

“This project is an important step forward in diversifying and expanding Wyoming’s economy through value-added coal projects,” he said. “We are proud to host the NETL rare earth elements project at our WyIC facility.”

Securing energy independence

Rare earth elements (REEs) are a part of a group of 17 metal elements that occur naturally and are typically found in varying proportions in the same ore deposits, according to the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS), and are used in a variety of products from nuclear reactors, cell phones, magnets and camera lenses among several other products. They’re also key to renewable technologies such as wind turbines and electric cars.

For the past two decades, China has dominated the REEs market, accounting for about 95 – 97% of the world’s supply.

Currently, the United States is wholly dependent on imports for 21 of these critical materials, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and 50% dependent on imports for an additional 28 more.

In recent days, as the Trump Administration ratchets up tensions with China surrounding trade and national security issues, including closing down the Chinese Embassy in Houston over accusations that the communist nation is pirating U.S. intellectual property and stealing research and industry secrets, many in government like Wyoming Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi see the country’s critical minerals dependency as a matter of national security as well as an opportunity to revive the fledgling coal sector.

In May, both senators sent letters to the secretaries of defense and the interior asking for them to invest in national efforts to build our own REE stockpile. Last week, Sen. Barrasso further sent a letter to the DOE, urging the agency to set up a satellite office in Wyoming to build on efforts to bolster statewide energy research, development and commercialization.

Given the country’s and world’s reliance on these REEs, demand for them only continues to rise. The global rare earth market is estimated to grow in value from $8.1 billion in 2018 to more than $14.4 billion by 2025, according to Zion Market Research, a company specializing in cutting-edge informative reports.

“Right now,” Christopherson said, “we’re relying on China for our Rare Earth Elements. This project is an important step forward in the United States developing our own sources of REE, while diversifying and expanding Wyoming’s economy through value-added coal projects.”

Many in the county and state are interested in tapping into PRB coal ash as the next panacea.

Regaining ground

At one point, the United States was a leader in REEs. Between the 1960s and 80s, the country had the largest market share, mostly mined at Molycorp’s Mountain Pass Mine in California, according to a 2017 DOE report. The open-pit REE mine of the Mojave declared bankruptcy in 2015. In Wyoming, Bear Lodge outside of Upton, had held promise in past years but fell flat under poor market conditions and also closed in 2015.

Meanwhile, China, which has the world’s largest known REE deposit, the Bayan Obo deposit, continues to dominate the market after beginning REE production in the 1980s, per the report.

Currently, the DOE is hoping to find new pockets of minerals with its sights set on two predominant coal-producing areas of the country – the West and Appalachia – where DOE and NETL assessments estimate a potential REE reserve of 6 million metric tons (MT) of potentially recoverable minerals from coal and coal byproducts in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona with another estimated 4.9 MT from four eastern states, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

In Campbell County, the three-year joint project between NETL and UW’s SER will focus on extracting REEs from coal ash from nearby utility companies.

Scott Quillinan, director of research at the UW’s SER, is also optimistic about the potential of the DOE/NETL project in the PRB.

PRB coal collected from the University of Wyoming coring program for REE analysis.
PRB coal collected from the University of Wyoming coring program for REE analysis. (H/t UW SER)

The first year-and-a-half will consist of onsite lab work between researchers at UW and NETL, who will collaborate from their Pittsburgh lab to fine tune extraction technologies. Once the WyIC facility is up and running, Quillinan said, the entities will join forces in-house for the remaining 18 months.

In terms of REEs, researchers at SER are particularly excited about the high concentrations of two critical, middle and heavy elements, Dysposium and Neodymium, in the PRB’s sub-bituminous coal.

“Neodymium in particular is a very important element,” Davin Bagdonas, research scientist at SER’s Center for Economic Geology Research and SER’s principal investigator on the REE pilot project, said.

“PRB coal/fly ash is a great potential resource for it in high volume,” he said.

The light REE, Neodymium, is used to make hard drives in laptop computers, headphones and hybrid engines among other uses. Dysposium, which is a heavy rare earth, is used primarily to make permanent magnets and hybrid engines.

The area also has high concentrations of Praseodymium, a critical mineral used for magnets and hybrid engines, Bagdonas added, as well as Cesium, a soft, silvery, extremely reactive metal.

Though the PRB is rich in these elements, Quillinan noted, the tricky part is extracting them both safely and economically, which entails digesting the coal with acid to differentiate the elements from the coal ash.

A second snag is that currently further processing of the minerals once extracted generally occurs overseas. This is also true of manufacturing. Most of the products that require rare earth elements in the process are made elsewhere, he said.

Regardless, Quillinan remains optimistic about the quality of the feedstocks as well as the technology, which if proved economically viable, may spur private investment into building an extraction and processing facility in Wyoming or elsewhere where the US might regain its prominent spot as the leader of REEs.

“It looks promising,” he said, noting the volume of available coal ash at the ready as well as the high calcium content, which makes coal ash more easily to digest with acid.

That said, the project is for naught if it’s not economically feasible. The techno-economics will be evaluated per DOE-approved economic models as part of the project.

“We know we have high-potential feedstocks and promising technology and know the demand is there,” Quillinan said, “but we have to figure out if it makes sense economically. If it doesn’t pencil, private investment will never come.”

However, he noted, if the United States continues to trend toward renewable energy sources, these rare earth minerals are imperative, and he’d like to see Wyoming take the lead.

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Wyoming Game And Fish Investigation Into Poaching Uncovers Bobcat Suspect

in News/wildlife

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s recent investigation into a possible poaching incident led officials to discover a furry suspect, according to a news release.

Last month, the Worland Game Warden Matt Lentsch received a possible poaching tip regarding a headless deer carcass located between Manderson and Basin. When Lentsch arrived at the location, he discovered a deer carcass with the head intact, but partially buried under dirt and vegetation, making it appear headless.

The game warden noted bobcat tracks near the partially cached carcass and determined a bobcat was responsible for killing the deer rather than illegal human activity.

“It is not every day that a bobcat takes a mature deer down,” Lentsch said.  “The deer was an adult doe mule deer in what seemed to be good health.”

Lentsch set a trail camera on the carcass and that night captured footage of the bobcat coming back to feed on the deer.

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Converse County Oil, Gas Project One Step Closer To Approval

in Energy/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A proposed major oil and gas development project in Converse County moved one step closer to federal approval with a release of the final environmental impact statement on the project.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Thursday, in its final impact statement on the project that could see more than 5,000 new wells drilled in the next 10 years, continued to select the full development option as its preferred alternative for the project.

The release of the statement triggered a 30-day protest period, after which the BLM will issue a record of decision on the project.

Five energy companies have proposed drilling on about 1.5 million acres of land in Converse County: Occidental Petroleum, Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy, EOG Resources Inc. and Northwoods Energy. Plans call for about 500 wells to be drilled each year over 10-years.

Other options for the project considered by the BLM included allowing no development and allowing the development of all the new wells, but limiting the number of well pads that could be built in the area.

Gov. Mark Gordon, in a prepared statement, said he welcomed the release of the report and noted Wyoming officials had worked extensively with federal officials to make sure the development followed certain measures to protect wildlife and the environment in the area.

“The State of Wyoming worked long and hard to weigh in on issues such as year-round drilling that would still provide appropriate measures to protect wildlife, including raptors as well as Greater sage-grouse,” he said.

He noted the project will involve the use of new drilling technologies that will reduce surface disturbances.

“It reflects what can be accomplished when ingenuity, science, technology and common sense management policies are used to promote energy development and preserve our wildlife,” he said.

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Wyoming Officials Speak Out Against Trump’s Proposed Election Delay

in elections/News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

President Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that the United States delay the Nov. 3 general election received much pushback from various legislators, including several of Wyoming’s elected representatives.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted that universal mail-in voting would cause widespread inaccuracies and an uptick in voter fraud. To not cause a “great embarrassment” to the United States, Trump suggested delaying the election until people could “properly, securely and safely vote.”

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted her thoughts on the president’s suggestion, saying lawmakers wouldn’t take any action to delay the election.

“The resistance to this idea among Republicans is overwhelming,” she wrote. “We must take all necessary steps to prevent election fraud – including stopping Democrat ballot harvesting – but we will not be delaying the election.”

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso sided with Cheney when he spoke to Fox Business Network in an interview.

“No, we are not going to delay the election,” Barrasso said. “We’re going to have the election completed and voting completed by Election Day.”

State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne said on his Facebook page that he also didn’t support a delay.

“Stop with this nonsense and govern,” the Republican representative wrote.

Other national politicians who rejected Trump’s idea included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The president also wrote on Thursday that mail-in voting was “already proving to be a catastrophic disaster,” saying mail-in voting was an easy way for foreign countries to influence the election. He also was concerned about inaccurate vote counts.

Trump touched on New York’s mail-in voting system earlier this week, saying it was “in a disastrous state of condition” and alleging the election was rigged.

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Wyoming Banks Examine Ways To Ease Coin Shortage

in Economy/News

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There seem to be a lot of shortages right now – shortage of work, shortage of workers, shortage of new cars in car lots, and even a shortage of coins.

Derek Moore with First Bank of Wyoming says the holdup is at the federal level.

“There’s limitations on what banks can actually order in terms of coin,” Moore said, adding that in his years in banking, he’s never come across this situation before. 

Garrett Growney with Pinnacle Bank explained that the problem has been brought on by the slowdown in the economy.

With the shortage of general commerce out there, a lot of coin has not made it back into the Federal Reserve system,” he says.

But Pinnacle Bank got creative. In order to assure an adequate supply for local businesses, it launched a contest to get people to bring in change that they may have been gathering at home – and the chance to win a $50 Visa gift card as the prize.

“There’s a demand for coin,” Growney said. “You’ll see some businesses around town not taking coin transactions. So we saw that coming and have run a promotion so that we could have coin, so that our customers can access it.”

According to the Federal Reserve’s website, the entity is working with the U.S. Mint and others in the industry on solutions, but the agency said that since mid-June, the Mint has been operating at full production capacity and is on track to mint 1.65 billion coins per month for the remainder of the year.

Growney says he doesn’t believe the change shortage is an indication that the government is moving to a “cashless society” as alleged by some conspiracy theorists.

“I know there are some conspiracy theories out there,” he said. “But my thought would be that this would be a very cumbersome way to go about it.”

And he pointed out that there’s still plenty of change circulating.“It’s still getting used,” he said, speaking of coins. “I’m not aware of any effort to do away with it.”

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Rawlins Man Charged With Attempting to Elude Police In Tractor While Drunk

in Crime/News

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When it comes to high-profile, low-speed police chases, O.J. Simpson’s 1994 spectacle in southern California is hard to beat.

It’s doubtful Rawlins resident Matthew Farrington was trying to outdo Mr. Simpson but his low-speed chase had an element that Simpson’s did not — a tractor.

According to our friends at Saratoga’s Bigfoot 99, Farrington was driving his orange tractor down a city street in Rawlins earlier this month but unfortunately couldn’t keep it in one lane.

The weaving caught the eye of a Rawlins police officer who attempted to pull Farrington and his tractor over.

Police Sgt. Joel Robertson turned on his police lights and later the siren but Farrington ignored the direction to stop.

The radio station reported that Farrington did, however, “turn in his seat to look at Sgt. Robertson several times but continued driving.”

Eventually the chase ended when Farrington — while driving on the wrong side of the road — stopped at his house and attempted to go inside.

It was at that point that the officer stopped the driver and attempted to administer a field sobriety test, which the driver refused.

Farrington’s mother, however, was at the scene and told officers her son had been drinking.

Bigfoot 99 reported that police documents said Farrington smelled “very strongly of alcohol and could hardly hold himself up.  He was slurring his words, was combative and argumentative.”

If convicted of Driving Under the Influence, it will be Farrington’s fourth such conviction in 10 years, which is considered a felony in Wyoming.  

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58 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming, Active Cases Grow To 597

in Coronavirus/News

Editor’s Note: This is a map of the active coronavirus cases in each county across Wyoming. The number of active cases is determined by subtracting the total number of recoveries seen since the illness first reached Wyoming in mid-March from the total number of confirmed and probable cases diagnosed during the same time period and taking into account deaths related to the disease.

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Fourteen Wyoming counties reported new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the number of people infected with the illness since it was first detected in Wyoming to 2,686.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, said 45 new laboratory-confirmed cases and 13 probable cases were reported Thursday.

The new laboratory-confirmed cases were reported in Albany, Campbell, Fremont, Hot Springs, Laramie, Lincoln, Natrona, Park, Sheridan, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton, Uinta and Washakie counties. Teton County saw the largest increase with 13 new cases.

Meanwhile, the number of patients to recover since the pandemic began grew by 13, bringing the number of active cases in the state to 597, an increase of 15 from Wednesday.

Laramie County had 117 active cases, Fremont County had 94; Teton County had 56; Carbon had 47; Park had 43; Sweetwater had 39; Uinta had 37; Natrona had 34; Lincoln had 31; Albany had 30; Campbell and Sheridan had 19; Sublette had 16; Goshen and Hot Springs had four; Big Horn had three, and Converse, Platte, Washakie and Weston had one. Crook, Johnson and Niobrara had no active cases.

Among the active cases, 490 were in patients with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus and 107 were in patients with probable cases.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The growth in laboratory-confirmed cases brought to 2,217 the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases seen since the pandemic began in March.

The number of probable cases, meanwhile, now totals 469. A probable case is defined as one where a patient has coronavirus symptoms and has been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, but has not been tested for the illness.

Of the 2,686 patients with confirmed or probable cases, 2,065 have recovered since March, according to the Department of Health. Of those recoveries, 1,703 have been in patients with confirmed cases and the remaining 362 have been seen in patients with probable cases.

A recovery is defined as when a patient goes for three days without a temperature and has seen improvement in respiratory problems.

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Burger King Removes Ad After Wyoming, National Protests

in Agriculture/News

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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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