Wednesday, March 04, 2015

New footage of shooting released as BLM faces lawsuit

Newly released Nevada state trooper dash cam and motorist videos of the moments before the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man by U.S. Bureau of Land Management officers will be helpful in a federal wrongful death lawsuit related to the slaying, an attorney representing the dead man's family said Tuesday. Testimony also revealed during a public airing of evidence Monday that D'Andre Berghardt Jr. twice shrugged off stun gun darts and was hit in the head with a baton before he was shot and killed when he got into the trooper's cruiser on a state highway near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. "We're going to obtain accountability for the Berghardt family. I'm confident of that," said attorney Jacob Hafter, who represents Berghardt's mother, Tracy Meadows. Hafter alleges the federal officers were undertrained, overzealous and enraged that Berghardt didn't follow their instructions. The federal lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages for Meadows and a declaration that the Bureau of Land Management rangers used excessive force and violated Berghardt's civil rights. Thirteen shots were fired, and Berghardt was struck seven times, according to testimony. Bullets broke his ribs, pelvis and an arm. The Clark County coroner ruled the shooting a homicide, although the finding does not establish fault...more

Proposed state control of federal public lands divides Nevada interests

A Senate resolution that asks Congress to convey more than 7 million acres of federal land to state control generated a large volume of testimony on both sides of the issue at a Monday hearing, but the issue appeared to be as polarizing as ever. Ranchers, farmers and some rural Nevadans supported Senate Joint Resolution 1, while conservation and wildlife groups argued against any such land transfer. SJR1 was requested by several Republican lawmakers as a follow up to a 2014 study on the viability of the state taking over some of the millions of acres of land in Nevada that is now under federal control. About 81 percent of Nevada is under the control of various federal agencies, with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management overseeing the largest share. The Nevada Land Management Task Force in 2014 issued a report arguing that the state would benefit from such a transfer, although opponents of the idea disputed the findings and said Nevada could not afford to manage additional lands transferred from the federal government. A transfer of 4 million acres of U.S. Bureau Land Management land could bring in anywhere from $31 million to $114 million a year, based on a review of four Western states that have significant amounts of trust lands under their control, the report said. The revenues would come from the sale and lease of the resources on the lands, including through mining and grazing rights. The study was prepared by Intertech Services Corp. and was paid for by the Nevada Association of Counties. The task force recommended a phased-in transfer of public lands, starting with lands in the original railroad corridor across Northern Nevada and lands already identified for disposal by federal agencies, among other priorities that would total 7.3 million acres or about 10 percent of the public lands total in a first phase. Wilderness, national conservation areas and several other types of lands would not be included in any such transfer...more

Divisive federal land grab legislation gets its first hearing

A retread of the Sagebrush Rebellion is ramping up in the Legislature thanks to a GOP-backed measure calling upon the federal government to transfer 7.2 million acres for the state to manage. The effort, backed by 10 Republicans, repeats a decades-old rallying cry in the West that puts lawmakers and constituents at ideological odds about Nevada’s ability to manage more property without costing taxpayers money. Senators in a legislative operations committee met Monday for more than two hours to hear public testimony on the proposed resolution, SJR1. Dozens of supporters and opponents filled committee rooms in Carson City, Elko and Las Vegas to provide input on the bill, diving into a topic that involves some of the most complicated and emotionally charged land issues in the West. Nevada has been in this position before. It considered a similar proposal in 2001 and was a state at the forefront of a public lands debate known as the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s. Nevada’s efforts dovetail with similar efforts currently in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and New Mexico...more

Gov. Herbert says Utah committed to protecting public lands

Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday that the state is committed to protecting Utah’s pristine public lands, while also allowing access to ranchers and farmers and for energy development. During the opening of the state’s second annual Outdoor Recreation Summit in Salt Lake City, the Republican governor told more than 500 attendees that embracing the burgeoning outdoor industry is a key part of his plan to grow the state’s economy. The event is part of an ongoing effort by Herbert and state officials to show the lucrative industry that Utah is an ally that shares many of the same visions. “Our goal is to make sure we have that appropriate balance that allows us to protect those iconic vistas and venues that we have in the state (and) let our ranchers and farmers have access,” Herbert said. His comments came a day after several hundred people rallied at the state Capitol against Utah’s push to take control of 31 million acres of federally owned land in the state. Holding signs that read, “Protect Wild Utah” and “No Utah land grab” the people called on Herbert to retreat from the effort, saying transferring nearly 31 million acres of public land in Utah would limit access for hunters and outdoor-recreation enthusiasts and harm wildlife by splintering habitat. Herbert told The Associated Press after his speech that there are misunderstandings about the state’s push to take control of federal lands. He said the 2012 law he signed that demands that the federal government hand over the lands was fueled by the belief that locals know how to run the lands better than federal officials thousands of miles away. “We hear the argument that they are going to try and grab the lands and sell them off. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Herbert said. “We think we should have more to say about what’s taking place. . . It’s not just for outdoor recreation only. There is also industry and natural resource development and energy. All those things need to meet together in responsible ways.”...more

BLM fixes fences to help pronghorn migrations

Abel Guevara, a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Glasgow, has watched pronghorn running at top speed slide under a fence and pop up on the other side. It's something to see, he said. "They don't really stop," Guevara said. "It's like a baseball slide." In February, BLM's Glasgow Field Office modified several miles of fence on both sides of U.S. Highway 2 west of Glasgow to give pronghorn a better chance of a safe slide. "It's a good project," Guevara said. Pronghorn antelope usually crawl under fences, rather than jumping over them, he said. But some types of fences can prevent them from crossing underneath, and barbed wire can grab their backs when they do, he added. The low, barbed wire scrapes the fur off of the backs of pronghorn, making them susceptible to frostbite and infection, Guevara said. Pronghorn sometimes run back-and-forth for days along fences they can't pass, or get hung up trying to get through, he said. "It's just a horrible way for an animal to go," Guevara said. The BLM's recent work modifying the fencing is part of a bigger effort by government land and wildlife management agencies and private groups in northeastern Montana to remove obstacles in east-west running fences that hinder seasonal north-south movements of pronghorn. "We're looking at it on a landscape level," Guevara said. "It's not just a one-time fix." Over two weeks last month, BLM wildland firefighters Jason Snellman and Rich Hayner replaced the bottom barbed wire with smooth wire, and raised the fence bottom 16 inches off the ground, on five-and-a-half miles of fencing...more

I'll bet the coyotes will like it too. And here we go with that landscape thing again. As a reminder, you might want review what I've previously written on landscape planning.

White House issues more veto threats

The White House put out veto threats Tuesday against a pair of Republican House bills on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) use of scientific research. One bill aims to stop the EPA from using "secret science" to back up its regulations, while the other would put new requirements on the EPA's scientific advisory panel of experts.  But the White House complained that the legislation would handicap the agency's attempts to write necessary regulations...more

300 cows from mad cow investigation already slaughtered

More than 300 of 750 head of cattle identified as being part of the investigation into the latest case of mad cow disease have been slaughtered, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). That is to be expected, said the head of Alberta Beef Producers, and shouldn’t be cause for alarm. “The fact a number of these animals have already been processed isn’t a food safety issue,” said Rich Smith, executive director of Alberta Beef Producers. “Aside from our work on BSE surveillance, the steps we take to protect the food chain are always there.” The latest BSE case was found last month on a northern Alberta ranch and is the first reported in Canada since 2011. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has reported the cow was born on the same farm as a previously diagnosed case found in 2010. CFIA has also reported the BSE case came from a cow born after imposition of an enhanced feed ban in 2007. Smith said the steps taken by the federal government have mitigated the risk to the public, including the mandatory removal of specified risk materials — tissues affected by BSE infection — from cattle since 2007. “None of that ever gets into actual food, feed, pet food or fertilizer,” said Smith...more

Lincoln County pursues better communication on land use issues

Lincoln County pledged $2,500 as its share of a match for a grant to cover the cost of establishing a committee to coordinate land development issues among three military installations, six counties and three cities. But Commissioner Tom Stewart said he'd like to see some of the benefits to Lincoln County better defined. In July 2012, the counties of Doña Ana, Otero, Lincoln, Sierra, Socorro and El Paso, and the cities of Alamogordo, Las Cruces and El Paso agreed to participate in the Southern New Mexico/El Paso Joint Land Use Study, County Manager Nita Taylor reminded commissioners at their February meeting. Their partners are the New Mexico State Land Office, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. The entities entered into a Memorandum of Agreement for the purpose of organizing a regional planning organization and conducting a joint land use study. Lincoln County's fee for that phase of the work was $5,000. "The purpose of the (study was) to develop and to further strengthen clear and consistent channels of communication across all stakeholders groups in the region, and also to promote interjurisdictional and interagency cooperation on critical planning issues related to military-community compatibility," according to the memorandum of agreement. With the completion of the study and issuance of a final report, an implementation committee must be established, Taylor said. County Planning Director Curt Temple, who represents the county in the study group, said a $500,000 federal grant will cover the operational budget and each party is being asked to pay an amount that will bring in $50,000 for a 10 percent match. Lincoln County's share is $2,500, he said. "The basic study has been completed by the contractor on the original $1 million grant given by the feds with Doña Ana County as the fiscal agent," Temple told commissioners...more

Dunn announces 20% increase in grazing fees

 Today, Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn announced the 2015 grazing fees on state trust lands would be set at $4.80 per animal unit month (AUM) , to take effect Oct. 1, 2015 . The 2014 fee was $3.99. Grazing fees on state trust lands are set by the Commissioner, using a formula determined by New Mexico State University, after considering market conditions. This year, NMSU determined the fee per AUM would be increased by 20.25 percent. Federal grazing fees also increased this year by 25.18 percent per AUM on public lands. The increase will raise the total income to state land trust beneficiaries to $8.08 million. Tota l lands included in the agricultural leasing program are 8,746,502 million acres...more

Hemp legislation moves forward with relative ease

Janet Jarrett’s family has a history with hemp. In his younger days, her father raised the plant and used its fiber for rope on the farm. Now 94, his daughter says he still doesn’t forgive the government for making growing hemp illegal. “He can’t get good hemp ropes anymore. He always liked to rope with them better, and the plastic ones are too stiff,” says Jarrett, a dairy farmer in Valencia County. New Mexico might be changing that law soon, as least incrementally. So far, the hemp issue seems to be cruising through the legislative session. “What’s old is new again,” Jarrett says. “I think there’s a real opportunity to maybe reestablish some of the things in a less hysterical way.” A bill that would allow the state to grow hemp for research purposes recently jumped through three Senate committees with little opposition before passing the upper chamber by a 33-8 vote. Janet Jarrett Though similar bills have failed the legislature in over the past 15 years, this time lawmakers have something they’ve never had before—cover from the feds. “There seems to be a whole change in the attitude and people are embracing it,” says Jaime Chavez, a field organizer for the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association. Like its psychoactive counterpart, marijuana, hemp is a distinct species of cannabis. It can be used to create products as diverse as paper, oil and biofuels...more 

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1387

Here's Ernest Tubb with his 1949 recording of Till The End Of The World

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

American Paydirt - Underdogs win at America's richest rodeo

In its second year, The American proved that it continues to be a star-studded rodeo of opportunity for those not ranked among the sport’s elite. Taylor Price and Reese Riemer split the $1 million bonus for contestants who qualified for The American and won one of its seven events. The RFD-TV event, presented by Polaris Ranger, was held March 1 in Arlington, Texas. Neither Price, who won the bareback riding, nor Riemer, who captured the tie-down roping title, were ranked nationally in the top 10 of their respective event. So rather than receiving an invitation to The American, they each paid a $500 entry fee to compete and qualify via the American Semi-Finals. After winning their event and also earning their piece of the $1 million underdog pool, each took home $600,000. Price, of Huntsville, Texas, won the bareback short go with a score of 89 points. “I’m still just blown away,” Price told reporters. “This is the coolest rodeo I’ve ever been to! I was too broke, so my parents had to pay my entry fees to the Semi-Finals. This takes away a lot of the financial troubles I’ve had.” Riemer, of Stinnett, Texas, won the tie-down roping after recording a time of 7.59 seconds. K.C. Jones of Decatur, Texas, won the steer wrestling with a time of 4.19 seconds. Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs, South Dakota, completed her pattern in 14.726 seconds and captured the barrel racing title, as she did last year. Kaleb Driggers of Albany, Georgia, and Travis Graves of Jay, Oklahoma, also successfully defended their title, marking the fastest team roping time (4.52 seconds). Yet another repeat champion, Wade Sundell of Coleman, Oklahoma, topped the saddle bronc riding with a 90.75-point ride. Finally, Silvano Alves of Pilar Do Sul, Brazil, won the bull riding with a score of 88.25.  Western Horseman

NM - Move to ban horse slaughter doesn’t make it

The latest attempt to ban horse slaughter in New Mexico effectively died in the Legislature on Monday. The House Committee on Agriculture, Water and Wildlife tabled three bills sponsored by Gail Chasey, D-Bernalillo, that would have prohibited the slaughter of horses for human consumption, granted horses protection under the state’s cruelty-to-animals law and required the Livestock Board to monitor horse exports at the Mexican border. Although no horse meat processing plant exists in New Mexico, litigation by the state Attorney General’s Office continues over a plant that had been proposed by Valley Meat Co. in Roswell. Last year, Valley Meat backed off its plan to process horse meat at a retrofitted cow processing plant and transferred the Roswell plant’s ownership to D’Allende Meats of Texas. The plant is now up for sale, according to attorney Blair Dunn. New Mexico shipped more than 19,000 horses to a border crossing with Mexico in 2013, up from about 8,500 horses five years prior, according to the latest statistics available from the Livestock Board. The state does not track exported horses’ final destination...more

New Natural Resources chairman vows to find solutions to longtime disputes

WASHINGTON - For decades, county commissioners and conservationists in Utah have been battling over land in the eastern part of the state, squaring off over potential protections, oil drilling and potash mining in the territory. It's almost been a "100 years war," observed Mike Matz, director of public lands for Pew Charitable Trusts. Enter Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, a seven-term lawmaker who nearly three years ago set out to bring the warring interests together and hammer out a massive land management deal. Through hundreds of meetings with thousands of stakeholders, Bishop has steered the group closer to a plan for divvying up millions of acres - with some land poised to garner new wilderness protections and other tracts set to be earmarked for energy development. Bishop has urged county commissioners to view potential wilderness designations as a kind of "currency" with value that can be traded for "some specific, tangible benefit," such as special zones for oil drilling and rights of way for roads. Depending on who you ask, it's either a cynical approach to conservation or a pragmatic strategy for dealing with a complex, controversial issue. It's one indication of how Bishop may approach his new congressional role as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Bishop sees the chairmanship as a chance to shake up the way the United States manages federal and Indian lands, from protecting treasured areas to permitting drilling in others. "We haven't had a change in the way people look at the stewardship of the federal government and land in 50 or 60 years," Bishop said. "We are timed for a paradigm shift, and I want to be part of that." For Bishop, who convenes his first panel hearing Thursday with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, that means giving local, state and tribal governments greater control of federal lands. It also means undoing legal constraints, including litigation under the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act...more

Relations fraying, GOP to grill Jewell on $13.2B budget

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell heads back to Capitol Hill this week for two more rounds of GOP grilling on her agency's $13.2 billion fiscal 2016 funding request. There will be new Republican faces but similar attacks on the Obama administration's proposed spending hikes and its energy and natural resources policy. Jewell will appear Wednesday before the Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which is led by one of her top critics, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). On Thursday, she will testify before the House Natural Resources Committee, which is led by new Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah). Neither forum will be particularly inviting. Jewell's $13.2 billion requested budget -- an 8 percent hike above current funding levels -- also contains a wish list of longtime administration proposals to increase inspection fees on oil and gas drillers, encourage more diligent development, reform federal royalties, and hike grazing fees. Those proposals stand little chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress, considering that they also failed to pass when the Senate was in Democratic hands. Jewell's budget also leans heavily into conservation and recreation. It offers $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), three times the current funding level, and would provide $3 billion for the National Park Service, a $433 million increase over current levels and enough to hire 471 additional full-time employees as the agency approaches its 2016 centennial...more

National monuments in California: Lawmakers, advocates really want designations

California lawmakers and advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to win national monument designation for four scenic vistas in the state, from vast stretches of the Mojave Desert to redwood stands along the Pacific Coast Highway to canyons and mountains near the state’s famous wine country. The designation typically takes lands already owned by the government and walls them off from new mining, roads and power lines. Recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking and horseback riding are commonly allowed, though each national monument has its own dos and don’ts. Supporters of the proposed monuments in California are pursuing two paths. The first is through legislation. Many Republicans are wary, though. So, supporters are also placing greater emphasis on Plan B: Executive action from President Barack Obama. The narrowing window for that option is adding urgency to their efforts...more

How ESA advertising requirement snagged fish delisting

Farmers and ranchers campaigned for years to persuade the Fish and Wildlife Service to drop endangered species protection for a tiny fish found in the streams of northeastern California and southern Oregon. In 2014, they almost succeeded. The service was set to delist the Modoc sucker last February but neglected to publish a newspaper notice mandated by the Endangered Species Act. That meant another year of federal protection for the 6-inch fish -- which has been on the endangered species list since 1985 -- and another year of frustration for agribusiness interests in the Pacific Northwest. Critics of the 1973 Endangered Species Act say its newspaper ad requirement is antiquated and a prime example of why Congress should overhaul the Nixon-era law. At the time of the law's enactment, "an appropriate means of public communication certainly could have been publication of a local classified ad, but it is 2015," said Ryan Yates, chairman of the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, an alliance of industry groups. "This is one more example of how the ESA is an outdated law that needs to be updated and modernized," he added. Last reauthorized by Congress in 1988, the ESA specifically orders federal agencies to publish a summary of regulatory changes "in a newspaper of general circulation in each area of the United States in which the species is believed to occur." Fish and Wildlife belatedly satisfied that obligation for the Modoc sucker last month by running a 4-inch notice on Page D5 of the Sunday, Feb. 15, Klamath Falls Herald and News, just above some real estate listings and next to an ad for "50% OFF Mondays!" at Chrome Wrench Auto Works. The Modoc sucker notice cost $132.81, a tiny fraction of the $159,662 that Fish and Wildlife spent on required newspaper ads in 2014...more

Rally at Capitol blasts Utah’s ‘land-grab casino’

Transferring public lands to Utah is a "disastrous, frivolous policy" that is more likely to bankrupt the state, wreck a robust outdoor economy and industrialize scenic landscapes than solve the state's endless fights over land management, a diverse parade of speakers proclaimed Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda. Such a move, codified by a Utah law enacted three years ago, is really a reckless gamble that is diverting resources to "the land-grab casino" and ruining real chances for land-management reform, according to speakers who included educators, environmentalists, sportsmen and makers of outdoor gear. "Governor, we call on you to distance yourself from the few legislators who cooked up this mess. Collaboration is the best way to solve our problems," said Dan McCool, a University of Utah political science professor who acted as MC for the rally. "This effort is unconstitutional, yet the state insists on pressing forward in this fruitless war on our public lands." In the audience was one of Utah's key advocates for land transfer, Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab, who took the mic after the last speaker. Under a hail of boos, he argued access and stewardship would improve under state control. After the sound was cut off, the Republican went nose-to-nose with transfer critics, some holding signs with slogans like "Stop the Klepto Terra Ists."...more

House panel rejects federal lands transfer study bill

A House committee has rejected a proposal to create a commission to study whether federal lands should be transferred to the state. The House Judiciary Committee today tabled House Bill 291 on a bipartisan, 8-4 vote. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, sponsored the legislation, which drew opposition from a range of public lands users and conservation groups. “We should be in control of our own lands … managing them on more of a local level,” Herrell said. She disputed the argument of opponents that transferring land to the state would lead to its being sold to private interests. But critics of the bill said the transfer of federal lands was unworkable and unconstitutional. Victor Reyes of Conservation Voters New Mexico said it would be “wasting our state agencies’ scarce time and resources” to study land transfers.  AP

McDonald’s sustainable beef pilot moves into high gear

McDonald’s has put its foot on the gas, and is revving up its verified sustainable beef pilot. The largest buyer of Canadian beef has developed a set of 40 ‘indicators’ to assess sustainability; created a scoring system to grade ranches, feedlots and others in the beef value chain; and chosen an American verification company to oversee the process. But producers shouldn’t be worried by these moves, McDonald’s sustainability manager for Canada said at the recent Alberta Beef Industry Conference. “This is not a certification regime — this is a verification opportunity,” said Jeffrey Fitzpatrick-Stilwell. “It’s about information sharing, not policing. It’s about producers demonstrating how they meet the criteria. It’s not an audit and it’s not pass/fail.” Since picking Canada for its global sustainable beef pilot last year, the fast-food giant has given few details on how that will work — even though it has promised to start using sustainable beef in 2016. But in consultation with an advisory board from across the Canadian beef sector, the company has developed ways — dubbed ‘indicators’ — to score practices on animal care, environmental stewardship, and food safety. Not every indicator is applicable to all segments of the value chain, but each one comes with a scoring system ranging from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). Each aligns with principles set out by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef...more

DHS Installs Seven Camera Towers on Border in Fourth Virtual Fence Attempt

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is installing seven towers equipped with sophisticated cameras in southern Arizona as part of its Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) program. These towers are going up in Santa Cruz County, specifically near the cities of Nogales and Rio Rico, as part of a test run. But this is the fourth attempt by DHS to set up such a system, and the last one got cancelled after five years and one billion dollars spent. Customs and Border Protection Operations Officer John Lawson told KVOA News in Tucson, “Previously officers had to use cameras to pan around to look for things, but with this new radar system, it will tell them right away where there is action.” Some towers are currently being tested, while others towers are in various stages of construction. All are expected to be operational by August. That timeline is dubious, based on DHS’ history. The IFT contract award was pushed back by several months many times, and what was known as the virtual border fence project under the Secure Border Initiative was pushed back by several years, only to ultimately be scrapped. The virtual border fence was preceded by two other projects that attempted to interconnect underground sensors and above ground cameras and radar with very little success. Many local ranchers and residents in southern Arizona are happy to see the towers go up because there is so much illegal immigrant and drug smuggler traffic near—and sometimes on—their property...more

Air Show Pilot Spencer Suderman Will Attempt to Set New Guinness World Record®

Air show pilot Spencer Suderman, the current GUINNESS WORLD RECORD holder for "Most Inverted Flat Spins in an aircraft" will attempt to break his own record of 81 rotations set in 2014 with an even more impressive spin of over 100 rotations.  The current record can be viewed here:

The attempt will occur on April 12th, 2015 at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma in Arizona.  This flight will occur over the USMC Barry M. Goldwater Range, West Segment where the restricted airspace has been reserved to an altitude of 50,000 feet for this world record breaking effort.

The aircraft to be used for this attempt is an experimental variant of the legendary Pitts Special aerobatic biplane.  The plane, designated the Sunbird S-1x, was originally built and flown by noted aerobatic competitor and air show pilot Dick Green and is the only one of its kind featuring an oversized engine and propeller...more

Dick Green, now deceased, was my brother-in-law and it was through his kindness and generosity that I was able to purchase my handicapped van sooner rather than later.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Former Ag Secretaries Urge Congress to Pass Trade Promotion Authority

A bipartisan group of former U.S. Agriculture Secretaries, representing all past Administrations from those of President Jimmy Carter to President George W. Bush, issued the following open letter urging Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority. The former secretaries note that boosting trade and exports is highly beneficial to America's agriculture economy and that Trade Promotion Authority--which has been given to all previous presidents since Gerald Ford (with similar authority granted to all presidents since Franklin Delano Roosevelt)--is critical for successfully negotiating new trade partnerships that boost exports and create jobs. Congress could begin consideration of legislation to grant President Obama Trade Promotion Authority as early as next week. The letter from the former secretaries follows...more

Government says America's beef cow inventory up 2 percent from 2014

U.S. beef cow inventory increased 2 percent from a year ago, signaling expansion among herds across the nation, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service cattle report. "I thought the report showed more beef cows added than I expected," said David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock specialist in College Station. "But record prices in the last half of 2014 will do that." Anderson said prior to the report, industry experts had the mindset the current rebuilding phase will be longer and slower. "It might have to be re-thought," he said. Seven percent more beef cows were reported in Texas on Jan. 1 compared to the same time last year. When the final numbers come in, Anderson said it potentially could be the largest year-to-year percentage increase in Texas beef cows since 1972-1973, when the cowherd grew 14 percent...more

A 'run through the mustard'

RUN THROUGH THE MUSTARD. In late spring, wild mustard grew on thick stalks, the tallest up to six feet. And the mustard grew in such abundance throughout Southern California that, even when the yellow bloom was gone, the dry stalks could conceal cattle. Ranchers would arrange a “run through the mustard” – a two or three day search to track down strays. C. H. Brinley, manager of Rancho Los Alamitos, wrote of inviting other rancheros to participate: “The Temples,, Manuel Dominguez, and the Coyotes will be there sure, and most likely a sufficient number of people will be brought together to effect some good.”  San Diego Reader

Victoria blacksmith's handiwork gets some TLC

Victorians heard the ring of Joe Bianchi's anvil on South William Street for almost six decades. In the 58 years he was in business, Bianchi dominated the spur business in the coastal cow country of South Texas. The shank on his spurs, often called the bottle opener or Victoria style, was his distinguishable mark. Passers-by are hearing a new sound on his old block. Instead of the ping of metal on metal, it's hammers and carpenters working on a major restoration project to bring the 109-year-old home back to life. David and Tammy Murphy, the current property owners, received a historic preservation grant through Victoria Preservation Inc. and the Victoria City Council to save the hand-forged iron fence Bianchi built around his home at 405 S. William St. Since the restoration began, the Murphys have taken a keen interest in researching the original owner and paying their respects to the contributions they made to Victoria. They've uncovered "treasures," spurs and bits, saving them in pill bottles for safe keeping. Bianchi added a brass tag in the fence's concrete post, dated July 4, 1935. His brand, +A, lives on at the curb on the southeast corner of the lot. "The history of this house holds the history of Victoria," David Murphy said. While Bianchi built the fence and others like it, he was most well-known for his hand-forged tools for Texas cowboys. He went by Joe, but his birth name was Giuseppe. He was born as the fifth of eight children in 1871 in the northern Italian city of Origgio, according to family history books. In 1885, when he was 14, he joined his family aboard a ship headed for Victoria. He later moved to Oklahoma to try to make a name for himself, but eventually came back to Texas. In 1901, he and his older brother Paul opened Bianchi Brothers Blacksmith Shop in Victoria. They manufactured hand-forged spurs and bridal bits, plain and silver mounted. The Bianchi brothers' blacksmithing firm was one of the most established and successful in town, according to Victoria Advocate archives. Bianchi purchased the lot at the corner of South William and Convent streets June 9, 1904, to build his home. He was single at the time, but less than a year later married. By 1907, he and Paul dissolved the business and he opened his own shop next door to the house on South William Street. He advertised "horse-shoeing on short notice" and was known for his craftsmanship and high quality work, according to family history books. People could tell the owner of a ranch from one of his cowboys by looking at the spurs. All the prominent ranchers in the area wore Bianchi spurs...more

Song Of The Day #001

We'll feature some videos made by other folks from time to time.  Its Swingin' Monday so here's Kristyn Harris with Yodel Western Swing, from her CD Let Me Ride.