Big Sky Connection


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Eric Tegethoff

August 30, 2018

BILLINGS, Montana - Ranchers and cattle producers are throwing their weight behind a U.S. Senate bill that would temporarily stop mega-mergers in the agriculture sector. 

The bill, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, would put a moratorium on farm and food business mergers until the U.S. Department of Justice more actively enforces anti-trust laws. 

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, which represents independent cattle producers and is headquartered in Billings, says a small number of meatpackers have so much control over the market that they are exploiting both producers and consumers.

"They're paying producers for less than what the competitive market would dictate and charging consumers whatever the market will bear," he points out. "We need to restore competition, and this bill is absolutely essential."

Four meatpackers control 85 percent of the beef market, 74 percent of pork and 54 percent of poultry, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Bullard says as meatpackers have consolidated, they've moved their operations to the Southwest, hurting cattle producers in Montana.

For the first time in decades, the Justice Department halted a merger in 2008 in the meatpacking industry, but hasn't stopped any mergers since. 

Bullard says two of the four meatpackers that control the vast majority of the market are Brazilian companies. He says these companies have been known to cut corners on food safety.

"This is just another example of how dominant meatpackers, when given the tremendous market control that they now possess, can use that control to maximize their profits, but on the backs of independent cattle producers and consumers," he states.

The Senate bill also would create the Food and Agriculture Concentration and Market Power Review Commission to review mergers and acquisitions.




Friday, August 31, 2018 - A California man arrested for making threats against the Boston Globe. Also on the Friday rundown: Gun-control advocates

push for stronger reforms in Florida; the passing of Sen. John McCain calls attention to cell phone radiation, and Minnesota fairgoers pony up for a bite

of the “First Kiss” apple.



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Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - Florida backs Trump in the GOP primary race for governor, and a big surprise on the Democratic side. Also on the

Wednesday rundown: Student homelessness skyrockets in Idaho; and an Illinois community searches for answers following a cancer-risk report.

Big Sky Connection


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Eric Tegethoff

August 29, 2018

MISSOULA, Montana - Conservation and tribal groups are challenging removal of endangered-species protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears in court just days before hunting of the bears is set to begin in Idaho and Wyoming.

Six cases alleging that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly removed safeguards for grizzlies have been consolidated into one case that will be heard Thursday in a federal court in Missoula.

Idaho and Wyoming hunting seasons begin Saturday, potentially targeting up to 23 Yellowstone bears for the first time in more than four decades.

Tim Preso, a managing attorney at the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice, who is representing conservation groups on Thursday, said the species already faces mounting pressures.

"We don't believe that now is the time to add new trophy-hunting mortality to what has already been record-setting mortality due to bears conflicting with ranchers and elk hunters," he said. "That's not what we need is more dead bears, and so that's a great concern for us."

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen said he could make a ruling after questioning on Thursday. Wildlife agencies in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and hunting groups support delisting, saying grizzlies have been successfully managed back from the brink of extinction. There are about 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Conservation groups will argue that the bears' natural food sources are shrinking, in part because of climate change, leading to more conflicts with humans. They'll also point to mistakes found in delisting wolves in the western Great Lakes region.

If we can't properly and legally protect one of the country's most iconic animals, Preso said, other species might be in greater danger.

"That sends a pretty clear warning sign for all those other wildlife species that are less well-known and less highly regarded by the public but nevertheless very important in terms of their role in the environment," Preso said. "So it's important that we get it right with respect to Yellowstone bears, and that's one of the reasons we're bringing this case to court."

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks opted not to approve a grizzly hunting season this year.



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Tuesday, August 28, 2018 - Trump finally speaks about the loss of Senator John McCain. Also on the Monday rundown: federal court appointees

affecting workers' rights; a coal ash ruling called a victory over toxic pollution; and in South Dakota the TIPS program, aimed at poachers and not hunters.