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An explosion of beef news

Jun 30, 2017

Big industry moves came rapid-fire last week just in time for the Fourth of July.

First off, Beef Products Incorporated (BPI) settled their defamation suit against American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) over the lean finely textured beef that BPI produces. The network got a hold of the story in 2012—dubbing the meat “pink slime”—and wouldn’t leave alone. ABC carried on with the story for a month. Prosecutors were first up and had their turn explaining the damages to the defendants. BPI was seeking $1.9 billion in damages but under South Dakota law the claim could have been tripled to $5.7 billion. The disparaging comments from ABC caused BPI to close three of their four processing plants at the time, causing significant financial damage.

After 17 days of testimony, Circuit Court Judge Cheryle Gering entered the courtroom and announced that the case has been settled. BPI Attorney Dan Webb said, “We are pleased with this settlement and I believe we have totally vindicated the product.” Eldon Roth, owner of BPI, said, “While this was not an easy road to travel, it was necessary to begin rectifying the harm we suffered because of what we believed to be biased and baseless reporting in 2012. Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: It is beef, and it’s safe, wholesome and nutritious.” Roth added, “This agreement provides us with a strong foundation on which to grow the business, while allowing us to remain focused on achieving the vision of the Roth and BPI family.”

ABC responded by saying that the amicable resolution of the suit was in the network’s best interests.

Details of the settlement have not been revealed and probably won’t be. But apparently ABC came to the table quickly to get this episode behind them. It took five years for BPI to find justice in their case.

Also, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that they would delist the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear from the endangered species list. The bear’s population has reached about 700 animals and now states will step in to manage the beasts.

The Center for Biological Diversity said, “This deeply misguided decision just isn’t supported by the science, so the Trump administration may be leaving itself vulnerable to a strong legal challenge. The evidence clearly shows we need to protect Yellowstone grizzlies, not turn them into targets for trophy hunters.”

As you can imagine, the environmental community cried foul, claiming that delisting would seal the fate of the bears. There is an effort to transplant grizzly bears in the northern Cascade Mountains, which ranchers aren’t too fond of. Last month on our Wyoming Ranch Tour the Hoodoo Ranch reported 22 confirmed wolf and bear kills on their property, and those were the ones they could find evidence of.

The Trump administration has been very busy— not just with the bears—but they announced last week that they were going to back down on the Waters of the U.S. rule. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been trying to cram this new rule down ranchers’ and farmers’ throats for two years. The rule has been held up in courts in 32 states ever since. Passage of this regulation would have placed nearly every body of water under a broader scope of the Clean Water Act. This is a big win for agriculture. WOTUS would have severely limited land use and private property rights.

Then there was more fallout from Brazil. The Food Safety Inspection Service announced that they would not be accepting any more shipments of fresh beef from Brazil. Apparently, 11 percent of the beef sampled tested positive for pathogens. So, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue decided to shut them down. Brazil has had a lot of damage done to their reputation of being a world class beef exporting country. But all this news should be good for U.S. beef producers on the export markets. Brazil has been shipping fresh chilled beef to the U.S. for about six months. USDA said the issues apparently evolved around hoof-and-mouth disease.

It’s been fascinating watching the Trump administration pull back on the former administration’s actions, reducing regulation and finally putting a lid on the EPA, and using some common sense. This has been great for agriculture. — PETE CROW

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