Ranching

Luke Runyon / KUNC

Climate change has been called the new normal. But residents in some parts of the Southwest say after living through the last two years, there’s nothing normal about it. 

Communities in the Four Corners -- where the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet -- have been bouncing between desperately dry and record-breaking moisture since the winter of 2017, forcing people dependent on the reliability and predictability of water to adapt.

Cattle ranchers got a break this week. Their grazing fees on public lands just dropped to the lowest amount allowed under federal law. The average savings per rancher will be just $32 a year, but the decision is still controversial.


Esther Honig / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Parts of Colorado are experiencing the worst drought conditions in more than a decade.

The severity of the drought varies across the state, from few if any impacts in the state’s northeastern corner to severe and record-breaking conditions in the southern half of the state.

A house subcommittee is focusing on grazing on public lands on Thursday. Republican leaders want to discuss what they call the regulatory burdens on the industry.


The House did not pass its version of a farm bill last month, but the Senate may have a better shot this week when they consider the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

It has been a rough few months for the world’s largest meat company.

Known for its rapid expansion across the globe, Brazil-based meatpacking giant JBS has been embroiled in scandal for much of 2017. The company is so large it is difficult to avoid for those who eat meat. As of 2014, JBS’s U.S. subsidiary held a 22 percent market-share in U.S. beef processing and an 18 percent market-share in poultry processing.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Controversial federal rules that would change the production of organic meat may not be finalized before President Barack Obama leaves office, leaving open the possibility that they may never go into effect.

The proposed rules -- currently awaiting White House review -- would create new standards and clarify other regulations regarding how livestock are treated on certified organic farms.

In an effort to tighten animal welfare guidelines for organic producers, these rules mostly focus on livestock and poultry living conditions, veterinary health care practices on farms, and handling, transport and slaughter of livestock.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

A guy who covers agriculture in the West who’s never put a skinned, sliced, battered, deep-fried bull testicle into a cup of cocktail sauce and then into his mouth?

I couldn’t let it stand.

They’re known by many names: lamb fries, bull fries, Montana tenders, huevos de toro, cowboy caviar. In my corner of Colorado, they’re Rocky Mountain oysters and I somehow coaxed myself into thinking I needed to try them to be more a part of the place I live, to be a true blue Coloradan.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Massive bison herds used to be a staple of the Great Plains. That is until we almost hunted them out of existence.

Now, with a new designation as the United States’ national mammal, bison ranchers argue that to conserve the species we have to eat them.

It’s an idea called “market-based conservation,” and it contends that humans are no good at saving species out of the goodness of our hearts, or motivated by some driving force of environmental justice. Instead, we create demand for an animal and then work hard to keep its population robust so we can gawk at it through binoculars, take pictures of it, or in the case of the American bison, eat it.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Charles Bassett wants you to buy hamburgers made from his Missouri cows. That’s why the Missouri rancher wants to pay an extra dollar into an industry-created fund every time he sells one of his cattle.

The fund is called a checkoff program – an industry-administered pool of money that is collected from producers for promotion, research and marketing of a particular commodity, which functions similar to a tax. If enacted by a referendum of beef producers in the state, the money would be spent by a designated group (likely the Missouri Beef Council) on promoting Missouri beef.

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