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Two Idaho cattle operations, sued by FDA, agree to stop selling overly-drugged cows

Two cattle operations and dairies in southwestern Idaho have agreed to stop over-drugging cows - at such high levels that the medications could pass to human consumers - in response to a lawsuit from the federal government, the AP reports. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sued T & T Cattle and T & T Cattle Pearl, both dairy farms and livestock dealers in Parma, along with owner Gregory T. Troost and manager Mark A. Mourton earlier this month in Boise's U.S. District Court; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

The FDA contended that animals at the farms were given medications in such high doses that once they were sold for human consumption their meat contained illegally high drug residue levels that could be dangerous for some consumers.

Under the agreement filed in federal court Wednesday, the farm operators said they would keep better treatment records, refrain from selling animals that have illegally high drug residue in their tissues for human consumption, and stop using animal medications in unapproved ways. “We're working wholeheartedly with the FDA and trying to get this whole matter resolved,” said Troost on Thursday. “Our action plan is in place and I think it's working very well so far.”

Court upholds Montana allowing bison to roam free outside Yellowstone

WILDLIFE — Montana's decision to let migrating bison roam freely across 70,000 acres outside Yellowstone National Park was upheld by a court ruling Monday that dismissed a pair of lawsuits filed by ranchers to challenge the policy.

The judge sided with state officials and conservation groups that have sought to ease restrictions on bison movements.

Thousands of bison flood out of Yellowstone during severe winters. In the past, the animals were subject to mass slaughters over fears they could spread the disease brucellosis to livestock.

The slaughters were blocked by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer. But when hundreds of bison were allowed to return to the Gardiner Basin, local officials said they posed a threat to safety and destroyed private property.

In his ruling, Phillips acknowledged the plaintiffs' struggles with bison, but said those were an unavoidable consequence of living in Montana with its abundant wildlife.

The water wars: Franklin County farmers sue over large feedlot’s water demand…

Local farmers today filed a lawsuit against a large-scale feedlot in Franklin County, saying that the cattle operation could use hundreds of thousands of gallons of groundwater a day in one of the driest areas of the state.

The case could mushroom into more than just a Franklin County water fight. A critical change in water law came when Attorney General Rob McKenna — widely assumed to be a future candidate for governor — issued a controversial opinion in 2005. Wells for watering livestock have for decades been exempt from many water regulations, but the state Department of Ecology had long said that such wells are limited to pumping 5,000 gallons a day. In response to a query from Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls and then-Rep. (now Sen.) Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake, McKenna, however, said that Ecology didn’t have the right to automatically limit such wells to 5,000 gallons. (McKenna also, however, noted that Ecology could step in and impose limits on any water withdrawal in critical problem areas. He also pointed out that lawmakers can modify water law however they wish.)

Now, according to the Spokane-basede Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Easterday Ranches Inc. wants to build a feedlot for up to 30,000 head of cattle, using the stock-watering exemption to pump up to 600,000 gallons a day.

“after over 100 years of conservative farming on some of the driest land in Washington, our lives and our livelihoods are in jeopardy from this huge industrial feedlot,” dryland wheat farmer Scott Collin said in a press release announcing the lawsuit today.

(The full text of the press release is below, after the jump.)

A new round of an old fight: water dispute pits cattle industry against environmental groups…

Environmentalists and cattlemen clashed Thursday over a decades-old law that allows largely unlimited pumping from wells – with no permit – as long as the water is used for livestock.

To ranchers, that’s a common-sense exception that helps agriculture and dates back many decades.

To environmental groups and some Indian tribes, it’s a glaring loophole that’s being wrongly applied to industrial-scale feedlots.

“We don’t have water left to be giving away exempt water rights in large quantities,” Spokane environmental attorney Rachael Paschal Osborn told state lawmakers Thursday. If the Legislature wants to encourage the cattle industry and feedlots, she said, “they can go out and buy a water right just like everyone else in this state.”