- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Aug. 27, 2015

Can cattle, prairie dogs find common ground?

North Dakota is a cattle-rich state, home to more than 1.7 million head. Bovine numbers significantly outnumber the state’s human population of roughly 723,000. Mathematically, that equates to almost 2.5 cattle for every person who lives in the state today.

The reason North Dakota ranks fourth in the nation isn’t surprising. Given enough rain, the northern prairie provides an abundance of grass, creating food sources for cattle raised here. Protein rich grass and a savvy, not to mention tough, ranching community, contribute to why North Dakota is one of the premiere cattle producing states in the U.S. today.

Typically, calves born in the state every spring are kept until fall, before being weaned, sold and shipped to feedlots located in warmer regions. There, they’re predestined to spend the balance of their lives, before making their way to the packing house.

North Dakota cattle are highly sought after by feedlot operations and for good reason. Strong genetics, leading to fast finishing times, make them attractive from a quality and profit standpoint.

Demand for North Dakota cattle, and possibly those raised from birth to slaughter weight without leaving the land where they were born, has opened the door for a new venture to be tested within the state’s borders.

A complex of researchers including Sitting Bull College, North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University, agricultural experiment stations and extension services and the USDA Agricultural Research Service are involved in a partnership to research the possibility of transforming worn pastures into lush-enough grazing to raise market-ready beef from birth through slaughter.

Part of the study will be determining if cattle and prairie dogs can co-exist. The dogs are considered a keystone species in that another 140 species directly or indirectly benefit from their presence. Whether or not cattle can be added to the list is likely to be met with skepticism from the agricultural community.

Not many ranchers will agree prairie dogs and cattle are a good mix. It’s not surprising. Prairie dogs, and the towns they create and occupy, can be problematic. Their burrowing habits, and consumption of plant life around them, make sizeable areas within a pasture less attractive both visually and from a grazing standpoint.

The overall concept however, holds promise. The $5 million, multi-year project being conducted at the Mahto Research Ranch, on lease from the McLaughlin family, is looking into the sustainability of a small, grass-fed cattle operation. The research project is in its fifth year, and could be extended another four if a second application is successful.

Consumers, particularly younger generations, are becoming increasingly more interested in the origin of foods they consume, and how it’s raised. Grass fed beef is often marketed as being healthier than grain-fed beef. If end-users agree, grass-fed cattle operations like the one involved in the study on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, should have a bright future.


Minot Daily News, Minot, Aug. 26, 2015

Check once, trust forever

Perhaps you have done well during the past few years. When you got married, you and your spouse didn’t have two dimes to rub together. Your low family income qualified you easily for government-subsidized housing.

Then both of you worked hard and moved up. Regular pay raises boosted your income. You began to worry you’d have to move out of your apartment because, clearly, your situation wasn’t what public housing advocates had in mind.

Don’t worry. You can stay - even if that means families who really need the help won’t get it. Your income was checked once before you moved in, and the federal government hasn’t asked about it since.

Outrageous? You bet. A federal inspector general found more than 25,000 “over-income” tenants in public facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They had not been asked to move because no one had bothered with regular checks on income.

Meanwhile, thousands of low-income families wait for their turns.

No one has suggested forcing families in low-income housing out on the street if their resources cross a certain line. Perhaps a sliding scale of rents could be implemented to allow some to stay where they are while paying more realistically for housing.

But the HUD approach - verify once, then trust forever - is an example of lazy bureaucracy that should not be tolerated.


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