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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Gov. Whitmer endorses Kamala Harris for president, says she's not leaving Michigan; Grilled by lawmakers on the Trump assassination attempt, Secret Service director says, 'We failed;' Teachers rally at national convention in Houston; Opioid settlement fund fuels anti-addiction battle in Indiana; Nonprofit agency says corporate donations keep programs going.

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Democrats consolidate support behind Vice President Harris, Republicans threaten legal action over changes to the presidential ticket, and a possible bipartisan consensus forms on the failure of the Secret Service to protect former President Trump.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

Montana feels effects of California 'price gouging'

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Thursday, June 27, 2024   

California joined a dozen other states across the U.S. either banning or regulating the use of gestation crates to raise livestock and a ballot proposition in California is having a ripple effect on livestock and poultry prices across the country, including Montana.

California's Proposition 12 bans the use of gestation crates to raise hogs but some producers blame the new mandate for rising prices. Montana is not among the states to ban crates but food prices are still on the rise. A report from the advocacy group Farm Action shows corporate producers believe pandemic-era supply chain disruptions are driving up prices.

Joe Maxwell, chief strategy officer for Farm Action, called it price-gouging, and offered as evidence an unjustified 20% hike in California pork prices.

"It's just a part of their doing business now," Maxwell asserted. "They find excuses in the markets to gouge that consumer. And one thing we want to be very clear on is that the consumer knows it's not the farmer. The farmer's getting squeezed just as much as is the consumer."

Large-scale agricultural companies said there are other factors at play, such as consumer demand and animal illness forcing prices up. Montana, which has been criticized for its lack of oversight and regulation, continues to raise livestock in large confinements to keep up with growing demand but those facilities are known to pollute nearby ground and surface water with manure runoff.

Farm Action is the same group that asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate egg prices, which had tripled in some cases, not long after the official end of the pandemic. The group researched U.S. Department of Agriculture data and found the numbers did not support the need for sharp egg price increases.

Maxwell pointed out corporate food producers face limited competition and have monopolized the market.

"They've got that control over the farmer, not unlike oil companies have over oil fields," Maxwell observed. "They now have that control because there are very few buyers of farmers' commodities, so they have that control over the farmer, the producer."

Montana did address the rules governing confinement operations earlier this year, including how and when pollutants are discharged from the facilities.


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