[imgcontainer left] [img:bank_north_dakota.jpeg] North Dakota has the only state-owned bank in the country and it has a state-owned grain elevator and mill. How did state-owned industries come to be found on the Great Plains? [/imgcontainer]

The owner of Eastern Livestock Company, the company that sent bad checks to about 170 Kentucky cattle raisers last year, has pled guilty to 172 acts of theft and will be sent to the big house for 10 years, Katie Micik at DTN reports

Thomas Gibson will do the time. Three other Eastern executives also pled guilty and will pay restitution.

Those are just the Kentucky cases. When Eastern went under, it affected ranchers in 30 states who held $130 million in bad checks from the company. The company is in bankruptcy and there is no indication if any of the ranchers will receive any of the money owed to them. 

• Elizabeth McGowan at InsideClimate News notes the contradictory messages coming out of the White House concerning climate change: Coal is bad; tar sands are good. She writes:  

President Obama avoided any climate-related language when he stood in Cushing, Okla., on March 22 to encourage construction of the southern leg of the fiercely debated Keystone XL oil pipeline. Then, just five days later—when Obama was attending a nuclear security summit in South Korea—the Environmental Protection Agency modestly rolled out its first-ever carbon pollution standard for future power plants.

How, puzzled critics asked, could the Obama administration endorse a tar sands pipeline project that’s been labeled the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” while simultaneously laying the groundwork for kicking coal to the curb as an electricity generator?

The short answer is that he has one eye on the polls and the other on his long-term energy goals.

• Rangers are using animal DNA to catch poachers in the West. And a dog that can sniff out a hidden weapon.  

Slate tells how, with the help of the U.S. government, Japanese taste buds turned from rice to wheat. 

• A coalition of 164 livestock and consumer groups has written a letter to Congress asking that antitrust provisions be a “top priority as Congress crafts agricultural competition legislation and the next Farm Bill.” 

The letter traces the recent history of the Obama Administration’s interest in antitrust in the ag business — and then failure to follow through on two years of hearings, testimony and investigation. The letter ends:

In conclusion, farmers, ranchers, and consumers across the country are asking for legislative reforms to ensure fair markets and a competitive share for family farmers and ranchers of the more than $1.2 trillion dollars that U.S. consumers spend for food annually. Market reforms remain a key ingredient for rural revitalization and meaningful consumer choice. The reforms summarized above are key to achieving the goals of promoting an economically healthy and diverse agricultural production sector and providing consumers with healthy, affordable food. 

• Gretchen Dykstra recalls how North Dakota prospered with a state-owned bank and a state-owned grain elevator and mill. She writes

Although some in North Dakota may be uneasy about the socialist roots of these institutions, today the bank is profitable and respected, providing economic leadership to the state and value to the people; the mill and its flour is a source of pride statewide. The people of North Dakota have long since put aside their anger and fear, and pragmatic government officials just keep doing what’s right for the people, socialist or not. 

• The only veterinarian in Rio Grande City, Texas, can’t retire because there’s nobody else to take care of his patients. Susannah Jacob writes about why there’s a shortage of rural vets: 

These days, many veterinary students have grown up in urban or suburban neighborhoods. Their relationship to animals is rooted in the afternoons they volunteered in animal shelters rather than working with cattle, and most plan to practice in cities. Plus, the attraction in metropolitan areas of a predictable schedule, the opportunity to make more money and the appeal of big-city life are draws for those without ties to rural areas.

Dr. Dan Posey, director of special programs at Texas A&M’s veterinary school, said its admissions policy seeks out students with varied backgrounds and values applicants who convey the importance of their background to their career goals. He warns against looking for speedy solutions to the rural veterinarian shortage.

“I wish you could get to the root of it; that would be helpful,” he said, “but there’s so much personal reason why people choose what they do.”

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