Saturday, July 14, 2007

Brucellosis and cattle prices, part II

As noted yesterday, the Morgans were forced to accept an inadequate price from the federal government for their cattle, which had to be slaughtered to preserve Montana's brucellosis-free status.

Had the infection come from their own carelessness, it would be one thing, but the obvious reservoir of infection is in the bison -- and secondarily, the elk -- in Yellowstone National Park.

The final roundup is underway to truck the cattle to out-of-state slaughterhouses:

Late Thursday night, acting state veterinarian Jeanne Rankin called the Morgans offering to send several brand inspectors up to the ranch to help with the roundup. But to the family with a heritage of independence, the offer was an insult and came too late. More than 75 percent of the cows were already grazing in the hayfield across the road from the corrals, where they will be loaded onto trucks early next week.

"We want to gather our cows one last time as a family," Sandy said. "These cows are a part of our family. We want the opportunity to grieve in our own way, not with a bunch of strangers bossing us around."

Further details are emerging about the negotiations between the federal government and the family. They were offered a mere $394,000 in compensation for the herd initially, with the Morgans estimate being $740,000.

Not surprisingly, the final payment was far closer to the government's offer than to any real replacement cost:

Earlier this week, the Morgans asked for $567,000, the average of four appraisals. Thursday, with the deadline for slaughter just four days away, they accepted an offer of $423,000.

Facing a deadline where the state would condemn the herd, not compensating them at all, the family had little choice.

Curiously absent in all of this is any reports of pressure being placed on the federal government by Montana's governor, our Congressional delegation, or other state government officials. It may be happening behind the scenes, but if so, the Morgans weren't aware of it:

The Morgans said they feel as though they've borne the weight of maintaining Montana's brucellosis-free status. Jim said the couple expected the state Department of Livestock to keep them informed and be an advocate during negotiations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) over compensation for their loss.

Instead, they said, they went weeks without a phone call from the state but faithfully complied with everything the state veterinarian asked. According to APHIS regulations, the herd must be slaughtered 60 days from the day the disease is detected. The 60 days are up Tuesday.

"We were left hanging," Sandy said. "We didn't know what was going on. There was a big breakdown in communication. We didn't know anything."


moos said...

I'm smack in the middle of this. My healthy heifers and their stout calves will be on those sealed trucks, too.

Montana Headlines said...

Good luck with making a comeback.