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The upcoming wildfire season across the U.S. isn’t expected to be as bad as last year’s infernos, when a record 15,800 square miles burned, the nation’s top wildland firefighting official said Wednesday.

But parts of the nation should expect a rough season after a warm, dry winter or because of long-term drought, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said.

Southern California, other parts of the Southwest, Alaska and Montana are all vulnerable, he said.

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the launch of a new private investment fund with the potential to inject $100 million into small food and agriculture businesses across rural America. The fund, known as the Open Prairie Rural Opportunities Fund, will be the fourth Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) that USDA has helped to create since 2014, and is part of USDA's ongoing efforts to help attract private sector capital to investment opportunities in rural America to help drive more economic growth in rural communities.

"Like their counterparts in urban areas, innovative small businesses throughout rural America need access to capital in order to grow and create jobs," Vilsack said. "At USDA, we are working hard to reenergize the rural economy, and we are enlisting more and more private sector partners to help achieve that goal. Open Prairie has been a great partner in this effort."

The Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers are hosting the YF&R Ag Tour May 20-21 based at the Yogo Inn in Lewistown. The tour, which is open to all young farmers and ranchers across the state, provides an opportunity to visit a variety of agricultural enterprises and small businesses in central Montana.

The tour kicks of Friday, May 20 at 3 p.m. with a tour of Mountain Meadows Pet Products. The company produces an entire line of animal beddings and litters made from all natural wheatgrass from Montana. The tour next heads to Arntzen Angus, a purebred cattle ranch in Hilger. The Arntzen family will give a tour of their ranch, as well as serving up a delicious dinner.

Billings, Mont. - In response to R-CALF USA's January request, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week requested the Comptroller General of the United States to use his agency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to initiate an investigation into the 2015 cattle price collapse.
 
In a letter signed by the chairman and ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), respectively, along with the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), respectively, the GAO is asked to investigate the cause of the sudden 15.1 percent drop in fed cattle prices that occurred during the latter half of 2015.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a divisive issue in the nation's capital, and criticism intensified after 161 food, farm, faith and rural organizations sent a letter to Capitol Hill today, urging lawmakers to reject the trade pact.
 
"The main beneficiaries of the TPP are the companies that buy, process and ship raw agricultural commodities, not the farmers who face real risks from rising import competition. TPP imports will compete against U.S. farmers who are facing declining farm prices that are projected to stay low for years," the organizations wrote.