Thursday, December 4, 2014

Senator Donnelly supports the Hoosier farmers on the proposed rules on clean water

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December 4, 2014
Dear Steven,
We all know the importance of clean water, especially our farming families, whose work is so dependent on an adequate supply of one of our most important natural resources. That’s why so many Hoosier farmers have voluntarily taken the initiative and proactively implemented conservation practices to improve water quality throughout the state. As a result, our state’s waters get cleaner each year. While challenges remain and we need to keep improving, we also need to ensure the Hoosier agriculture community is not overly burdened with rules and regulations or we risk inadvertently inhibiting future progress.

During a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Wednesday, I had the opportunity to raise the concerns and frustrations of Hoosier farmers and producers related to the “Waters of the United States.” I questioned Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Jason Weller of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on voluntary conservation efforts by Hoosier farmers and the troublesome rule defining “Waters of the United States” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the interpretive rule on exemptions for certain agricultural practices. You may watch my questions and Weller’s answers here.

Watch Senator Donnelly’s questions
and Chief Weller’s responses here.

During the hearing, I expressed the frustration I have heard from many agricultural, manufacturing, property development, and conservation stakeholders regarding the confusing attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corps of Engineers, and the NRCS to update the rules defining waters protected by the CWA. The regulations as currently written may have harmful and unintended consequences on the economy and the environment and I urged the agencies to work more effectively with the agriculture community to solve the problem without additional, burdensome regulation.

As you know, the EPA and Army Corps proposed a rule earlier this year defining the “Waters of the United States” that are protected by the CWA. Like many of you, I wanted the agencies to develop a rule that is narrowly tailored, consistent, and provides the certainty businesses need to plan for the future, while also balancing the need to protect our health and environment. I am concerned, however, that the proposed rule as currently written does not meet this goal.

In October, I wrote a letter to the EPA and Army Corps requesting that the agencies revise and clarify the proposed “Waters of the United States” rule. I asked that the agencies continue to work with stakeholders to address their valid concerns, consider input from those on the local level, and fulfill the requirements to study the proposed rule’s impact on small businesses and manufacturers before proposing the rule for another round of public comment. For more information and to see a copy of the letter, click here.

We will keep you updated on this issue and our work on the Senate Agriculture Committee. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions either by emailing or calling our Washington D.C. office at 202-224-4814. 


Sincerely,


Senator Joe Donnelly
Please do not reply to this email. To contact my office, please click here.
Senator Joe Donnelly
Office Locations 

Washington, D.C.
SH-720 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4814
Fax: (202) 224-5011

Indianapolis, IN
115 N. Pennsylvania Street, Suite 100
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 226-5555
Fax: (855) 772-7518
For a full list of office locations, please click here.
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Year of the Farmer

It’s official: 2015 will be the Year of the Farmer at the Indiana State Fair announced yesterday by fair officials, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and Dow Agrosciences. Indiana State Fair Executive Director, Cindy Hoye, says it’s a great theme for consumer education on production agriculture.
“This year is just perfect. I couldn’t ask for a better year. Talking about individual farmers and what they contribute to put on your table, production farmers, the young 4-Her who’s out growing vegetables and learning about farming to little ones who are following in mom or dad’s footsteps combining, I’m just so excited about it. Even though farming is two percent of the population, it truly is so important to what we do here at the Indiana State Fair.”
Hoye adds that “A main reason the Indiana State Fair continues to thrive after 157 years in existence is the focus we place on agriculture. At the heart of agriculture is the individual farmer and, especially here in Indiana, farm families. We want them to understand how much they mean to our everyday lives and this is one way we can do that.”
This year’s theme is in partnership with Dow Agrosciences and will feature a number of unique programs and events to honor the Hoosier farmer.  A lot of these will begin early in the year to extend the reach of this year’s fair theme, including:
-          Harvest Dinner during the State fair
-          Farmer’s Care Food Drive
-          A speaker series on the importance of modern farming
-          A creative writing contest for school kids centering on the Year of the Farmer
As planning continues for next year’s fair, the public will see messages and branding for the Year of the Farmer through a variety of communications with the intent of making all Hoosiers more aware of the innovative way that local farmers are keeping up with the growing demand for food, fuel and fiber.
Who better to tell the story of the farmer than farmers, themselves? Doug Morrow from Swayzee was elected as a farmer spokesman for this year’s fair.
“It’s quite an honor to be asked to represent Indiana farmers on the announcement. I think that it’s going to shed a new light on what farmers do. I don’t think people understand exactly how we handle our day to day operations and what we do to make decisions that impact our future and the safety of food. So to have a chance to work with the Indiana State Fair to get that platform out there, I think it’s going to be huge.”
Morrow also adds this is a great time to address consumer concerns on food safety. He looks forward to more educational interaction as the Year of the Farmer gets under way.
Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann was also in attendance for the announcement and says any day she gets to go to the Indiana State Fair is a pretty good day.
“Recognizing the 2015 Indiana State Fair as the Year of the Farmer is a perfect fit. Productions grown by our farmers are interwoven through our lives and our economy to the point it’s difficult to identify any part of our existence that is not connected to what our farmers provide.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

USDA launches new website for climate information.

USDA launched a new website to serve as a portal for climate information. The website launch was announced Wednesday via a department blog. USDA targeted the site towards farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and others to find “useful, practical information to help cope with the challenges and stressors caused by a changing climate.” The website includes resources related to drought, fire risk, pest and diseases, climate variability and heat stress, among other topics. The website also links users to the network of USDA conservation programs and resources that provide producers with technical and financial assistance to manage risks. Each region of the U.S. has its own dedicated hub on the website. To view the site, go to climatehubs dot oce dot usda dot gov. (http://climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/)

The Climate hub’s vision, according to the website, is “to support robust and healthy agricultural production and natural resources under increasing climate variability and climate change.” USDA Climate Hubs National Leader Randy Johnson said in the blog release “We hope this site will serve as a gateway not only to the information and tools provided by the regional Hubs, but also to the larger network of USDA programs.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Donnelly discusses EPA's Clean Water Act Proposal.

Donnelly Says EPA Rule Could Have Negative Economic and Environmental Consequences

Joe Donnelly
Joe Donnelly
Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly today requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers clarify and revise the jointly proposed rule defining “Waters of the United States” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the interpretive rule regarding exemptions for certain agricultural conservation practices. Donnelly expressed concern about the impact of the proposed rule and interpretive rule.  He urged the EPA and Army Corps to do their due diligence as they aim to clearly define the rule, while engaging with stakeholders to ensure the rule is effective.
The CWA requires farmers, ranchers, businesses and local governments to meet certain requirements when conducting operations near “Waters of the United States,” which includes lakes, rivers and wetlands. Following two U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the CWA, the EPA and Army Corps have sought to create a uniform understanding of the waters protected by the CWA. The EPA and Army Corps are attempting to establish a rule that will be more efficient and consistent for businesses, local governments, and the agriculture community.
In the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Army Secretary John McHugh, Donnelly wrote, “Clean water is essential to our local communities and economy, and I support efforts to clearly define CWA protections. An unworkable rule will likely halt ongoing water quality improvements and create further bureaucratic confusion; therefore, it is important for the agencies to take the time to ensure the rule avoids unintended negative consequences to existing environmentally-friendly practices in agriculture or property development. The rule should also avoid the negative economic impacts of excessive permitting, especially on small businesses.” 
Donnelly cited McCarthy’s November 2013 visit to Johnson County, Indiana, noting that experience showed how Hoosiers understand the role they play as stewards of their land and water. Donnelly noted we all have incentives to invest in clean water, including safe drinking; more productive farms and businesses; and improved hunting, fishing, and recreational opportunities.
Donnelly wrote, “From the feedback that I have received from agricultural, manufacturing, property development, and conservation stakeholders about the proposed rule and interpretive rule, however, I am concerned that the proposed rule as currently written does not meet the intended goal of clarifying the jurisdictional reach of the CWA. I urge the agencies to revise the rule to better protect our national waters from pollution without hampering economic growth.” He added, “…I ask that the agencies continue to work with stakeholders to address their valid concerns, consider input from those on the local level, and fulfill the requirements to study the proposed rule’s impact on small businesses and manufacturers before proposing the rule for another round of public comment.”
To see a copy of the signed letter, click here. Full text of the letter is below.

October 7, 2014

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

The Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310


Dear Administrator McCarthy and Secretary McHugh,

I am writing in regard to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) jointly proposed rule defining “Waters of the United States” within the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the interpretive rule regarding CWA exemptions for certain agricultural conservation practices. I appreciate the agencies’ intentions to clarify the jurisdictional coverage of the CWA and the decision to engage in a rulemaking process so stakeholders can have the opportunity to comment and help the agencies produce an effective rule.

Clean water is essential to our local communities and economy, and I support efforts to clearly define CWA protections. An unworkable rule will likely halt ongoing water quality improvements and create further bureaucratic confusion; therefore, it is important for the agencies to take the time to ensure the rule avoids unintended negative consequences to existing environmentally-friendly practices in agriculture or property development. The rule should also avoid the negative economic impacts of excessive permitting, especially on small businesses.  
In November 2013, during a visit to Johnson County, Indiana, Administrator McCarthy experienced firsthand the importance of clean water to Hoosiers. We know that water is a shared resource, and we want to improve water quality throughout the country. We all have incentives to invest in clean water, including safe drinking; more productive farms and businesses; and improved hunting, fishing, and recreational opportunities. For these reasons, leading Hoosier agricultural organizations have voluntarily developed a ten-year nutrient management and soil health strategy that will reduce nutrient loss from farms and improve water quality throughout the state.

From the feedback that I have received from agricultural, manufacturing, property development, and conservation stakeholders about the proposed rule and interpretive rule, however, I am concerned that the proposed rule as currently written does not meet the intended goal of clarifying the jurisdictional reach of the CWA. I urge the agencies to revise the rule to better protect our national waters from pollution without hampering economic growth.

Nearly every stakeholder I have heard from has expressed the need for greater clarity for the proposed rule’s key definitions in order to provide certainty to producers, landowners, and developers. Further, I am particularly concerned about the agencies’ claim that the proposed rule will not have a significant impact on small businesses and the decision to skip some of the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act as was mentioned by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy in its October 1, 2014, letter to the agencies.

Regarding the interpretive rule, I have concerns it will not meet its intended goal of promoting conservation practices and providing certainty for farmers and ranchers. Before the release of the interpretive rule, many Hoosier farmers were unaware that conservation practices could ever trigger CWA permitting requirements. By creating a specific exemption for a certain number of conservation practices, an assumption has been created that without a stated exemption, other conservation practices could require a CWA permit before being implemented. I am particularly concerned about how this might impact conservation efforts that do not involve the National Resource Conservation Service. As a strong supporter of voluntary conservation practices like cover crops and two-stage ditches that improve water quality and crop production, I do not want the fear of permitting to inhibit voluntary conservation practices from being implemented. I ask that you work with conservation stakeholders to improve the interpretive rule so that it will be successful in promoting conservation practices.

Providing a clear understanding of the jurisdictional reach of the CWA is a complicated matter that requires careful consideration and thoughtful discourse with stakeholders throughout the country. I am hopeful the agencies can develop a rule that protects the integrity of the nation’s water without unnecessarily encumbering the economic growth of the regulated community. Administrator McCarthy has publically committed to address issues of concern raised by stakeholders, and it is clear to me that the proposed rule requires further development and clarification in order to achieve its admirable goals. I ask that the agencies continue to work with stakeholders to address their valid concerns, consider input from those on the local level, and fulfill the requirements to study the proposed rule’s impact on small businesses and manufacturers before proposing the rule for another round of public comment.

Sincerely,



U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly    

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tommy the Tractor

Tommy the tractor lived on a farm in the state of Hoosier. He was a hardworking tractor with all the latest technology. Tommy played a very important role on the farm pulling all the important implements and helping to provide power to many of the machines on the farm. He took his work very seriously because he knew how much the farmer depended on him. He was up early and ready to go whenever the farmer came to get him.  He liked working in the field the best, pulling planters, cultivators, hay rakes, or whatever needed to be done. He liked to feel the fertile soil beneath his wheels and the farmer’s firm hand upon his controls.  But, one day, something happened that shock Tommy’s confidence and made him realize that not everyone valued him as much as the farmer did.

It was a pleasant spring morning. Tommy and the farmer were up early to begin to prepare one of the fields on the farm.  It was a field some distance from the shed where Tommy and the other farm equipment stayed, and Tommy was pulling a disc down the county road to get to the field. Tommy knew it was important to travel as fast as he could when on a road as to not tie up traffic from cars and trucks.  He knew that cars sometimes did not like being stuck behind him and his large load. They would sound their horns and sometimes race around him with very angry faces. When traveling on the road, Tommy always kept all his lights flashing and made sure his slow moving vehicle sticker was visible.

They were almost to the field when a car came up behind him.  The farmer had Tommy slide as far to one side of the road as he could and motioned the car to go around. It did not. Soon Tommy came to their field and turned in; the car followed.  Soon a second car pulled into the field; it was a police car. A woman got out of the car and began animatedly pointing at Tommy as the officer drove up.  The officer then walked over to the farmer and said he was going to give him a ticket. He said Tommy was causing a traffic hazard. The farmer got very red in the face, and Tommy felt very sad because he had never been given a ticket before. The farmer explained that Tommy was a tractor and had the right to move to and from the field on the roadway. The officer said that state law made special exemptions for harvesters and sprayers, but considered a tractor a vehicle and thus subject to traffic laws. Tommy was highly insulted; he was a working tractor not a common ordinary vehicle. 

After the officer and the woman who had called in the complaint had left, the farmer got on his cell phone and began calling other farmers. Several of them had also been given tickets for driving their tractors on the road. It turned out that, in the state of Hoosier, a tractor was described as a “motor vehicle designed and used primarily as a farm implement.” The farmer was told that, since the term vehicle was used, some law enforcement officers were applying vehicle regulations to tractors on the roads. Some farmers had even lost their licenses because of driving their tractors on the road. The farmer then used some words that Tommy had not heard before thus was unsure of their meaning. Throwing Tommy roughly into gear, the farmer began to work the field. Tommy was glad to be working and tried to forget what had just happened, but he was sad. From then on, he was very afraid each time he had to drive on the road.
Epilogue
At its annual policy meeting, Indiana Farm Bureau inserted a definition of a tractor into their policy book. In cooperation with the State Police, Farm Bureau intends to work for legislation to clarify the definition of a tractor as a “self-propelled implement of agriculture” and to provide protection for farmers operating equipment on the roads. It is hoped that this clarification will provide guidance for local law enforcement officers and traffic court judges.
By Gary Truitt

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

State Fair 4-H Livestock Champions

The Indiana State Fair named seven 4-H livestock exhibitors champion at tonight’s Grand Champion 4-H Drive in the Fairgrounds Coliseum.  The best of the best came together from different breeds, classes and weights to be in the running for champion.  Animals were judged in the following categories: breeding gilts, market barrows, market lambs, meat goat wethers, breeding heifers, beef steers and dairy steer.
Jaxon Parmley, 13, of Putnam County.
Jaxon Parmley, 13, of Putnam County.
Hardworking 4-H members from all over the state were represented on the Coliseum floor.  The first champion to be named was Jaxon Parmley, 13, of Putnam County.  He claimed the title of Grand Champion Breeding Gilt with his seven month old Duroc. “I was really excited to make it to the Grand Drive,” Parmley said.  “I was so anxious and nervous to be out there, but it was a lot of fun.” This wasn’t Parmley’s first appearance at the Grand Drive.  The five-year 4-H member participated in the competition last year with this Champion Duroc Gilt.
Here’s a complete listing of the exhibitors named Grand Champion with their animals:
  • Grand Champion Breeding Gilt: Jaxon Parmley, Putnam County
  • Grand Champion Breeding Heifer: Becca Chamberlin, Randolph County
  • Grand Champion Market Lamb: Alex Raute, Hamilton County
  • Grand Champion Dairy Steer: Jarred Templin, Kosciusko County
  • Grand Champion Beef Steer: Cole Wilcox, Lawrence County
  • Grand Champion Meat Goat Wether: Elizabeth Michel, Wabash County
  • Grand Champion Market Barrow: Abby Taylor, Wells County
Second place awards were given to:
  • Reserve Grand Champion Breeding Gilt: Tyler Schuerman, Jackson County
  • Reserve Grand Champion Breeding Heifer: Aubrun Harvey, Henry County
  • Reserve Grand Champion Market Lamb: Eryn Schinbeckler, Whitley County
  • Reserve Grand Champion Beef Steer: Nathan Hayden, Jackson County
  • Reserve Grand Champion Meat Goat Wether: Sydney Mitchell, Boone County
  • Reserve Grand Champion Market Barrow: Luke Wechter, Noble County
The 4-Hers with the top six market lambs, market barrows, beef steers, top two meat goat wethers, and the champion dairy steer will be recognized and rewarded for their hard work again on Saturday, Aug. 9 at the Indiana State Fair Celebration of Champions in the Coliseum.  The event begins at 1p.m.      

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Beth Legan Tharp to be honored in D.C.

Tharp among 15 to be honored by White House and USDA

Friday, July 25, 2014

(Photo)
Beth Legan Tharp carries daughter Kate, 1, along a path on the family farm east of Greencastle earlier this week as representatives of the National Association of Conservation Districts visit the property to view conservation practices implemented on the farm.
(photo by ERIC BERNSEE)
A second-generation Putnam County farmer is one of 15 "Champions of Change" headed to Washington, D.C., Monday and Tuesday.
The White House and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will honor Beth Legan Tharp and 14 other young farmer Champions of Change, leaders from across the country who are doing extraordinary things to build the bridge to the next generation of farming and ranching.
The champions are leading in their industries and communities, the USDA said, inspiring others who want to find careers and a life on the land, and providing food, fiber, fuel and flora around the world.
The Champions of Change program, as announced by President Obama during his State of the Union address, was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals, businesses and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.
Tharp, along with her husband Nick and parents Mark and Phyllis Legan, owns and operates Legan Livestock and Grain, a commercial swine, corn and soybean farm east of Greencastle off State Road 240 (1498 S. CR 775 East, Coatesville).
She serves as chief financial officer of the Legan operation.
In listing her as one of the Champions of Change, the USDA noted that Tharp "lends her voice and experience to local community boards representing agriculture to connect her community with her passion for agriculture."
The White House program, which begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday, will feature USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden discussing efforts to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture -- women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees -- have access to the programs and support they need.
The event will include a discussion about how to continue growing and supporting the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers.
Besides Beth Legan Tharp, the other agricultural Champions of Change are:
Ryan and Tiffany Batalden,
Lamberton, Minn. -- Fifth-generation beginning farmers in Cottonwood County, Minn. Along with their three young children they grow certified organic corn, soybeans, oilseeds and small grains on 380 acres, raise a small number of livestock, and have a direct-market popcorn business called Patriot Pops.
Bill Bridgeforth, National Black Growers Council, Tanner, Ala. -- A fourth-generation farmer, he is employed by Darden Bridgeforth & Sons, which grows cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans and canola using a variety of cutting-edge agronomic techniques and land conservation practices. He is chairman of the National Black Growers Council, he advocates on behalf of Black farmers in the U.S. and abroad.
Jake Carter, American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, McDonough, Ga. -- He operates Southern Belle Farm, located 30 miles outside of Atlanta. It consists of U-Pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and peaches, as well as a fall corn maze and educational school tours. He was recently elected American Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher Committee chairman.
Kristin Fritz Kubiszak, MBG Marketing "The Blueberry People," Paw Paw, Mich. -- She is the retail manager for Brookside Farms, a fifth-generation family farm in southwest Michigan. After obtaining her bachelor's degree in social work, she returned home to her family farm that focuses on growing and packing blueberries for distribution through MBG's cooperative marketing network.
Lee Haynes, Nature's Best Egg Co., Cullman, Ala. -- An egg farmer from north Alabama, he returned to the farm after graduating from the University of Alabama and has held a key management role in his family farm ever since.
Melinda Litvinas and Jacob Hunt, University of Delaware Creamery and Windy Brow Farms, Newark, Del., and Newton, N.J. -- Melinda manages the UDairy Creamery at Delaware's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and leads student interns and employees through their hands-on experience at the Creamery. Hunt is managing partner at Windy Brow Farms and Cow's Brow Creamery. After receiving a degree in Animal Science and Agricultural Marketing from the University of Delaware, he returned home to expand his family's small business by opening his own creamery. Each year 30,000 people visit the farm.
Lindsey Lusher Shute, National Young Farmers Coalition, Clermont, N.Y. -- She is executive director of the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). Led by young farmers, NYFC advocates for policy change, provides business services, and creates networking opportunities for new growers. She and her husband also own and manage Hearty Roots Community Farm, a diversified vegetable farm.
Adam McClung, vice president, Arkansas Cattlemen's Association, Vilonia, Ark. -- McClung was raised on a cow/calf operation in central Arkansas and received his bachelor's degree in Animal Science with emphasis on Business and Agriculture Economics. His wife works for Farm Credit of Western Arkansas. Together they run 7 Diamond 3 McClung Cattle Company near El Paso, Ark.
Fabiola Nizigiyimana, Worcester, Mass. -- Fabiola is a Burundian refugee farmer and a single mother of five who speaks five languages. In 2013, she was a founding member of the Immigrant Farmer Marketing Cooperative, a USDA-Rural Development project to assist socially disadvantaged farmers.
Quint Pottinger, owner of Affinity Farms, New Haven, Ky. -- Owner of Affinity Farms, a mixed row-crop and herb far, he pursued his education at the University of Kentucky, majoring in agriculture economics. Quint currently serves on the Kentucky Soybean Association board and has just started a year of service with the Corn Farmers Coalition.
Jesus Rodriguez, Washington State -- Born in Los Angeles, he is the son of Mexican and El Salvadoran immigrants. His family moved to Central Washington before he entered school to work in the tree fruit industry. Jesus will enter college this fall, pursuing a degree in horticulture, and hopes to be a field representative for a fruit warehouse or chemical company, and one day, own his own orchard.
Vena A-dae Romero, Cochiti Youth Experience, Cochiti Pueblo, N.M. -- Romero, who is Cochiti Puebloan and Kiowa Indian, is the granddaughter of a Pueblo farmer. She attended the University of Arkansas School of Law's Food and Agricultural Law Program, and now consults for First Nations Development Institute, a leading Native American nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen American Indian economies.
Pierre Sleiman, founder of Go Green Agriculture, Encinitas, Calif. -- CEO of Go Green Agriculture, an innovative company that grows produce inside climate-controlled greenhouses using hydroponics. He also sits on the board of directors of the San Diego County Farm Bureau and will graduate this year from the California Leadership Farm Bureau program.
Desiree Wineland, Cambridge, Neb. -- Born in Sweden, she became a U.S. citizen and served in the U.S. Army. Desiree and her family call Cambridge, Neb., home, where she raises grapes and operates a butcher shop.
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