Thursday, April 7, 2022

Thursday April 7 Ag News

 Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Announces 2022 FFA Advisors of the Year

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation selected two recipients for the FFA Advisor of the Year award. Lisa Kemp from Wallace High School and Justin Rafferty from Bayard High School were honored at the Nebraska FFA State Convention on Thursday, April 7, in Lincoln. The winning advisors received a plaque and a $1,000 donation to their FFA chapter.

The teachers were nominated by their students and chosen based upon their school and community involvement, leadership development in their classroom, and their ability to keep their students involved in agriculture.

“The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is proud to support these exceptional educators. They go above and beyond for their students and the industry they love, and the future of Nebraska agriculture is bright thanks to their work,” said Megahn Schafer, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.

Kemp is the FFA Advisor for the Wallace FFA Chapter. As described by her students  Kemp is a person who thinks of relationships as a priority. She helps the students connect with community and agriculture industry members who visit her classroom to assist with training for FFA competitions, classwork, and inform them of their role in agriculture. The Wallace FFA Chapter has earned many awards under the guidance of Kemp, including competing at the State FFA Convention in livestock evaluation and sending three of its officers to the National FFA Convention to receive their National Chapter award.

“It's extremely humbling to be nominated by the very students that make up the Wallace FFA chapter. I'm honored to have the opportunity to work in the field of agricultural education and find the support of our community and foundations such as Farm Bureau. Support systems such as these make it possible to continue doing what I love, and that's inspiring our young people to learn about agriculture and find their place within the industry. I am blessed to call Wallace FFA home and look forward to many more years of positively impacting youth by sharing my passion for agriculture,” said Kemp.

Rafferty is the FFA Advisor for the Bayard FFA Chapter. Rafferty has taught at Bayard High School for 20 years. During that time, he has formed valuable connections with fellow teachers and staff that allow them to effectively collaborate and highlight connections between core curriculum and agricultural education. His professional relations with businesses in the area have led many of his students to find internship and jobs and career opportunities after high school.

“I am humbled to be recognized for this award. Nebraska has excellent FFA advisors across the state and I am honored to be counted among them. I am blessed to have wonderful kids in my chapter. It's easy to be great when you're surrounded by greatness. I want to say thank you to Farm Bureau for sponsoring this award, to my students for nominating me and for being awesome, and to my administration for supporting me. I am extremely blessed to live in a community that values and supports FFA, so thank you also to the entire Bayard community,” said Rafferty.


Ready Hired as District Sales Manager

Ruth Ready recently joined the team at Jacobsen Seed as a District Sales Manager in Nebraska. Ruth and her husband Sid farm near Scribner, Nebraska. Their farm has been in Ruth’s family since it was homesteaded in the 1870’s. Ruth has a degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Along with farming she and Sid had a successful crop consulting business for 25 years. Ruth brings this experience coupled with her enthusiasm for finding solutions for each farmer’s unique needs to Jacobsen Seed. She and Sid have four children and four grandchildren and love to spend time with all of them camping, fishing and being outdoors.

Jacobsen Seed is a fourth generation, family-owned company that works for family farms. Based in Lake View, Iowa they strive to be a true partner working alongside farmers to achieve  mutual success.

Statement by Mark McHargue, President, Regarding the passage of LB 873 One of the Largest Tax Cuts in State History

“Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) and the farm and ranch families we represent are thrilled to see the Legislature took the bold action of passing LB 873, one of the largest tax cuts in the history of Nebraska. When fully implemented over the next five years, the nearly billion-dollar tax relief package will save Nebraskans an estimated $886 million in property taxes per year. On top of that, Nebraskans will benefit from substantial income tax savings. We want to thank state senators for their efforts to get this bill across the finish line, and onto the Governor’s desk.”

“This tax relief bill is transformative for farmers and ranchers and all Nebraskans across the state. The successes we saw from the refundable income tax credits passed in 2020 were outstanding, and to be able to secure those successes and ensure even further property tax relief for Nebraskans is a windfall.”

Senate Ag Committee to Hold Hearing on Fischer’s Cattle Bill

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) released the following statement today after the Senate Agriculture Committee announced that it will hold a hearing on S. 4030, the Cattle Market Price Discovery and Transparency Act. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, April 26 at 10:00 am ET.

“I’m really pleased to see the forward momentum for our cattle market reform bill that will ensure robust price discovery and transparency. We have 18 Senate cosponsors from geographically diverse areas of the country and strong support from family ranchers and cattle producers. I look forward to this legislative hearing and continuing our work to advance this important bill,” said Senator Fischer.

Senator Fischer introduced the legislation with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The bill currently has 9 Republican cosponsors and 9 Democrat cosponsors.

Global Demand for U.S. Beef Continues to Soar; Pork Exports Below Last Year

U.S. beef exports posted another strong performance in February, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), led by excellent value growth in key Asian and Latin American markets. Pork exports trended lower year-over-year, as larger shipments to Mexico and Japan did not offset the continued decline in demand from China/Hong Kong. Lamb exports continued to gain momentum, reaching the highest monthly value since 2014.

"Rarely have we seen so many outside forces creating headwinds for U.S. meat exports and such uncertainty in the global marketplace," said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "Yet consumer demand for high-quality beef, pork and lamb has proven resilient, and USMEF sees opportunities for further growth in both established and emerging markets."

Beef export value approaches $2 billion after just two months

Beef exports totaled 108,501 metric tons (mt) in February, up 5% from a year ago, while value climbed 35% to $904.4 million. Through the first two months of the year, exports increased 9% to 227,567 mt, while value soared 46% to $1.93 billion.

"Broad-based growth has become a recurring theme for U.S. beef exports, as international demand has never been higher and global supplies remain tight," Halstrom said. "We anticipated a lift from COVID-related foodservice restrictions being eased in many destinations. This materialized late last year and in early 2022, although conditions still vary by country. While lockdowns in China and Hong Kong are certainly a setback for foodservice demand, those are the main exceptions as most countries have shifted to more of a living-with-COVID approach."

Following record-large January shipments, beef export volume to leading market South Korea slowed in February but value climbed 17% to $197.8 million. Through February, exports to Korea already broke the $500 million mark ($514.2 million, up 57%).

February exports to Japan were down 5% but value jumped 21% to just under $200 million. Beef exports also increased to China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Despite strong month for Mexico and Japan, pork exports trend lower

Demand for U.S. pork did not fare as well in the first two months of 2022, as logistics challenges were compounded by lower-priced offerings from competitors. Like the U.S., these suppliers are shipping significantly lower volumes to China/Hong Kong, which has pushed more product into other markets at reduced prices. February pork exports were 198,539 mt, down 17% from a year ago, while export value fell 14% to $541.3 million. Through February, exports were also down 17% in volume (407,347 mt) and 14% in value ($1.1 billion).

"European hog prices jumped sharply in March, climbing about 35% compared to February," Halstrom explained. "While this came too late to impact our February export results, it could lead to more favorable market conditions going forward."

U.S. pork exports to Mexico reached new heights in 2021 and this strong momentum continued through February. January-February exports to Mexico climbed 33% to 160,996 mt, with value up 19% to $255.1 million.

After a slow start in 2022, February pork exports to Japan rebounded to 32,712 mt, up 3% from a year ago, with value increasing 6% to $139.8 million, led by larger shipments of chilled pork cuts and pork variety meat.

Pork exports to South Korea continue to post impressive value gains, fueled by larger shipments of chilled pork. January-February exports increased in both volume and value to the Caribbean and El Salvador but were lower year-over-year to most other markets.

February lamb export value highest in nearly eight years

February exports of U.S. lamb totaled 1,580 mt, up 37% from a year ago. Export value was $2.56 million, up 62% and the highest since July 2014. Leading market Mexico posted increases in both variety meats and muscle cuts, while muscle cut exports also increased to the Caribbean, Central America and the Philippines. Through February, lamb exports increased 43% from a year ago to 3,113 mt, while value climbed 60% to $4.48 million.

 USDA Secretary Vilsack Addresses CRP Utilization Requests

On March 31, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to requests by certain members of Congress and industry leaders to allow flexibilities for agricultural lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to be utilized to produce food and feed-grade grains without penalizing farmers for leaving the program early. This request comes as concerns that agricultural supply constraints stemming from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine may impact both grain production and grain exports to countries in need. Notably, no commodity groups joined industry in requesting these changes.

In the letter, Secretary Vilsack addresses the industry leaders’ concern but reiterates that CRP acres that would return to production under an early-out scenario would be marginal at best and entirely unfeasible in many areas. Vilsack points out that, historically, data shows acres coming out of CRP have significant “slippage,” meaning that one acre coming out of CRP does not transfer into an acre of crop production, but closer to half that. He also states that market conditions will ultimately drive how farmers want to manage their acres, and with higher commodity prices, producers are not re-enrolling all these acres in CRP. USDA believes the high prices for this year’s crops will motivate producers to plant more acres of wheat, soybeans and corn, with the main limiting factors being weather and soil moisture conditions.

In other public comments this week, Vilsack noted that only 1.8 million of the 4 million acres in expiring CRP contracts will be re-enrolled in the program, and only 800,000 new acres will go into contracts, a net loss of 1.4 million general sign-up acres.

The American Soybean Association largely echoes Secretary Vilsack’s stance on CRP and agrees that farmers aren’t likely to produce on inefficient land given current input costs. However, ASA continues to monitor the CRP conversation as it relates to global food security and the 2023 Farm Bill.

2 Years for Stealing Monsanto Trade Secret

Chinese National Sentenced to Prison, Fined

(AP) -- A Chinese national who pleaded guilty earlier this year to stealing a trade secret from agribusiness giant Monsanto while he worked in Missouri has been sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Haitao Xiang, formerly of Chesterfield, Missouri, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in St. Louis to 29 months in prison and fined $150,000. Xiang also must undergo three years of supervision upon his release from prison.

In January, Xiang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit economic espionage. Federal prosecutors said Xiang transferred a trade secret to a memory card and then attempted to take it to China for the benefit of the Chinese government.

Xiang worked as an imaging scientist for Monsanto and one of its subsidiaries, The Climate Corporation, from 2008 to 2017.

Court records say Monsanto and The Climate Corporation developed a digital online farming software platform to help farmers collect field data to increase productivity. Part of the platform was an algorithm called the Nutrient Optimizer, which the companies considered a trade secret and their intellectual property.

In June 2017, the day after leaving employment with the companies, Xiang tried to fly to China, prosecutors said. During a search, investigators found one of Xiang's electronic devices contained copies of the Nutrient Optimizer.

Xiang flew to China, where he worked for the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Soil Science. He was arrested when he returned to the United States.

The case was brought as part of a 2018 Justice Department effort called the China Initiative, which was intended to crack down on trade secret theft and economic espionage.

The department retired the China Initiative name in February amid criticism that federal agents and prosecutors were being overly aggressive in their pursuit of Chinese academics on American college campuses. But the department's top national security official, Matthew Olsen, said at the time that the department would continue to go after Chinese espionage and that it stood behind its ongoing investigations and prosecutions related to China.

NCBA Endorses Bipartisan A-PLUS Act

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) supports the Amplifying Processing of Livestock in the United States (A-PLUS) Act, introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). If enacted, the bill would clarify regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act to allow livestock market owners to maintain an ownership interest in small meatpacking entities, and would secure another tool in the toolbox to boost processing capacity and alleviate key challenges in cattle marketing.
“The need for new packing facilities has become a critical issue for the cattle industry. Huge amounts of capital are required to get new facilities up and running. Understanding the need for these new facilities, producers themselves have invested in these efforts but outdated regulations still prevent livestock markets from having ownership in packing facilities. The A-PLUS Act paves the way for the marketing segment of the cattle industry to be included as investors in these facilities, helping reduce dependence on major packers and improving the competitiveness of the live cattle market,” said Clint Berry, chairman of NCBA’s Livestock Marketing Council.
The A-PLUS Act amends the Packers and Stockyards Act to allow livestock markets to own, invest in, or manage small to medium-sized processing facilities with a slaughter capacity of less than 2,000 head per day or 700,000 head per year.
“The meatpacking sector continues to be the bottleneck in the cattle and beef supply chain,” said NCBA Senior Director of Government Affairs Tanner Beymer. “Opening more small and medium-sized processing facilities increases opportunities for producers to market their cattle and helps balance leverage in pricing negotiations.”

 LMA Applauds Bill to Allow Livestock Auction Investment in Small and Regional Packers   
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), introduced the Amplifying Processing of Livestock in the United States (A-PLUS) Act. If enacted, the bill would remove a regulatory barrier and allow livestock auction market owners to own or invest in small and regional meatpacking entities.
The Administration, Congress and the livestock industry agree there is a need for increased packer competition and additional shackle space. Currently, livestock auctions are not able to own, invest or participate in the operation of a packing plant or meat marketing business due to dated Packers and Stockyards Act regulation (9 CFR 201.67). This legislation is essential in removing this unnecessary barrier to cattle industry investment in the packing sector. The bill would allow livestock auction owners to own or invest in a meat packing entity with a cumulative slaughter capacity of less than 2,000 animals per day or 700,000 animals per year.
“We greatly appreciate Congresswoman Hartzler and Congressman Panetta introducing the A-PLUS Act to reduce a regulatory barrier that currently prohibits livestock auction owners like myself from investing in much needed packing capacity expansion,” LMA President Larry Schnell said. “This is a great bill that will spur additional capacity and especially additional packers to increase competition and improve profitability for producers.”

EPA’s RFS Exemption “Denials” Set Good Precedent but Fail to Undo Trump Era Biofuel Demand Destruction

Today EPA announced the denial of 36 exemption requests from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for compliance year 2018 but simultaneously granted compliance relief for 31 refiners, meaning they do not have to comply with their 2018 RFS obligations. In response to today’s announcement, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw made the following statement:
“The silver lining is that EPA has reaffirmed the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling that EPA lacked the authority to grant the exemptions in the first place. This rationale should be immediately applied to the other 60-plus RFS exemption requests that remain pending without delay.
“Yet we must also be honest that today’s action by EPA grants 31 RFS exemptions in all but name. The unjustified use of RFS exemptions by the Trump EPA was called selling out our farmers by President Biden during the campaign, but now that demand destruction is allowed to stand. The bottom line is that today 31 refiners were released from their 2018 RFS obligations the same as had the exemptions been upheld.
“The EPA’s reasons for letting the refiners off the hook range from concerns about the RIN carryover balance to the 2018 compliance deadline having passed. However, nowhere in the RFS does Congress stipulate that EPA needs to care about the RIN carryover balance more than expanding the real-world use of biofuels. And if reopening past compliance actions is such a concern, then it is hard to understand why the same EPA is proposing reopening the finalized 2020 RFS rule to lower RFS blend levels. Only in D.C. would the wiggle words in this rule be considered logic.
“We appreciate this precedent going forward, but nothing today drives demand and we’re still facing the loss of E15 markets throughout the country on June 1st. We implore President Biden to take action to drive biofuels demand and to allow consumers the option of lower-cost E15 during this summer of high fuel prices.”

Biofuel & Ag Leaders Respond to EPA Decision to Reverse Refinery Exemptions, Decry Lack of Real Market Impact  

Top farm and biofuel leaders responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to reverse 31 controversial small refinery exemptions (SREs) granted in August 2019 and expressed disappointment with EPA’s decision to allow refineries with previously-granted SREs to not have to take additional actions to meet their obligations under the RFS by blending more biofuel or purchasing additional Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). Biofuel and farm advocates had challenged the exemptions in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, forcing the agency to reevaluate its approval for select oil refiners to avoid their obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Leaders at Growth Energy, Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, Clean Fuels Alliance America, American Coalition for Ethanol, and National Farmers Union released the following statement on today’s decision from EPA:
“While today’s decision is an important step in reversing past abuse of refinery exemptions, the decision fails to remedy the economic harms the improperly granted 2018 SREs have already caused. Low-carbon biofuels are the single best tool to deliver immediate relief at the pump, strengthen U.S. energy security, and protect the climate. EPA’s move to hold refiners accountable to the law is a welcome step toward getting the RFS back on track that, when applied to pending and future SRE petitions, would improve certainty in the marketplace, and lead to more blending of American-made biofuels. However, EPA’s readiness to excuse individual refineries from their obligations to comply with 2018 blending requirements comes at the expense of our biofuels producers, farmers, and American consumers.”


In August 2019, the Trump Administration’s EPA approved an unprecedented 31 SREs for the 2018 RVO compliance year with only a cursory, two-page decision. This coalition of biofuels and ag leaders filed a petition in the D.C. Circuit Court challenging EPA’s decision. The coalition asked the court to stay the 2018 SRE case in November 2019 pending the outcome of related litigation in both the 10th Circuit and D.C. Circuit Courts. In January 2020, the 10th Circuit ruled in Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA that EPA has no power to ‘extend’ an exemption that had lapsed. The Court also held that EPA lacks the authority to grant an exemption based on hardships not caused by RFS compliance, and also found that it was arbitrary and capricious for EPA to ignore its own prior studies showing that refiners recoup RFS compliance costs.

On June 25, 2021, in HollyFrontier v. Renewable Fuels Association, the Supreme Court vacated the 10th Circuit’s holding that EPA may only ‘extend’ continuously pre-existing exemptions but the other two holdings from the 10th Circuit decision remained intact. Thus, EPA had the opportunity to apply the other two 10th Circuit precedents not challenged in the HollyFrontier case and request a remand and vacatur of the 31 SREs at issue in the D.C. Circuit. However, on August 25, 2021, EPA instead filed a motion to remand the SREs without vacatur. In response, the D.C. Circuit remanded the exemptions back to EPA, but, as a result of this biofuel coalition’s motion in opposition, required the agency to make new determinations on the contested SREs no later than April 7, 2022.   

Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Launches ‘One-stop Shop’ for STEM Educators: The Food and Agriculture Center for Science Education

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has launched a first-of-its-kind online platform for K-12 and STEM educators who seek to bring science to life through the lens of agriculture.

The Food and Agriculture Center for Science Education supports educators who teach, coach or advise K-12 science coursework in public and private, formal and informal educational spaces through a three-pronged approach consisting of classroom resources, professional development and partnerships.

“We’re pleased the Food and Agriculture Center for Science Education will enable us to continue supporting educators in meaningful ways with relevant resources and vital professional development,” said Daniel Meloy, executive director of the Foundation for Agriculture. “There’s such an incredible connection between science and agriculture and food production, and students everywhere can become inspired by making that connection.”

The structure of the Center provides science educators with a unique, immersive mix of valuable resources and professional development to seamlessly and fully integrate agriculture into classrooms at all levels of student development. The high-quality resources and professional development opportunities focus on core science disciplines while contextualizing the multitude of science principles found in agriculture.

Examples of forthcoming content in the three areas include:
-    Classroom Resources: Full units of instruction, curriculum, individual lessons and worksheets, references and more. This area focuses on creating and curating engaging, relevant, reliable and accurate resources that will equip science teachers to easily incorporate agriculture into the content they already teach to meet the Next Generation Science Standards. All materials will be open-source.
-    Professional Development: Immersive, experiential, supportive and accessible opportunities focused on developing, empowering and equipping educators not only from a teaching perspective, but especially through knowledge of the agricultural industry and methods of instructing that lend themselves to teaching science through the lens of agriculture.
-    Partnerships: A pathway for strategically aligning partners such as industry experts, trade organizations, land grant university researchers and educators to best support both the immediate and long-term needs of science educators.

Materials already available include a full unit on genetics and heredity, a bundle of student materials and a teaching guide on how cattle interact with the ecosystem, and more.

The Center’s first professional development event, scheduled for April 28 at 4 p.m. Central, is a virtual tour of “science through the lens of agriculture.” Educators will leave with free open-source materials ready for immediate classroom implementation. Registration is available now at

Learn more about the Center and access the full library of resources at

ARS-Developed Varroa-Resistant Honey Bees Better Winter Survivors

Pol-line honey bees, a type of Varroa mite resistant honey bee developed by the Agricultural Research Service, are more than twice as likely to survive through the winter than standard honey bees, according to a study published in Scientific Reports at

Although ARS developed Pol-line bees in 2014, this study was the first time that they were tested head-to-head alongside standard honey bee stock in commercial apiaries providing pollination services and producing honey. Colonies' ability to survive winter without being treated to control Varroa mites was followed in four states: Mississippi, California, and North and South Dakota.

In this study, Pol-line colonies that were given no treatment to control Varroa mites in the fall had a survival rate of 62.5 percent compared to standard bees colonies in commercial apiaries also given no fall Varroa treatment, which had a winter survival rate of 3 percent.

When Pol-line colonies and standard colonies were treated against Varroa mites in both fall and December, Pol-line bees had a winter survival rate of 72 percent while standard bees had a survival rate of 56 percent. So, Pol-line bees still had a better winter survival rate regardless of receiving double Varroa mite treatment.

"These survival results continue to highlight the importance of beekeepers needing to manage Varroa infestations. The ability to have high colony survival with reduced or no Varroa treatments can allow beekeepers to save money and time," said research molecular biologist Michael Simone-Finstrom, co-leader of the study with research entomologist Frank Rinkevich, both with the ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This research was the culmination of breeding efforts to develop honey bee colonies with naturally low Varroa populations that began at the Baton Rouge lab in the late 1990s.

Winter colony survival is crucial for beekeepers because in February each year, about 2.5 million honey bee colonies are needed in California to pollinate almond crops. Larger, healthier colonies bring beekeepers premium pollination contracts at about $220 a colony.

Varroa mites can cause massive colony losses; they are the single largest problem facing beekeepers since they spread to the United States from Southeast Asia in 1987. While miticides used to control Varroa exist, resistance is developing to some of them.

"We would like to replace reliance on chemical controls with honey bees like Pol-line that have high mite resistance of their own and perform well, including high honey production, in commercial beekeeping operations. Pol-line's high mite resistance is based on their behavior for removing Varroa by expelling infested pupae—where Varroa mites reproduce—a trait called Varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH)," said Rinkevich.

"Beyond Pol-line bees, we need to create advanced and easy breeding selection tools that beekeepers can use to select resistance traits in their own bees to promote VSH behavior in honey bees across the country," Simone-Finstrom said. "The great thing about this particular trait is that we've learned honey bees of all types express it at some level, so we know with the right tools, it can be promoted and selected in everyone's bees."

Evolutionary ecologist Thomas O'Shea-Wheller, now with the University of Exeter in England, who worked on the study while a post-doc with Louisiana State University under professor Kristen Healy pointed out, "This kind of resistance provides a natural and sustainable solution to the threat posed by Varroa mites. It does not rely on chemicals or human intervention."

In addition, overall winter survival, the scientists examined the levels of viruses in Pol-line and standard bee colonies that are commonly transmitted by varroa mites.

The Pol-line colonies showed significantly lower levels of three major viruses: Deformed wing virus A, Deformed wing virus B and Chronic bee paralysis virus, all of which can cause significant problems for colonies.

"Interestingly, when we looked at the levels of virus infection separately from the levels of mite infestation, we found there wasn't a strong correlation between viral loads and colony survival. You could not use the level of these viruses as good predictors of colony losses," Simone-Finstrom said.

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