Eleven communities across Montana are receiving $19,600 for Reimagine What is Possible Grants to support community development projects. Reimagining Rural is a program spearheaded by MSU Extension in conjunction with the Montana Community Foundation and other partners. The program provides small towns with opportunities and resources to shape their future.

Tara Mastel, the program lead of MSU Extension’s community vitality program, describes Reimagining Rural as an initiative aimed at boosting volunteer involvement in rural areas. “As we mark 4 years since its inception, we witness remarkable collaboration between local organizations, residents and the rise of leadership within these communities, as they actively shape their collective future. It’s impactful and inspiring work.”

Grants are provided through the support of the Montana Community Foundation. Since Reimaging Rural’s inception in 2020, $115,160 has been reinvested in small towns across the state through grants from the Montana Community Foundation and 53 communities have been through the program. This year’s grantees include:

* Big Timber – $2,000 to Sweet Grass Community Foundation to draw visitors downtown through better signage.

* Boulder – $2,000 to Boulder Chamber of Commerce to purchase and install banners on Main Street. 

* Choteau – $2,000 to MSU Extension – Teton County to create an online community wide calendar for residents.

* Cut Bank – $2,000 for the Cut Bank Chamber of Commerce to create wayfinding signage in and around Cut Bank.

* Ekalaka – $2,000 to the Carter County Geological Society to enhance Veteran’s Park with a community garden and convertible benches for visitors.

* Forsyth – $2,000 for MSU Extension – Rosebud and Treasure County Office to create a disc golf course at Riverside Park in Forsyth.

* Lima – $2,000 to the Town of Lima to create a community foundation, install a kiosk, and host a community event.

* Miles City – $2,000 to the Miles City Public Library for building revitalization in the form of a community mural.

* West Yellowstone – $1,600 to the West Yellowstone Foundation for town beautification initiatives and clean up challenges.

* Winnett – $2,000 to Winnett ACES, Inc to draw visitors downtown through better signage and the installation of banners on Main Street.

Six Montana businesses and agriculture producers are receiving federal funding to support “clean energy projects” planned for their businesses. Montana division of the USDA Rural development agency is making the grants through the Rural Energy America Program (REAP), which is aimed at helping agricultural producers and rural small business owners expand their use of wind, solar, geothermal and small hydropower energy and make energy efficiency improvements.

The awardees are as follows:

* Heberle Ford in Forsyth will use a $10,125 grant to make energy efficiency upgrades to the business. This project is expected to save this rural car dealership $1,743 in annual energy costs.

* Soundcolor Studios Inc. in Livingston will use a $17,200 grant to install a roof-mounted 6-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system with a 30-kilowatt hours battery. This film, music, and art studio operation is expecting to save $1,155 per year in annual energy costs and replace 100 percent of its annual energy consumption.

* West Paw Properties LLC in Bozeman will use a $37,237 grant to make energy efficiency improvements. The business, which manufactures dog toys and other products, expects to save $2,559 in annual energy costs.

* Highmark Properties LLC in Choteau is receiving $85,854 in grants to install a 74.205-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at the Twin Peaks Assisted Living Facility. It’s expected this project will save $5,607 in annual energy costs and replace 82,427 kilowatts in energy use.

* Terri Kollman, a rural agricultural producer outside Joliet will use a $20,000 grant to buy and install a 9.84-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The project should save this producer $2,030 in energy costs and replace 14,877 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

* Bart R. Bilden of Lavina will use a $49,797 grant to purchase and install a 29.1-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. It’s expected this project will save $6,343 in annual energy costs and produce enough energy to replace 100 percent of the energy used per year to support their farm and ranch operations

A recent article published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, which serves several states including Montana, highlighted three points about the ability of Americans to deal with a “rainy day”:

* Fifty-four percent of U.S. households have emergency savings to cover three months of expenses

* Americans have exhausted accumulated pandemic savings, and the saving rate is lower than before COVID

* After-inflation earnings appear on-track with longer-term trends, but spending has settled significantly higher

By Jeff Horwich

Senior Economics Writer

The “rainy day fund” is a mainstay of personal finance columnists: Set aside enough to cover a few months of household expenses in an emergency. It is hard advice to follow. Economists have long recognized that many households at all income levels live hand-to-mouth, with most income going toward consuming goods and services and paying off debt. Even when people own considerable assets, many are locked in illiquid forms like housing and retirement accounts.

The COVID pandemic was a shock to our spending and saving. A surge of government financial support coincided with the sudden loss of many ways we typically part with our money—restaurants, concert tickets, leisure travel. For a while, more households looked ready for that rainy day.

New data confirm Americans are sliding back from our pandemic savings peak. The Fed’s latest Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) finds that 54 percent of U.S. adults have enough savings to cover three months of expenses if they lost their primary source of income.

These results, gathered in October 2023, are down slightly from a year before and more than 5 percentage points off from the high-water mark in 2021. The downward trend is similar across education levels, racial groups, and other categories the SHED explored. There is some good news here: The proportion of rainy day–ready households seems to have stabilized. And we are still in better shape than the late 2010s, when the Fed began asking the question.

A complementary view comes from the personal finance website Bankrate, which recently found 2 in 3 Americans would be worried about covering even one month of living expenses if they lost their job. Per their survey in January, 51 percent of Americans would have to cut spending or borrow to pay a sudden $1,000 expense.

Seen through certain lenses, the current U.S. economy is remarkedly resilient. Consumer spending, corporate profits, and job growth have been sustained despite higher interest rates. Emergency savings and other pocketbook indicators tracked by the SHED provide another critical vantage for policymakers to understand financial well-being and resilience at the household level.

Economists at the San Fransisco Fed have tracked the rise and fall of “excess savings” accumulated during the pandemic—that is, savings above what we might have expected based on the pre-pandemic trend. These excess savings reached a peak of $2.1 trillion in August 2021—more than $8,000 per U.S. adult.2 According to the San Francisco Fed calculations, households finally exhausted them in March of this year. As of this writing, Americans’ cumulative savings are now slightly below where we would expect them to be if the pandemic had never happened.

The official personal saving rate published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis also shows how American savings returned to earth after government stimulus payments in 2020 and 2021. As the economy reopened, so did wallets. Since early 2022, Americans are saving less than 5 percent of disposable income.

We are resuming a long-term story. Historically, the personal saving rate fell from the teens in the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s to less than 2 percent in the mid-2000s. In the 2010s, the saving rate rose a bit and settled around 5 percent. So far, since the pandemic, we are saving less than we did before it.

Saving for a rainy day is some combination of personal decisions and economic pressures—not least, the 18 percent increase in the overall price level in the four years since the start of the pandemic. To peer through the effects of inflation, it is valuable to look at real (after-inflation) patterns for a clearer view of what, if anything, has changed.

Let’s start with earnings. The real hourly compensation index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows how the surge in real earnings early in the pandemic petered out through 2021 and 2022. While some American workers experienced big raises during this period, price inflation was faster.

After a wild, three-year ride of labor shortages, job quitting, and inflation, the average American worker has neither gained nor lost ground. Real compensation is back where the pre-pandemic trend would have projected.

However, this return-to-trend is out of alignment with the spending side of the household ledger. True, life has gotten more expensive because of inflation; in raw dollar terms, we would expect consumer spending to increase. Yet even after factoring in higher prices, spending by U.S. consumers remains more than 4 percent above the pre-pandemic trend.

In today’s dollars, Americans are spending about $2,300 more than what the pre-pandemic trend would project. Why we are consuming significantly more—even after inflation—is a fascinating question with no obvious answer.

In the meantime, the observation that real spending has settled at a higher level over the past three years seems a likely factor in the lower share of Americans with emergency savings.

At the same moment, Americans are feeling a steep rise in interest payments (which are not included in the spending data). As interest rates have increased on credit cards, car notes, and other personal loans, real per capita interest payments are almost double their pre-pandemic level.

U.S. credit card balances in early 2024 are 13 percent higher than one year prior. Credit card delinquencies are at the highest level since 2012.

These sticky increases in spending and borrowing—while compensation has fallen back to its long-term trend—help explain why emergency savings might be hard to build. Setting aside a rainy day fund is also harder for some than for others.

Notably, Black adults and people aged 45 to 59 were the only groups to show slight upticks in rainy day readiness in 2023. Younger adults and people without a college degree are substantially less ready to ride out a disruption in income. Black and Hispanic Americans, people in rural areas, and parents with children at home—many of whom are facing rising child care costs—are also less likely to have emergency savings set aside.

Games at the Laurel Dodgers American Legion stadium can be played under the lights again, thanks to equipment, material and labor donations.

NorthWestern Energy donated new light poles, removed the old lights and provided the equipment and labor for installation.

“The old light structures were at the end of their useful life,” said NorthWestern Energy Community Relations Manager Lisa Perry. “The Laurel Dodgers are a tremendous asset for the community of Laurel. We are honored to be able to contribute to the team.”

Ace Electric provided labor and some materials for the electric work for the lights. CED Billings donated materials. Midway Rental in Laurel donated the use of an 85-foot lift. Croell Inc. donated gravel to set the new poles. The city of Laurel recycled the old light poles and made sure the field’s sprinkler system worked.

“We have had the same lights and poles on the baseball field since the mid-80s, and to be able to upgrade, including to LED lights, will benefit baseball players in Laurel of years to come,” said Jon Knaub of the Laurel Dodgers. “Baseball has long been a summer tradition in Laurel and these businesses and organizations are helping keep that tradition alive, strong and bright.”

The Center Square

In a new analysis on state tax revenue trends, 18 states reported falling tax revenues, with California reporting the lowest. 

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Fiscal 50 project, state tax revenue outperformed its long-term trend in 32 states, with Alaska leading all states by far. It collected more than 11 times, 1,041% more than, its long-term trend level, the report found. The states with the next-highest collections compared with their long-term trends were Wyoming (37.7%), New Mexico (32.5%), West Virginia (10.6%), and Montana (10%), the report found.

The analysis evaluated tax revenue trends, which measure the difference between recent state tax collections and a 15-year trend level, Pew explains. The data is adjusted for inflation and seasonality. “This approach provides a window into how current conditions compare with a state’s long-term trajectory over the previous 15 years and may paint a different picture than recent state forecasts and relatively volatile quarterly and annual percentage changes,” the report states. “A deeper understanding of long-term trends can help state leaders judge whether their budgets are on a sustainable path and allow for better-informed fiscal planning and policy formulation.”

When tax revenue in the second quarter of 2023 was compared with 15-year trend levels, adjusted for inflation and seasonality, California had the weakest tax revenue of -16.2%, followed by Minnesota (-4.9%), New York (-4.8%), and Connecticut (-4%).

“California’s underperformance is partially attributable to the recent delay in the income tax filing deadline for state residents, which pushed large sums of personal and corporate income tax payments from April to November,” the report notes.

Overall, the number of states performing below their long-term revenue trends shifted dramatically, from four in the previous quarter to 18, according to the report. Fifteen new states reported below their long-term revenue trend: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Revenue in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin was already below trend, the report notes.

The long-term trend value is defined “as the 15-year linear trend of tax collections leading up to each quarter, after adjusting for inflation and seasonality,” the report explains. 

Overall, total state tax revenue growth was 1.2%, or $4.2 billion, in the second quarter of 2023, below its 15-year trend, according to the report. Additionally, it points out: “For the first time since 2000, no state had fewer than a month’s worth of operating funds in its total balances. Between fiscal years 2007 and 2021, 8 states ran long-term deficits, carrying forward costs of past services and government operations.”

Tax revenue remained strong in the two largest red states. Both Texas and Florida were among 32 states whose total tax collections outperformed their long-term trend. 

Among the 45 states that collect sales tax, Texas and Florida were among 40 whose sales tax revenue exceeded their long-term trend. 

Their growth “stands out especially since state tax collections across the nation were 1.2% below their long-term trend,” Alexandre Fall, senior associate with The Pew Charitable Trusts, told The Center Square. 

As of the second quarter of 2023, Texas’ tax collections soared 9.6% above its 15-year trend, bringing in an additional $1.9 billion. “The major contributor to Texas’s strong performance was above-trend sales tax revenue, which accounts for 62% of the state’s tax collections,” she said. “These revenues were up 8.5%, or $1.1 billion, above the state’s 15-year trend. Nationally, sales tax collections were 4.9% above their long-term trend.”

Over the same time period, Florida’s tax collections were also “notably strong, exceeding the state’s 15-year trend by 6.5%, or $983 million,” Fall said. “A significant factor in Florida’s growth was above-trend sales tax revenue, which the state depends on for 61% of its tax collections. These revenues were 8.9%, or $847 million, above the state’s 15-year trend. Nationally, sales tax collections were 4.9% above their long-term trend.”

Overall, Fall said, “Understanding long-term trends helps state leaders determine if their budgets are sustainable and supports smarter fiscal planning. It’s critical that policymakers consider why tax revenues are deviating from long-term trends—both overall and for specific revenue streams. This means looking at whether changes are due to policy shifts, external forces like demographic changes, or a mix of both. To ensure long-term fiscal health, lawmakers should also figure out if these deviations are due to temporary factors or if they signal a more lasting structural change that requires policy adjustments.”

Montana is among several states being threatened by an invasion of “super-pigs”, according to New Atlas.

The pigs have wreaked havoc in Canada and are on the verge of crossing the border into Montana, North and South Dakota and Minnesota. They have been seen 18 miles from the North Dakota border.

“The growing wild pig population is not an ecological disaster waiting to happen – it is already happening,” said University of Saskatchewan’s Ryan Brook, professor and lead researcher for the Canadian Wild Pig Project.

The US has been home to ‘normal’ wild pigs for decades, but super-pigs are bigger, faster and more destructive, although less aggressive.

Disease is also a big concern.

Saskatchewan scientists have found that super-pigs are expanding their territory by 9% each year, leaving a path of ecological and agricultural destruction in their wake, having spread rapidly across the country, from British Columbia to Ontario and Quebec, in just a few years.

The hybrid animals are more mobile than other breeds, and there’s not much to stop them. Most of the US-Canadian boundaries are continuous farmland or forested landscapes, which can be easily crossed.

 In the late 1980s, Eurasian wild boar was introduced for game farming  and fenced-in hunting, but when market demand for hunting changed, some were released into the wild. They bred with domestic pigs, evolving an ecological superpower to tolerate supreme cold and a high rate of reproduction, as well as an increase in size. They easily adapt to new environments, free of the habitat constraints and migration challenges that most animals face.

Their prolific breeding and destructive foraging is considered a potential catastrophe for agriculture and the environment.

“Wild pigs can cause soil erosion, degrade water quality, destroy crops, and prey on small mammals, amphibians and birds,” said Ruth Aschim, a PhD student who led the 2019 study. “One of the main problems is the rooting behavior; they upturn the soil because they like to eat the roots and tubers of vegetation. It’s essentially like a rototiller went through an area.”

What’s more, the super-pigs can breed in any season, and sows will have a litter of around six piglets annually. The young are sexually mature in four-to-eight months, and not even a harsh winter can slow them down, as they thrive in the snow, living in ‘pigloos’ underground. They’re also not fussy eaters, and will demolish crops such as corn, wheat, sugar cane and canola, as well as native insects, birds, reptiles and other, smaller, mammals. This is on top of the destructive ‘renovating’ they do by rooting around in the soil.

While it is believed the pigs typically weigh about 250 pounds, a team captured and weighed a pregnant sow to discover she weighed 683 pounds.

And while the super-pigs aren’t aggressive unless threatened, they do bring with them a sizeable pathogenic risk. Disease is a huge concern with wild pigs. They’re reservoirs of not only African Swine Fever, but 39 other viral and bacterial diseases, as well as parasites. They can be transmitted to domestic livestock, wildlife, and humans.

By Chris Woodward, The Center Square

A coalition of animal welfare and wildlife advocacy groups plans to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over gray wolf protections, pointing to the killing of a wolf in Wyoming as an example of why the species needs more protection.

In 2021, the USFWS said relisting “may be warranted,” but a final decision in February declined to relist gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act in the northern Rocky Mountain states, where they are regulated at the state level.

Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy, Footloose Montana, and other groups pointed to an incident in Wyoming where a man captured and tortured a gray wolf before killing it, as reported by Cowboy State Daily.

Gray wolves are currently listed under the ESA as endangered in 44 states, while states maintain jurisdiction in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, as well as parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah.

“With its latest Finding, the FWS is repeating many of the same mistakes it has made in its many prior attempts to delist the gray wolf from ESA protection and the action is likely to face the same outcome as these earlier efforts,” the groups’ intent to sue letter said.

In a statement, Footloose Montana’s Jessica Karjala says states have proven they “cannot be trusted” to sustain the wolf species.

“They not only allow but endorse bounties on wolves,” she said. “They have encouraged increased hunting and quotas on wolves, spotlighting, baiting, trapping, snaring, hound hunting.”

The Center Square previously reported on a lawsuit against USFWS challenging the agency’s February decision by The Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Sierra Club.

The finals of the fifth annual $100K Venture Competition, hosted by Montana State University’s Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship and the MSU Blackstone LaunchPad, were held April 24 in Inspiration Hall at MSU.

During the competition, the finalists pitched their innovative business ideas to a panel of five judges and answered questions to vie for a portion of the $100,000 prize money.

The entrepreneurial event included eight ventures, many from current students. The competition was open to all students, faculty, staff and recent graduates in the Montana University System. The eight finalists were selected from a pool of more than 40 applicants.

The winners are listed below.

* First place, $30,000: Airspace: Modular Vehicle Rack System, a modular rack platform that doesn’t compromise truck bed space and utility, presented by Miles Hogger and Daniel Sierra, both students in the business college’s Master of Science in Innovation and Management program.

* Second place, $20,000: Bridger Bionics, which creates affordable prosthetic adaptations for action sports, presented by Brianna Daniels, an MSU alumna, and Calvin Servheen, a directed interdisciplinary studies and industrial engineering student at MSU.

* Third place, $15,000: Smart Dorm Company, which creates cost-effective, sustainable technology for large-scale residential facilities, presented by Elliot Harrison, an MSU alumnus, and Kolter Stevenson and Trevor Wilson, both University of Montana students.

* Fourth place, $10,000: BioCap Solutions, which sustainably manages algae by cleaning harmful algae blooms and capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, presented by Will Christian, a Ph.D. student in biochemistry. BioCap Solutions also nabbed the coveted People’s Choice Award, which came with a $6,000 award.

* Social Impact Award, $6,000: English Para Todos, which provides holistic, affordable and accessible English language education, presented by Vanessa Zamora Moreno, an MSU alumna, and Kass Thompson, an MSU student studying cell biology and neuroscience.

* Health Impact Award, $3,000: Neurofluidic Diagnostics, which offers precise drug testing environments to detect and monitor the hallmarks of neurodegeneration linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, presented by chemical engineering doctoral students Zeynep Malkoc and Esther Stopps.

* Additionally, the finalists that did not place in the top four each earned a $2,500 award.

“The $100K Venture Competition was an amazing opportunity,” said Hogger, a member of the winning venture. “There are some truly amazing ideas being developed in Montana and by MSU alums. I am excited to see future innovations that will come out of this campus. The resources at MSU provide amazing opportunities to learn and implement to allow anyone to start a business.” 

The judges were Stacie Bruno, MSU class of ’08 and vice president of finance for the Outdoor Performance Group of Vista Outdoors; Magali Eaton, Technology Transfer Office associate director and technology translation lead at MSU; Otto Pohl, startup communications strategist and founder of Core Communications; Mitch Violett, MSU class of ’08 and vice president of product management, data science and business development at Outpost; and Chris Walch, CEO and co-founder of LifeScore.

There’s a big property rights victory from the Supreme Court that is being little talked about and somewhat shunned as being as significant as it is by much of media.

The Supreme Court has ruled that home equity theft qualifies as a taking, and that state law is not the sole source for the definition of property rights. The ruling sets an important and valuable precedent.

In a unanimous Supreme Court decision local governments seizing the entire value of a property in order to pay off a smaller delinquent property tax debt has been declared as a takings or “home equity theft.” The case, Tyler v. Hennepin County, addressed the case of Geraldine Tyler. The plaintiff in the case was a 94-year-old widow whose home, valued at $40,000, was seized by Hennepin County  after she was unable to pay off $15,000 in property taxes, penalties, interest, and fees. The County then kept the entire $40,000 for itself, as Minnesota law allows.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that such practices qualify as takings requiring the payment of “just compensation” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Importantly, it also concluded that state law is not the sole source of the definition of property rights under the Takings Clause, and therefore state governments cannot seize private property without compensation simply by redefining it as the state’s property.

Besides the clear merits of the case, property rights advocates noted that the case set a significant precedent in declaring that states cannot just redefine property rights at will, which has important implications for other property rights issues.

In the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out that the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation…. States have long imposed taxes on property. Such taxes are not themselves a taking, but are a mandated ‘contribution from individuals . . . for the support of the government . . . for which they receive compensation in the protection which government affords.’”

The Takings Clause does not itself define property. For that, the Court draws on “existing rules or understandings” about property rights. Phillips v. Washington Legal Foundation, 524 U. S. 156, 164 (1998). State law is one important source…. But state law cannot be the only source. Otherwise, a State could “sidestep the Takings Clause by disavowing traditional property interests” in assets it wishes to appropriate. Phillips, 524 U. S., at 167; see also… Hall v. Meisner, 51 F. 4th 185, 190 (CA6 2022) (Kethledge, J., for the Court) (“[T]he Takings Clause would be a dead letter if a state could simply exclude from its definition of property any interest that the state wished to take.”). So we also look to “traditional property law principles,” plus historical practice and this Court’s precedents….

By Steve Wilson, Center Square

Requiring publicly traded companies to make climate-related disclosures has voluntarily been put on hold by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC’s move came before a decision was reached by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. John Rady, counsel for the SEC in the case, notified the court in a letter.

The commission’s decision was made, Rady wrote in part, because of “procedural complexities of this litigation” and avoiding “potential regulatory uncertainty” if the rule went into place during the legal challenge.

This means until legal challenges at the 8th Circuit are resolved, registrants are not subject to the newly adopted SEC climate disclosure rules. The phase-in period doesn’t begin until 2025 at the earliest; it is unclear if that will be delayed.

The new rule was to be fully in effect in 2026.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in a release, said, “The Biden administration wants to radically transform the SEC run by unelected bureaucrats and make them champions of climate change, regardless of what the agency’s functions are – Biden is creating a federal bureaucracy to suit his agenda. The rule would provide for coordinated discrimination against areas of the country like West Virginia that depend most heavily on fossil fuels for energy.”

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, in a statement, said, “Today’s victory shuts down the most outrageous climate mandate for businesses since Biden took office. The SEC’s job is to protect people from fraud. It has no business slapping companies with extremist climate mandates. We are making it clear that Biden has to follow the law like everyone else.

“By halting this mandate, we are protecting businesses from costly red tape, securing our supply chain, and defending family farms. Next, we are going to make this win permanent!”

In the order, the SEC says it “will continue vigorously defending the final rules’ validity in court and looks forward to expeditious resolution of the litigation.”

The SEC rule was adopted in early March and was to have required publicly-traded companies to inform investors of the climate change-related financial risks of that company’s operations. Those include greenhouse gas emissions, severe weather events, and “other natural conditions” such as rising sea levels.

The SEC says most companies are already providing this information, with 90% of Russell 1000 Index (the top 1,000 stocks traded in the U.S.) already providing information related to climate change and 60% of those on the index issuing data on greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. 

Following the SEC’s adoption of the new rules, challenges were made at six different federal appellate courts.

On March 21, the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation combined the litigation into one complaint at the 8th Circuit.