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The Associated Press November 18, 2010, 5:23PM ET

USDA investigating cattle brokerage for bad checks

One of the nation's largest cattle brokerages is under investigation after federal regulators said the Indiana company left ranchers nationwide hanging for $130 million.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Thursday that Eastern Livestock Co. wrote checks totaling about $81 million to buy cattle this month that have been returned for insufficient funds.

The agency says Eastern may owe cattle farmers across Midwest and West as much as $130 million.

Many ranchers are hurting from rising costs and bad weather, and it's unclear how they'll get their money back. Eastern's assets are frozen and the company is bonded for only $875,000.

A man who answered the phone at the company's stockyard in New Albany said the company had no comment.

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