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This has been a summer to remember celebrating the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station’s (WAES) 125th anniversary.

Laramie Research and Extension Center (LREC) Director Doug Zalesky and his team of our two Haflinger mascots, Pistol and Pete, traversed the state to pull the college’s newly refurbished sheep wagon at numerous events. Pistol and Pete were greeted with enthusiasm everywhere they appeared. Visit Pistol and Pete’s Wyoming tour dates at to see their schedule.

We received nothing but positive feedback for representing the University of Wyoming (UW) and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the communities the team visited.

And just as we thought we had reached record attendance at our field days and open houses, we eclipsed last year’s overall attendance with record attendance at our field days in Powell and Sheridan. The open house at James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) had higher-than-average attendance, as well. This was not surprising, considering each of the centers also celebrated providing service to Wyoming for over 65 years in the case of Powell and 101 years in Sheridan and Goshen County at SAREC. The Family Farm Day hosted by LREC was a huge success again this year.

Seeing exuberance in persons of all ages as they enjoy everything the centers have to offer is encouraging. This included a tremendous presentation from Agricultural Liaison Librarian David Kruger about the book he wrote on the 125 years of the WAES. Extension Director Glen Whipple’s impression pretty well sums up how well David’s presentation was received.

He said, “David made the history interesting. I was left thinking ‘I want to learn the rest of the story’ when he finished.’”

We also had an opportunity to share our history at the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo. Thanks to Dennis Sun and the Wyoming Livestock Roundup for helping secure a booth and a spot to park the college’s wagon near the Roundup tent.

Fair week culminated with sharing the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s (WDA) Excellence in Agriculture awards program. I offer many thanks to WDA Director Doug Miyamoto and his staff for making the awards reception an event to remember.

WAES teamed with the UW Foundation to host “Friends of AES” in September. Many major contributors and long-term supporters of the AES visited Laramie to help celebrate the milestone. UW President Laurie Nichols welcomed the group, then found time to stay to learn more about the history and how we’ve been celebrating our anniversary. We could not be more proud of the tremendous support we realize from our friends of AES.

Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) wrote, “We have all benefitted from the collaborative partnerships fostered by the station. Thank you to the dedicated folks at the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station. You are fostering a legacy of service to ag producers, ranchers and farmers around the state.”

I can think of no better way to conclude than with the dedication in the “125 years of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station” book by Kruger, who wrote, “Dedicated to the hardworking employees of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station in times past, present and future, and to all of the supporters who help us get the job done.”

Since becoming the University of Wyoming’s (UW) 26th president in May, I have had the pleasure of traveling around Wyoming to learn everything I can about the state, meet its people and hear their thoughts and desires for the state’s university.

Those interactions have confirmed something I suspected when I decided to accept the presidency last winter – even though I’m not a Wyoming native, my upbringing and career in the next-door neighbor of South Dakota have prepared me pretty well to understand the people and culture of Wyoming. Things really aren’t that much different. Wyomingites are strong, friendly and independent, with a strong work ethic and a great deal of personal responsibility.

And, of course, much like South Dakota, agriculture plays a key role in Wyoming’s economy and way of life. Having grown up on a farm, with parents and family who have been engaged in agriculture my entire life, I feel right at home in Wyoming.

The common theme of my interactions across the state has been affection for and pride in the university, along with the expectation that it deliver on its land-grant mission of access, quality education, research to stimulate the economy and service to the state and nation. As a product of land-grant universities and having spent my entire career as a land-grant university faculty member, I am happy to lead an institution that continues to embrace its land-grant heritage and mission.

Measured by its impact on American society, the Morrill Act of 1862 must rank as one of the great legislative achievements of 19th century America. The law that provided for the establishment of land-grant universities set the stage for institutions that made higher education accessible for many and that were devoted to serving the people and industries of the states where they were located.

Later congressional actions built upon that foundation, including the Hatch Act of 1887, which provided for the establishment of agricultural experiment stations at those land-grant universities. The Hatch Act deepened and amplified the land-grant mission of education, research and service that continues today.

UW was established in 1886 under the provisions of the Morrill Act, and the Wyoming Agriculture Experiment Station (WAES) was created just five years later – one year after statehood – to serve the state’s farmers and ranchers. As we mark the 125th anniversary of WAES, it’s only appropriate to examine the station’s impressive history and take stock of its achievements.

WAES, both on campus and through our research centers in Lingle, Powell and Sheridan, regularly produces valuable information regarding crop and livestock production, ag economics, weed management and food safety.

Here are a few examples of WAES research:

A collaborative project at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center is finding ways to restore land decimated by invasive weeds such as cheatgrass, which takes valuable land out of production.

Dried bean trials at Powell are helping identify varieties that will perform well in the northwest part of the state.

Research at Sheridan is finding the most ideal combination of grass/legumes to establish in irrigated crop/forage system.

WAES has re-established a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Idaho. WAES had transported the foundation flock of Columbia sheep to the station in 1918. Now, the Laramie Research and Extension Center will test rams from breed improvement research the sheep station has been conducting in recent years.

In my travels around the state, I also have made a point of visiting with UW Extension employees who do important, on-the-ground work with the people and industries of Wyoming. The Extension program was created under the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, in which Congress provided funding for outreach efforts at land-grant universities in partnership with state and county governments. Specifically, the Act’s purpose was “to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture … home economics and rural energy and to encourage the application of the same.”

I’m pleased to see that more than a century later, the state-federal-county partnership endures and flourishes in Wyoming, continuing to help the state’s citizens and communities respond to challenges and changes. Although Extension has broadened its educational mission to encompass many of the contemporary issues facing Wyoming’s people and its rural communities, the program’s roots are still firmly planted in agriculture.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that after a long delay and unfortunate problems, work has begun on construction and repairs to UW’s biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory. The building and remodeling should take about 10 months, followed of course by the commissioning and rigorous certification process. I understand this has been a frustrating situation for many people, but I’m glad to see things are now moving forward. This lab will provide ideal conditions for researchers to work with wildlife and livestock diseases including brucellosis, plague, tularemia and Q fever. Even without that facility, our brucellosis researchers remain hard at work on effective vaccines and vaccination practices. We remain hopeful for breakthroughs that will help the agriculture industry and wildlife managers.

I am committed to maintaining strong research facilities and conducting research that is useful to the state’s agricultural producers, even as the university tightens its belt in response to the downturn in the state’s energy economy.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Governor Mead has tasked the university with reducing its budget by a total of $35 million in the coming biennium – in addition to a nearly $6 million cut that came from the 2016 legislative session. There also are needs within the university, related to maintenance of new buildings and upgrading our fiscal reporting system, that require internal reallocations.

I experienced a similar budget reduction at my previous university, so I know that there definitely will be some pain. But I also know that it is possible for an institution to go through reductions of this magnitude and come out even stronger, as a result of prioritization and innovative thinking. I’m committed to making sure this is the case for UW. Strategic planning is one of my first priorities for the university, and I intend for that planning process to also be very inclusive and transparent. It is clear that we will have to think very creatively to maintain and enhance the university’s level of service to the state, and a key to that will be a multidisciplinary approach among our academic units.

Fortunately, there are strong multidisciplinary efforts already in place, including the cooperative relationship between the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Another example is the university’s Science Initiative, which involves five academic departments in the foundational sciences, including molecular biology in the College of Agriculture.

The Science Initiative will involve recruiting and giving Wyoming high school graduates a world-class experience, with active-learning programs, classrooms and laboratories to dramatically increase student learning, retention and satisfaction. We have a number of strong programs in the sciences already, and these coming changes have to potential to lift us to the top quartile of universities across the country.

The Science Initiative plan calls for relocating the Department of molecular biology to be with its sister departments of botany and zoology/physiology. Space freed up by the move of Molecular Biology will provide additional research and support spaces for the Department of Animal Science. This is a very exciting effort that has received strong support from the Legislature and the governor, and we are committed to moving it forward as quickly as possible.

In spite of the challenges facing the state, I remain optimistic for the university and Wyoming’s education system. Higher education is critical to Wyoming’s future, because our graduates are the people who will drive the innovations that assure a future for the state’s key industries; develop new ideas and businesses to diversify the state’s economy; and assure that Wyoming remains a great place to live, work, play and raise families.

I look forward to working in concert with all components of Wyoming’s education system, state government, private industry and others to help drive positive changes in the state – changes that improve our economy while protecting those things we hold dear in this part of the country. Pulling together when times are tough is part of the Western ethic, and I promise that the University of Wyoming will be an active partner as we work our way through the current downturn.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are finally getting a much-needed check on their runaway overreach. A unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court in May means farmers and ranchers can take the federal government to court immediately after an agency determines it can regulate part of their property.

This ruling – United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes – is among the most important court opinions we have seen. Along with other groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) was proud to contribute a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Hawkes family and the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Before this ruling, the Army Corps would tell farmers they had no right to challenge its decision that it had legal authority over what it had determined to be “navigable waters” on their land. Landowners would have to apply for a permit to work their land, or they could farm without a permit and wait for the government to sue them.

Either of the government’s approaches could bankrupt many farmers. Just applying for a permit takes months or even years, piles of technical studies and many thousands of dollars in consultant and legal fees. Many permit applications die on the vine – neither rejected nor denied by the Corps but abandoned by frustrated landowners after years of delay and requests for more data. It wasn’t hard for the Justices to see the injustice and abuse in the government’s approach. Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Alito did not mince words about the Clean Water Act, either. They warned it “continues to raise troubling questions regarding the government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the nation.”

This isn’t news to Farm Bureau. For more than a decade, we have been battling overreach by both the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which share limited jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. We weighed in several years ago in the so-called SWANCC case when the Corps claimed jurisdiction over any water body – no matter how small and isolated – where migratory birds might land. The Supreme Court said "no" to that scheme.

EPA also tried to impose federal permitting on any livestock farm with the “potential” to discharge pollution, even if the farm never had a discharge and even though the law only regulates “discharges” to waters. Farm Bureau filed suit together with the pork industry. The court ruled against the EPA. Livestock farms don’t need a federal permit to operate. But both EPA and the Corps keep trying to push the boundaries – to regulate by any means possible, no matter how they have to stretch logic and the law.

Again, Hawkes isn’t the first time EPA has been caught overstepping its bounds. Take, for example, the case of Andy Johnson, a Wyoming farmer who recently won a long battle with EPA over an environmentally friendly stock pond for cattle on his property. Besides watering Johnson’s cattle, the pond fostered wetland grasses and provided habitat for herons and a stopping place for the local population of eagles.

Johnson had a state permit to construct the pond on his property. But the EPA later claimed that pond violated federal law. They threatened him with a daily fine of $37,500 for failure to follow their order to remove the pond. Johnson wasn’t having any of it. He and attorneys eventually wore down the EPA. The agency settled out of court and let the pond stay as it was, rather than face certain defeat.

Lois Alt, together with the Farm Bureau, also beat back the EPA. Regulators insisted she apply for a Clean Water Act permit for nothing more than the storm water that ran off her well-tended farmyard. And again, the Army Corps of Engineers threatened fines of $37,500 a day if she didn’t comply. It defied common sense. The courts agreed and sent the EPA packing.

Farmers shouldn’t be left in limbo wondering if regulators can shut down our farms over an everyday farming activity. It shouldn’t take a Ph.D. in hydrology to determine if there’s “navigable water” on our land. Opaque, confusing and shockingly expensive regulation by the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA has hamstrung farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to work with and care for the land.

Hawkes, SWANCC, Johnson and Alt – these legal battles have won real victories for private landowners across the country and for agriculture. We will continue to work through the courts and with Congress to control unlawful overreach by agencies that seem incapable of self-control.

Currency markets reacted violently to the surprising British vote to leave the European Union. Now that the dust has settled somewhat and lawyers have taken over – ain’t that the case with anything – it appears that things are not exactly black and white. If anything, it appears this issue could drag out for a while with plenty of room for maneuvering and negotiation on both sides. The British pound has yet to recover, but the U.S. dollar index is on its way down, and other emerging market currencies have recovered somewhat.

The reason this is an important issue for livestock markets is obvious to those that have been tracking this industry for a while – a big chunk of our customers are outside of U.S. borders. And when the dollar becomes stronger, suddenly the price of U.S. products goes up, making our beef, pork or chicken less competitive relative to other exporting nations. When the U.S. dollar goes up, the U.S. market also becomes more attractive to ship to. The result is a shift in the relative flow of products into the U.S., ultimately impacting returns of U.S. livestock and poultry producers.

Much has changed in the last 12 months on the currency front and generally for the better for the U.S. meat industry. The top chart to the right shows the performance of the U.S. dollar relative to the currency of nations with which we trade significant volumes of beef,
pork and chicken. We often hear about the dollar getting stronger or
weaker, but the reality is that there is no such thing. The value of the U.S.
dollar is always measured relative to specific currencies, or in currency pairs. Even the so-called U.S. dollar index only reflects the value of the U.S. dollar relative to a very small basked of currencies, dominated by the euro.

Currently is takes about 102.5 Japaneseyen to buy one dollar of U.S. beef. Last year, it took about 125 yen to purchase the same amount. In other words, the purchasing power of
the Japanese yen has increased, and a Japanese importer now can afford
to buy more U.S. product without having to spend more. Suddenly for
that Japanese buyer U.S. beef is on sale with an 18 percent off sticker, just due
to the currency shift alone. Add on top of this, the decline in cattle prices in the U.S. and higher product availability, one can understand why
the U.S. market has once again become very a reactive if you are a beef
buyer in Japan.

Last year, U.S. beef exports struggled in the third and
fourth quarter, which in turn contributed to the dramatic decline in fed
cattle values in the fall. Feedlot supplies got backed up, for a variety of reasons last fall, and the lack of a vibrant export market made a bad situation worse.

This year, however, it appears that exports should
benefit from the fact that the U.S. dollar is heading lower. The Brexit vote
had the potential to once again push the U.S. dollar up, hence all the attention from livestock futures participants in recent days.

USDA currently projects steady gains in U.S. beef, pork and chicken exports in 2016-17. The increase in exports reflects the fact that U.S. production for all proteins is expected to increase in the short to medium term. Lower feed grain prices and positive margins have fueled expansion and exports should help soak up some of the additional supply.

Trade appears to be a focus of the presidential campaigns this fall, and we have no interest in wading in politics in this report. However, the reality is that the U.S. is a large net exporter of agricultural products. It is also a large net exporter of meat products. In 2015, exports accounted for 21.3 percent of all pork production, 17.3 percent of all chicken production and 10 percent of beef production, fueling much of the growth in U.S. livestock industry in the last 20 years.