Bourret recognized as Outstanding Ag Citizen
Few people have dedicated their entire lives to the benefit of others, particularly agriculture. Wyoming agriculture is extremely fortunate however to have one such person as Larry Bourret.
His tireless contributions to the citizens of the state and the industry over a span of nearly 50 years have earned him the honor of Outstanding Ag Citizen this year. Bourret will be honored during an awards ceremony in Douglas on August 17.
Wyoming Livestock Roundup publisher Del Tinsely launched the Outstanding Agricultural Citizen award nearly ten years ago. The program honors members of the agricultural community who’ve one above and beyond the call of duty as an agriculture industry advocate.
Bourret was born and raised in Harrison, Neb. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. After four years in the Navy, he attended the University of Wyoming on the G.I. Bill.
Early years in the agriculture industry found Bourret managing the Archer Experiment Station for one year then working on his in-law’s ranch in Medicine Bow for three years. He then began his stint with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA).
Bourret began with the WDA as a resource management specialist and then as assistant commissioner before becoming the Commissioner of Agriculture, a position he held for six years.
July 21,2001 marked 20 years of service to the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation for Bourret. He began as the director of government affairs. “In other words, I was lobbying for them,” Bourret said. He has served as WFBF executive vice president since 1983.
Bourret is known across the state and the nation for standing up for agriculture and rural Wyoming. He fought endlessly on the reintroduction of the gray wolf in Yellowstone, has stood up for federal land grazing rights, water issues and taxes. Of course, that only touches the surface. “I’ve worked on hundreds of them,” Bourret laughed of the many issues that have come along in the past 20 years.
“That’s one of the enjoyable things about the job. . . it never gets tiresome,” Borret says.
Bourret still spends time every year at the Wyoming Legislature lobbying for agriculture. “If you figure an average of 30 days every year, I’ve spent almost two years of my life at the Legislature,” Bourret said.
Bourret has seen a lot of changes in agriculture. “Operations are bigger and more mechanized, land prices are not much more than inflation and it takes a lot more capital now.
“There was a time a guy could run 60 cows, and if he mined his Ps and Qs, he could support his family and make a pretty good living. Now you couldn’t even come close,” Bourret said.
Bourret is certainly worried about the future and direction agriculture is heading. “Ag is getting away from being a necessity; people out there don’t realize that it really is.”
“I remember during World War II when there was a sugar ration. Sugar never tasted so good. You don’t realize it until you don’t have it,” Bourret said “I hope that this country is never in that position again when we have to depend on other nations for our food.”
The big issue in Bourret’s opinion is the lack of income in agriculture. “You have to build up your capital so you have something to sell, when you do sell to make money you have to pay taxes on it. It’s a cyclical nature, we’re taxing ourselves right out of business.”
Another thing Bourret is seeing is the affect regulations are having on the direction agriculture is heading today. “Until recent years Wyoming was almost a two part state. There was the private east and the federal west. You have to deal with those issues differently,” Bourret began, “Now with the Prebles Jumping Mouse and the black tailed prarie dog, eastern Wyoming is having the same problems as the west, just because of the issues involved. They have gotten a taste of what this is going to be like.”
Taking a Stand
Endangered species are something that Bourret has had a lot of dealings with. “I remember the Endangered Species Act was rewritten in 1973, hardly anyone attended the hearings,” he said. “The intent now isn’t the same. The question is, can you continue to produce. The environmental community needs to take a step back and ask themselves if they are really helping this country.”
Currently, Bourret is on both the black tailed prairie dog working group and the sage grouse working group, still fighting for rancher and farmer rights.
“We tease Larry about being a workaholic,” said WFBF president Karen Henry. “He never seems to get burnt out fighting for ag. I think it is his desire to keep the federal government in check and keep them honest,” she continued.
What motivates Bourret to continue standing up for what he believes in? “You have to base you decision on if you should do something and if it is jeopardy of not doing anything,” Bourret said. “You have to stand your ground and provide good information. Some people might call that ultra-conservative,” Bourret said laughing.
“Like any deal, you’re not going to win them all. You’d be fortunate to win over half. But you’ve got to take a stand and not let them get their way,” he said. “If you don’t put up a fight, you’re going to lose every dang one of them.”
Bourret said he was pleased to be named outstanding ag citizen. It’s the compliments and appreciation that you receive that keep you going, Bourret said. Several people who have worked with Larry have nothing but appreciation for him.
“There is just no way to explain his value. He has devoted his life to Wyoming,” Henry said. “I have nothing but praise for him, he is that close of a friend, and I couldn’t of asked to work with a more dedicated individual.”
Henry added Bourret was dedicated to his family and enjoyed spending time with his grandkids. Bourret and his wife Bobbie have four children, ten grandkids and five great-grandchildren. “I’ve been very fortunate to have my kids close,” he said.