Mead credits ag with, ‘best supporting actor’ award in state’s economy
“We too often talk about agriculture as being the third largest industry in Wyoming, behind our minerals and tourism. We talk about it in terms of 11,000 ranches and farms. We talk about it being a billion dollar business plus or minus every year. But, that really sells short what agriculture means to Wyoming,” says Governor Matt Mead.
“The reason it sells it short is because ag should get best supporting actor so many times for other Wyoming companies and industries.
“Look at tourism for example. Tourism relies heavily on ag doing well because we in ag provide so much of the open space and beauty that Wyoming has. If you’re a sportsman you should also thank ag every day, because much of the wildlife that does well in Wyoming is due to agriculture,” notes Mead.
He adds that industry is another thing that benefits from agriculture.
“Last year I was in Leadership Wyoming, and my class project was, ‘What if we didn’t have agriculture in Wyoming? What would our state be like?’ If you take out all the open space ag provides, and all the water that ag uses in a beneficial manner, and all the sustainability we provide to wildlife, Wyoming is a completely different place than it is now,” says Mead.
He continues, saying he looked at what would happen if all the state’s farms and ranches were put into sub-developments, and the impact that would have on water use, on industry being able to develop oil and gas. “You can imagine what it would to tourism,” he adds.
“So, based all of this, when I talk about ag, I talk about it in the very broadest terms. I include the fact that if you look at the big picture, the continuation of agriculture, and agriculture being strong is ultimately a national security issue because we are currently in a position in this country where we have to import a lot of our energy. As a result of that when public policy issues come up when we’re in conflict with other countries, too often that is in the back of our minds as we go about it, and that’s tough. But, it gets much tougher if you can’t feed yourself as a country. If we can’t feed ourselves as a country and have to rely on other countries to feed us, we’re in a terrible position when it comes to foreign policy. So, agriculture is important for both Wyoming and our country,” explains Mead.
As Governor, Mead has already done a couple things specifically to support agriculture in the state.
“I have always believed in the rangeland monitoring process that has been in the works for a couple years. I’ve asked for more money to be added to that rangeland monitoring. The reason I did isn’t to just support individual producers – here’s my view: it’s too often these days we find ourselves in court, usually against an environmental group, and they’ve working to gather money and funding and data for years. Then they hit us and if we don’t have some of our own independent data, it really puts us in a bad situation when we end up in court. The fact is, more data is always better. More data that shows we actually do a good job is certainly better, and so to me it’s a responsible thing to do, as we would do for another industry, such as oil and gas, or tourism. Let’s get the information on what we’re doing in Wyoming and protect ourselves from lawsuits, that in my mind, are many times unwarranted.
Another thing Governor Mead supports is moving technology forward within the state.
“In a rural state we know our distances can often hurt us because we are few and far between. But, having said that, one solution is connectivity. If we can get in a place where we can communicate with one another, say while I’m in Cheyenne, if I can tele-video conference with people from around the state, that saves a lot of money. With tele-commuting we have to bring our state up to a level where we can say nobody does it better.
“So, one of the things I did was ask for additional funding for the livestock board, because in my mind we need to put all the information they have in digital format. That’s been a struggle with them for years, so we asked for additional funding to help with that,” says Mead.
Governor Mead spoke at the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation annual Legislative meeting in Cheyenne on February 14. Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.