Mead commends WAIC for ensuring agriculture’s future and nation’s security
Casper – On Dec. 13 Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom (WAIC) celebrated their 25-year anniversary with a banquet and recognition of past and present leaders.
The banquet was held in conjunction with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup. Along with recognition of those who have made WAIC a success, Governor Matt Mead was present to address the audience.
“We recognize there is an intangible quality to ag and what it means in Wyoming. We are proudly the Cowboy State, and we recognize the value of ag, not just in terms of the economy, but the opportunity it provides so many families,” said Mead. “We can’t have the bucking bronc on our license plate and our quarter if we don’t have ag. We are proudly an ag state, and a Cowboy State.”
Mead said that ranching gave him important lessons that work very well now that he’s in the Governor’s Office.
“I could say that all I need to know I learned on the ranch,” he said. “On days when I wasn’t doing my best, my dad taught me about work ethic, and my mom did, as well. Ranch life provides great training in work ethic, and that’s important in public office.”
He said ranch life also provides great training in perseverance, and one also learns in agriculture that Mother Nature can change plans.
“The other aspect of ag that is important is this: in ag, when something goes wrong, you don’t spend all your time figuring out who to blame or how to spin it, you just go correct the problem,” said Mead. “We also learn in ag that there are times we have to spend more time with the sick or disabled. Those are all important ag lessons.”
Although agriculture is the third largest industry in Wyoming, Mead says the first two, minerals and tourism, wouldn’t be possible without the ag industry.
“We certainly have a strong mineral program, and we certainly are strong in tourism. The reason I say ag should get ‘best supporting actor’ is because so much of what we do could not be done without a strong ag presence.”
He said tourism is a beneficiary of what ranches and farms do in Wyoming, as far as providing open space, clean air, clean water and wildlife, and that tourism also helps the mineral industry.
“The fact of the matter is that if you take all the 11,000 farms and ranches out of Wyoming it would lessen greatly the opportunity for the mineral industry to do their development,” explained Mead. “When we talk about tourism and minerals, we have to recognize ag supports minerals and tourism in a very big way.”
Mead said that, although energy is often referred to when speaking of national security, agriculture is also essential.
“As important as energy is for security in this country, ag is even more important,” he stated. “If our country ever gets to a point where we can’t feed ourselves, that puts us at a disadvantage with regard to global politics. More important than energy is agriculture, and that’s why the sustainability of agriculture is so important to me.”
He said that’s why programs like WAIC are so important – to ensure the future of American agriculture.
“We need to make sure young people understand where food comes from – energy doesn’t come from a light switch, and food doesn’t come from the grocery store, and that is an important lesson if the next generation and the generations to follow will truly understand the value of ag. They need to know how it’s grown and where it comes from,” said the Governor.
“In addition to people knowing where food comes from, we need young people to understand and have an appreciation for ag in the sense they want to be involved,” said Mead, taking education a step farther. “Ag has gotten much better and more sophisticated and cutting edge in what we do.”
In support of agriculture in Wyoming, Mead said that, as he was going through his budget, he put in money for predator control and to address wolves.
“I do that because I think there’s a return on investment,” he noted. “Not only in terms of dollars, but in terms of the quality of life that agriculture provides to those in the industry, but also for everybody in Wyoming and the quality of life and opportunity for those who come to Wyoming.”
He said wolves are in a situation where there’s no question the species is fully recovered in all three states.
“Even the Secretary of Interior says that, and we have worked for almost a year trying to come up with a plan to get wolves off the list and back to state management, and we’re progressing,” said Mead. “I’m very hopeful we’ll get something done, but it’s been a slow and difficult progress, and until it’s a done deal we can’t count our chickens. As we get closer, we get more letters, emails and complaints from people who are usually outside of Wyoming, and Salazar is getting more and more pressure, complaints and people who suggest there is no way any state should be allowed to treat wolves as a predator.”
“Can we address this in a way that works when we know a species is more than recovered?” he asked. “If we can’t, what’s the point of the Endangered Species Act?”
“Agriculture is critical for the identity, culture, quality of life and the future of this country,” said Mead. “For those of you who take the time and who work in agriculture day in and day out, and for those who represent 25 years of Agriculture in the Classroom, you’re on the right track. This education will make or break what we’ll be able to do in agriculture.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.