Opinion by Jason Fearneyhough
Wyoming Remains Strong Despite Drought
Jason Fearneyhough, Director, Wyoming Department of Agriculture
As I drove around Wyoming last week, I was struck once again by how tough things look out there as we struggle through this latest drought. This fact was confirmed by the many personal meetings and phone calls I have had recently with producers around the state. Water is scarce and so is feed. As we hosted the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture meeting last week, the directors of agriculture from the 13 western states felt our pain, as most of them are in a similar situation.
It’s tough, it’s dry, and there is no short-term relief in sight, but Wyoming has been through this before. Many farms and ranches in Wyoming have been around for generations and in times like these, the great people of Wyoming agriculture shine. As we all know, adversity is common in agriculture, but the resiliency and storied traditions of Wyoming producers can’t be beaten. It’s no mistake that some of the hardest working and best people I know make their living in agriculture because it takes a special type of person to live this life. A special blend of stubbornness, dedication, strong work ethic, a sense of family and creativity through innovation make the people of our industry second to none.
True, the challenges never end, and some years there are more challenges than others. This is definitely the case right now. Currently we are dealing with drought, fire, ever-increasing regulations, input cost uncertainty, litigation all over the map and the long wait to see what happens in the Farm Bill. These are on top of the “normal” challenges due to our extremely variable weather patterns, topography and geology in Wyoming.
Through all of this, however, Wyoming has developed cattle and sheep herds that are as good as, if not better than, anyone’s in the country. We have hay that is sought out globally and wheat, sugar beets, dry edible beans, barley and more that are all of superior quality and always in demand.
More importantly, Wyoming agriculture grows good people. Plain and simple, we raise high quality kids. This is important for many reasons, but mainly, this is how we maintained a “can do” attitude from generations past and how we will continue it in the future. Agriculture needs good young people and we’ve got ‘em.
Wyoming ranchers and farmers have worked generation after generation to take what is given to them and improve it. They have instilled this value into their children, and that dedication to meeting challenges and then raising the bar is obvious. Agriculture in Wyoming is constantly becoming more efficient and productive while maintaining the traditions that are important to family and the industry in a changing world where new issues pop up at each turn.
This attitude of excellence ensures that Wyoming agriculture will have a large impact on how we approach the opportunities that are presenting themselves as we move to the future.
There are more people to feed on the planet every day. We just surpassed 7 billion, and we will reach 9 billion easily in my lifetime. While the numbers grow, the issues we face aren’t going to go away. Even with those ever changing issues, this spells immense opportunity for agriculture and I have no doubt that Wyoming will be up to the challenge to help meet this need.