Governor addresses Natural Resources Rendezvous
Casper – As over 600 people gathered for the joint convention of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and the Wyoming Section of the Society for Range Management, Governor Matt Mead addressed the group’s Dec. 11 luncheon.
“Last year, in my State of the State address, I tried to highlight those things that mean a lot to Wyoming in terms of our culture, heritage and traditions, and in terms of economy,” Mead said. “One of the things I spent time on was the value of agriculture to Wyoming in the past, currently and why we need to make sure agriculture remains strong in the future.”
In highlighting that agriculture as the state’s third largest industry, he also mentioned that while the industry is responsible for maintaining Wyoming’s landscapes, it is also under never-before-seen pressures.
“Agriculture adds so much in terms of our lifestyle – whether that is open spaces, clean air or clean water,” Mead noted, “but we have to remember the most critical point – ag is under pressure.”
Not only on a state level, but also on a national scale, the agriculture industry is facing pressures from the public that are unprecedented, according to Mead, who added that it is because the ag industry hasn’t done a very good job of educating our public.
“My concern is this – the heart of agriculture is that it puts food on the table,” he said. “For the most part, I don’t think we are doing a very good job of educating the public about what ag really does.”
Mead continued, “We talk about natural security in terms of having energy independence, but certainly, making sure that, as a state and as a county we can feed ourselves today and into the future, is important.”
Because of the misunderstandings about the agriculture industry, Mead noted that the public doesn’t understand the implications of policies and actions that adversely affect agriculture.
Mead noted that wolves have provided a perfect case study toward the public perception of agriculture.
“When I got elected, I thought that one of the issues we needed to tackle was the issue of wolves,” said Mead. “It is an issue for producers, certainly, but it is a broader issue for sportsmen, as well.”
Working with policy advisors, the public and experts around the state, Mead noted that they collaboratively developed a wolf management plan they believe to be a good plan based on sound science.
“I believe it is a very good plan,” Mead noted, “and as you have seen during this hunting season, there hasn’t been a wholesale slaughter on wolves, but there is still a vitriolic reaction to any sort of hunting wolves.”
“My point is that we have not done a good job educating people in terms of what producers do and why we need to have strong producers,” he continued.
Mead also demonstrated that the issue has resulted in letters of malice directed toward him and his family, and he noted it is because of misunderstanding.
“I appreciate that people have different viewpoints, but when we are in a position as producers that we look at the things we need to make sure we maintain our livelihood and continue to supply food, and these are the challenges that we have,” Mead commented. “I would submit that the people who send these letters have full bellies, and they haven’t experienced hunger. We take for granted what ag has provided, and we take for granted the things ag will continue to provide.”
“As we address these issues,” Mead said, “one of the things we need to continue to do is educate the public.”
While he noted the task is not an easy one, it is necessary, as there are citizens of the U.S. who still believe, for example, that their food comes from the grocery store – the same people who continue to write letters supporting those policies that harm agriculture.
“With regard to agriculture, I am suggesting that the state and our country need to take the longest term view possible in making sure that today, tomorrow and forever, our country can feed ourselves,” he added.
Not only is the general public uninformed, Mead stated, but the federal government places challenges on agriculture.
“Another case study is related to the renewable fuel standard,” Mead noted. “I and several other Governors asked the EPA recently to waive the volume requirements for the renewable fuel standard program, based on the effects of the drought and the feed stocks of corn used to produce renewable fuels.”
The EPA, however, denied the request with the reason that they do not see implementation of the program as severely harming a state, regional or national economy.
“I wonder what sort of circumstance would create an exception to the renewable fuel program,” Mead asked. “What do we need to do or what would have to happen to get that waiver?”
While agriculture continues to fight for the right to continue to produce, Mead said, “We have been and we will continue to be heavily involved in litigation.”
Mead pledged to continue to fight against those things that adversely affect agriculture, citing the Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep lawsuit in the Medicine Bow areas, as well as the Green Mountain common allotment case.
“When we talk about these situations, we have to recognize that in Wyoming we need to do our jobs,” Mead commented. “We should proudly say that we have helped to provide for on the table and we keep as many people fed as possible, and that is something to be extremely proud of. That is part of ag.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.