A new year – Wyo ag groups look back at 2014, toward the new year
A year of good weather, strong prices and overall optimism from Wyoming’s agriculture industry has many of ag groups looking forward to the year to come.
“2014 was a good year in terms of market prices and adequate moisture,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “The year is ending on a good note, as well.”
“For agriculture, 2014 went pretty well,” continues Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “We had cattle prices that were better than any really expected, and we didn’t have a drought.”
Hamilton notes good grass and good cattle prices told the story for the year in Wyoming.
“Some producers had challenges,” he comments, noting that hay producers saw inopportune rains and dry bean producers struggled with early frosts, “but overall, things were pretty good.”
Yields for many crops were high, sheep and wool prices were fair, and moisture was adequate.
Keith Kennedy, executive director of the Wyoming Ag Business Association (WABA), continued, “Wheat producers in Wyoming also had a good year, with some of the best moisture and best yields we’ve seen in dryland farming ever.”
“That doesn’t happen often in Wyoming,” Hamilton adds.
In reflecting on 2014, many of the highlights come from positive work in Washington, D.C.
“In the last weeks of December, we got key provisions from Senator Barrasso’s Grazing Improvement Act to give significant security to our permittees,” Magagna explains.
He also notes that a delay of the listing of sage grouse, found in the cromnibus bill, was also positive.
“We are still trying to guess what the sage grouse delay means,” he says. “As I look at it, it means that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will continue to gather data through the remainder of fiscal year 2015, but they can’t begin to prepare any type of decision.”
Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) Executive Director Bobbie Frank adds, “I think the action taken by Congress and the pushback from everyone – both on the interpretive rule and the Waters of the U.S. rule – is definitely positive.”
Kennedy comments, “2014 was a lot of work to do with EPA – between the Waters of the U.S. rule and the interpretive rule, as well as worker protection standards.”
Hamilton also notes endangered species concerns continued in 2014, and are likely in the future, particularly citing wolves and sage grouse.
“There are a bunch of species out there that FWS has agreed to look at for potential listing,” he says.
In Wyoming, Frank notes that the return of program authority to Wyoming Natural Resources Conservation Service is very positive and will allow the agency to get back to business.
She also adds that the completion of the Categorical Use Attainability Analysis Designation of Surface Water Contact by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is an important and exciting accomplishment.
“There is some opposition to the report in the environmental community, but we have worked with DEQ since 2010 on this to get Wyoming surface waters accurately designated for primary and secondary uses,” Frank explains. “It will save a lot of time and taxpayer dollars and will result in much more accurate designation of surface waters.”
“Another positive from 2014 was the FWS moving forward with its 10(j) rule for black-footed ferrets,” says Frank.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) Government Affairs Specialist Scott Zimmerman also marks 2014 as a good year, specifically mentioning that internally, reorganization has yielded positive results in terms of productivity.
“We also had a number of projects throughout co-op center that went well,” he says.
Hamilton notes that a GMO ban in one county in Oregon means that Roundup Ready sugarbeet seed may be a concern moving forward.
“That county produces most of the Roundup Ready sugarbeet seed in the U.S., and I think that will have an impact,” he explains.
Wyoming ag groups also highlighted optimism for the coming year.
“With the new Congress in Washington, D.C., we hope we will be able to take some steps beyond what happened in the last 10 days of this session in terms of stopping overregulation by EPA and bringing more focus,” Magagna says.
Magagna further comments that he sees a proactive approach from Washington, D.C. moving forward.
Endangered species, particularly sage grouse, will continue to be a focus for WACD, WyFB and WSGA moving into 2015.
Hamilton mentions, “I’d like to see meaningful reforms to the Endangered Species Act, as well.”
Kennedy continues that WABA continues to anticipate the final versions of many rules.
“We can’t wait to see what the final rules will be like, especially on worker protection standards,” he says. “We are also expecting a proposed rule that changes certification and training for all pesticide applicators.”
Kennedy also notes that a new program within the fertilizer industry will be a focus for that sector moving forward.
“The fertilizer industry is starting a program called ‘Responsible Ag,’” Kennedy says. “They are starting a three-year process, and wholesalers, retailers and farmers who take bulk deliveries will be encouraged to participate.”
More information about the program is forthcoming.
“2015 will be a good year, we hope,” Hamilton says.
Within the organizations
On the ground at home, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) looks to continue to work with landowners in addressing water quality issues in 2015.
“We are gearing up to publish our Watershed Progress report,” WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank says, noting that the report captures the progress that has been made on impaired, listed or threatened waters.
Frank also notes that Governor Mead’s highly anticipated water strategy is scheduled for release very soon, which will be important.
“As usual, we will continue to be involved in federal land management issues, and our top priorities will be water-related, including funding for water projects and natural resources and integrity in data collection,” Frank summarizes.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) has also developed its own priorities for 2015, which include working toward their 150th anniversary.
“This fall, we announced our 150th anniversary campaign to grow our endowment, so we will put a lot of emphasis on that,” WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna notes.
The organization will also emphasize involvement of young people in the activity of the organization and maintain a continued focus on investment and management of income, as well as generational transfer.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union will continue to focus on development of local markets for Wyoming producers, many of who have indicated interest in the local food movement.
2015 legislative session
The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Farm Bureau, Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union and Wyoming Ag Business Association each indicated a number of bills that they will be tracking during the 2015 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature.
A handful of the bills of interest include those related to landowner liability to trespassers, trespass to collect resource data, driver’s license exemptions, a dry bean checkoff and animal welfare.
Look for more information on each of these bills and more in the Jan. 10 edition of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, when we begin our coverage of the 2015 session.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.