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Continuing a legacy – Magagna, Wilson work together to bring WSGA into the future

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Jim Wilson of Thermopolis got involved in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) almost a decade ago, jumping into leadership as a committee chair.

“Agriculture is big business in Wyoming,” Wilson notes. “That’s why I got involved.”

He quickly worked his way up through the chain of command for the organization, and in 2012, Wilson was elected as president of WSGA.

Making strides

Over the last two years, WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna and Wilson have worked together to improve WSGA in many ways.

“Jim Wilson, because of his outreach within the industry as a result of his livestock brokerage business, brought unique perspectives and opportunities to WSGA,” says Magagna.

They have tackled issues ranging from endangered species and wild horses to public lands and cattle health, and Wilson notes that it is the people that he works with that enables the organization to be so successful.

“The thing that is really unique about this position is the quality of people we get to work with,” Wilson says. “We are fortunate in Wyoming.”

An organization of people

He notes that the staff and leadership of WSGA are part of what makes the position one that is rewarding.

“We have a wonderful staff, and Jim Magagna is a super guy,” he says. “That makes leading this organization really enjoyable.”

The pair – affectionately known by WSGA members as Jim and Jim – worked together over the last two years to to improve the organization.

“Jim and Jim are wonderful people,” says WSGA Office Manager Vera Lightfoot. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them.”

In serving as president, Wilson mentions that he has met and connected with industry leaders across the country, establishing deeper relationships to move the industry forward.

“The strength of WSGA is no better than the membership,” Wilson says. “We are 1,000 strong, but that is only 20-30 percent of the members in the ag industry. We can continue to grow.”

Also, WSGA has more than doubled the receipts from their annual auction and worked toward continued financial security of the organization.

The next generation

Looking toward the future, Wilson emphasizes a continued approach on looking toward the next generation in the industry.

In offering advice to the up-and-coming leaders in the agriculture industry and in WSGA, Wilson comments, “Sometimes it is really hard to tell the truth, but if we tell the truth the first time, we don’t have to remember the second time.”

He is optimistic about the future of agriculture in Wyoming and the opportunity available for young people.

He says, “There is a tremendous amount of opportunity out there in this industry, and one of the plusses is that interest rates are low. Odds are pretty good off getting in this business.”

A look forward

For Wilson, he will continue in the ag industry but plans to continue to transfer the family operation to his children.

“I lost my father last fall,” he comments. “I’ve taken over the livestock brokerage business, and our cows numbers have bumped up a little bit.”

Wilson continues, “I’m not getting any younger either.”

To celebrate his years of hard work, Wilson notes that he and his wife plan to take a vacation – their first since 1988. Magagna adds, “I’m confident we will find many ways to continue Jim’s engagement in the organization.”

From fellow leaders

WSGA First Vice President Niels Hanson says, “Jim is forward thinking with a positive attitude. It has been a lot of fun to work together.”

“We’re talking about guys who worked together really well,” he continues of Magagna and Wilson. “Jim Wilson really brought a long-range  view into WSGA, and he was always working to look into the future, build up some funds and get a lot of people involved.”

Hanson notes that, as the incoming president of WSGA, he hopes to continue Wilson’s legacy into the future with a continued positive attitude and forward-thinking strategy.

“We’ve got so much negative in our industry. Every time we turn around there is another issue,” he adds. “We may have to change our operations or do something different. Some people may decide they don’t want to be a part of the industry anymore, but whether we are working on the ranch or somewhere else in the country, we can’t quit. We have to keep pushing forward.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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