2017 brings new priorities for Wyo ag industry
With the new snow falling across Wyoming, the agriculture industry is also facing a new set of priorities in 2017, and industry groups have set their focus at the beginning of the year on the 2017 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) and Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) are all actively working during the new year on a variety of priorities that impact producers around the state.
For most ag groups, the year starts with the general session of the 64th Wyoming Legislature.
“There aren’t a lot of issues this year so far,” comments Brett Moline, government affairs specialist for WyFB. “Of course, we’ll watch the budget, but the agencies that ag works with – the Wyoming Livestock Board and Wyoming Department of Agriculture – aren’t large pieces of the budget compared to agencies like education and health.”
Bobbie Frank of WACD notes that cuts taken to the water quality program and others have implications at the local level, which impacts conservation districts.
Jim Magagna, WSGA’s executive director, noted that budgetary concerns are some of his biggest for this year.
“We all know we have to take reductions, but keeping reasonable budgets that allow agencies like the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Livestock Board to do their jobs in reasonable but cost-effective ways is going to be pretty important,” he says.
Magagna adds, “We’re going to be engaged in the discussions about budgeting, and we’re going to work hard to protect critical programs for agriculture.”
Moline says that WyFB will be supporting a bill related to municipal jurisdiction, which would define the jurisdiction of municipalities to just within city limits.
“We feel that people should have a vote for those people who write the rules and regulations affecting them,” he explains. “The city being able to regulate outside the city limits is essentially rules without representation.”
Moline’s organization will also support a bill that adds collection of horns and antlers to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s trespass statutes. WSGA also indicated support for the bill.
“We are also one of the few groups that will support Senate Joint Resolution 3 Public lands constitutional amendment,” he says. “Our members feel that the state agencies can do a better job managing the lands than the federal agencies do.”
Keith Kennedy, lobbyist and director of several ag organizations, says he will be closely watching HB 54 and 67, two bills related to agricultural land taxation.
Moline notes, however, that HB 67 is a bill that WyFB will not support.
“That bill could affect people that have good mineral incomes or young farmers and ranchers that are just sorting out,” he says. “We don’t think that bill is a workable situation.”
The bill to clarify terms for dry bean commission members is one that Kennedy will support, as well.
“Several members have expressed support for the convention of states bills, but none of the groups I represent have yet taken any formal position on this issue,” Kennedy adds.
For WSGA, Magagna notes that a bill related to the farm loan program is the primary piece of legislation that his organization will support.
“We are requesting a couple of easy changes to that program,” he says, explaining that the bill looks to increase the loan limit for $800,000 to $1 million to reflect inflation. “We also want to increase the percentage of dollars available to beginning farmer and rancher loans. That program is approaching the cap of what it could expend. This doesn’t involve any new dollars. It’s just a re-allocation.”
Special district bill
The bill related to specials districts is a top priority for many groups.
Frank comments that WACD has been involved in the discussion related to special districts for the entire year.
“We are exempted from the budget requirement bill, but it still applies to Watershed Improvement Districts, which we are the parent district of, so we want to stay involved,” Frank says. “We will also continue to work with the special districts.”
She notes that WACD will continue to work with special districts throughout the state to implement a training program, which was abandoned by the legislature but is still a top concern for many.
“We think training is important, and we’re going to open up our February training session to other special district board members,” Frank adds.
“We’re also closely watching the bills related to special districts,” Kennedy adds.
The 64th Wyoming Legislature will convene on Jan. 10.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.