Senators reflect on 2017, with lofty goals, hope of progress for the future
Washington, D.C. – “A year ago, the American people voted for fundamental change in this country,” says Wyoming’s Sen. John Barrasso (R). “With the election of a Republican president and a Republican Congress, we have been able to roll back many harmful Washington regulations that have previously hurt Wyoming’s farming and ranching communities.”
Senior Sen. Mike Enzi (R) adds, “Wyoming’s livestock industry is part of the backbone of our state’s economy, communities and the heritage of families across Wyoming.”
Enzi continues, “President Trump and the new administration are also bringing a totally different perspective on how the government should work. Already, we’ve seen progress on issues that will make a real difference for people in Wyoming and across the country.”
Specifically, Enzi sees new approaches to federal government regulation of air, water and wildlife management, and such actions have provided relief from unnecessary and burdensome regulations that get in the way of small businesses and economic growth.
Among notable federal action targeting the agriculture industry, Barrasso cited the revision of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule as particularly monumental.
“Early in the year, the administration began the process of revising the Obama administration’s flawed WOTUS Rule,” Barrasso says.
WOTUS, he comments, would have given the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jurisdiction over backyard ponds, puddles and prairie pot holes in Wyoming.
“I applaud the Trump administration for working with Congress to remove this indefensible regulation. I will continue to work closely with the administration as it seeks commonsense ways to keep America’s water clean and safe,” Barrasso adds.
Another win for Wyoming came when Congress overturned the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Planning 2.0 using the Congressional Review Act.
“The misguided BLM Planning 2.0 rule would have taken authority away from local land managers who have the most knowledge and experience overseeing resources in their own backyards,” Barrasso explains, noting that local management plans with input from county commissioners, sportsmen, local businesses and those on the landscape should be the primary factor in federal land management decisions. “Now that this rule is overturned, we can work together on new policy that makes the planning process more efficient and improves input at the local level.”
“While there are issues with the current land management program, we should be empowering state and local voices in land management processes not trying to sideline them,” Enzi comments.
Delisting of several large carnivores – the gray wolf and grizzly bear – from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections was also notable.
“After years of moving the goal posts, Wyoming will finally be able to move forward with managing our wildlife,” Barrasso adds.
For beef producers in particular, Barrasso notes the end to a 13-year ban on beef trade with China was an important step this year.
“This is a huge step forward for American producers who have been shut out of the market for more than a decade,” he says. “After traveling to China in April to meet with Chinese Premier Li on this issue, I’m pleased he worked with the Trump administration to make this a reality.”
Barrasso comments, “Ranchers in Wyoming now have access to a larger market to sell our high-quality American beef.”
Looking forward, Enzi mentions that negotiations will continue with Canada and Mexico to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“Canada and Mexico are two of the top five trading partners for U.S. beef,” he states. “This is a relationship that shouldn’t be jeopardized, and I am working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that as they seek to modernize the agreement, they don’t hurt our producers back home.”
“Since we have changed administrations, we have been able stop playing defense and instead pursue some real change, including tax reform, which Congress just passed this week,” Enzi explains.
Tax reform includes “robust” individual and business income tax rate reductions, relief for pass-through entities as many family ranches are organized, some relief from the alternative minimum tax for individuals and businesses and protected cash accounting for agriculture producers, he says.
Enzi continues, “This action will also provide immediate relief from the death tax by doubling the amount of the current exemption to reduce uncertainty and costs for many family-owned farms and businesses when they pass down their life’s work to the next generation.”
The new year
Barrasso also has a list of priorities for the new year and comments, “In 2018, I’ll work to make sure Wyoming is well-represented in the upcoming Farm Bill.”
Enzi says, while he doesn’t serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is a close colleague of Enzi’s, allowing him direct access to promoting Wyoming’s goals for the bill.
Barrasso has also prioritized modernization of the ESA, an action that will be facilitated by his position as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Healthcare will be an additional priority for Enzi, who notes insurance markets are collapsing and premiums are “out of control.”
“It is only going to get worse,” Enzi says. “Here in Wyoming, we have only one insurer on the Obamacare exchange, and families are paying some of the highest premiums in the country. I am hopeful that bipartisan efforts in the Senate to stabilize the markets and provide more flexibility will pay off, and we will be able to provide at least some relief while we continue to find a way forward to overhaul our health care system. Congress still has a responsibility to find better alternatives to America’s current healthcare fiasco.”
“Working together, I believe Congress and the administration can empower state leadership in key natural resource decisions, including sage grouse management plans,” Barrasso says. “I will also continue the fight to unwind red tape and give people in Wyoming relief from burdensome Washington regulations.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.