Wyoming Farm Bureau sets policy for coming year, elects leaders during meeting
Sheridan – Food issues and labeling, regulatory overreach, taxes and voting procedures were among the many topics included in policies adopted at the 99th annual meeting of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB).
Held Nov. 7-9 in Sheridan, the meeting is an important step in the grassroots policy development process of Farm Bureau.
“The Farm Bureau grassroots policy development process ensures our policy begins at the local level,” WyFB Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton explained. “Much discussion takes place on each proposed resolution at the county, district and state levels as our members guide the work of our organization.”
Farm Bureau members weighed in on discussions regarding plant-based and laboratory grown protein products.
“Farm Bureau members are concerned about lab-grown protein products being incorrectly labeled as meat,” Hamilton said. “Our members support policy to ensure that plant-based and/or lab-grown protein cannot be labeled as meat or a meat product.”
In related labeling issues, policy was approved supporting regulation that any liquid not derived from a lactating animal cannot be labeled as milk or a milk product.
“Consumers needs accurate information for their decision making,” Hamilton continued. “Falsely labeling products is misleading and confusing for the consumer and damaging to the farmer and rancher.”
In other labeling issues, Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) continues to be important to Wyoming farmers and ranchers, as several policies dealing with the desire to institute COOL on beef products were reaffirmed.
“Through these reaffirmations, our members are seeking to find a way to more closely follow those products that already have COOL in place,” Hamilton explained. “There are products that have been able to implement COOL, and we want to get that accomplished with beef and pork.”
Concern about federal regulation of activities on private property led to policy stating the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) shall not apply viewshed regulations to prevent development on private property, whether surface or sub-surface.
“This comes into play when a private property has mineral development with federal minerals,” Hamilton explained. “This also comes into play if the private property is developing their mineral rights, but at some point in the horizontal drilling, it may touch the federal minerals and that is the nexus BLM uses to regulate the viewshed because of an archaeologically significant find.”
Multiple-use of federal lands is important. Farm Bureau members continue to resist efforts to turn federal lands into single or limited-use management through wilderness area designations.
Policy was reaffirmed opposing the removal of the multiple use mandate for public lands by special designation. The policy also called for areas currently designated as Wilderness Study Areas to be released immediately.
“U.S. Forest Service statistics show over 30 percent of the Forest Service land in Wyoming has been placed into wilderness protection by Congress. This is the highest percentage of Forest Service lands in wilderness of any state in the Union,” Hamilton stated. “The kicker in the Wilderness Study Areas process is that until Congress authorizes or releases those areas the agencies have to manage them as wilderness making them de facto wilderness.”
Regarding taxes, Farm Bureau members voiced opposition to granting municipalities the authority to implement a sales tax.
“What goes on inside a municipality would affect those outside of the municipality who cannot vote for the tax increase,” Hamilton said. “This type of tax would essentially silence the voice of people affected by those actions.”
Maintaining the integrity of voting procedures was also an important discussion.
“Our members want to keep the current system of polling places rather than mail-in ballots,” said Brett Moline, WyFB Director of Public and Governmental Affairs. “They also voiced concern with the switch over voting that occurred in this last election and adopted policy to restrict future switch over voting at the polls recognizing that can be done before election day, if the voter so chooses.”
Protecting members from over-reaching and unnecessary regulation is a cornerstone to the work of Farm Bureau. Last March, farmers and ranchers were protected from the over-reaching regulation of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) reporting requirements when legislation became law clarifying that air emissions from animal waste at a farm are not applicable under this act.
For Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) reporting, the rule exempted reporting of such releases if the farm had fewer animals than a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).
Voting delegates approved policy supporting agriculture’s exemption from CERCLA and EPCRA.
“These policies will be added to our policy book to help guide the federation in the work we do to protect private property rights,” Hamilton concluded.
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general agriculture organization. Policy development is grassroots beginning at the local level where members discuss issues impacting them. Resolutions that pass locally proceed to the district and then the state. Those resolutions with national impact proceed to the national convention. The purpose of the Nov. 7-9, 2018 WyFB annual meeting was to develop policy to guide the organization in the coming year. The organization will hold its 100th annual meeting Nov. 14-16, 2019. The primary goals of the organization are to protect private property rights and help members achieve an equitable return on their investment.
This article was submitted by Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Kerin Clark.