2018 accomplishments framed by regulatory reform
2018 brought many high hopes for Wyoming’s agriculture industry, and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, Wyoming Farm Bureau, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Wyoming Stock Growers Association agree that the year was filled with accomplishments for their organizations individually and for the agriculture industry as a whole across the nation.
Within the Wyoming Association of Conservation District (WACD), Bobbie Frank, the organization’s executive director, sees many accomplishments in water quality in the state.
“Our biggest accomplishment this year was the release of our new online report and story map that Cathy Rosenthal created,” Frank says. “The story map provides a quick, easy way to see what’s going on in the state, and it provides accountability.”
As a part of the effort to improve water quality, Frank adds that the removal of the North Platte River from the list of impaired waters is also a major accomplishment.
However, she hopes for continued movement on water issues across the country, commenting, “We hope to see finalization of the Waters of the U.S. WOTUS Rule. We’ve been working on it for some time, and it would be nice to see something that provides more certainty for farmers and ranchers.”
Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton also highlighted WOTUS, noting that one of the biggest accomplishment for the American Farm Bureau Federation was the repeal of 2015’s WOTUS Rule.
“Repealing this rule was important for a lot of folks,” he says.
Also at the national level, Hamilton and the association worked to advocate for the farm bill and worked to prevent over-burdensome regulations from electronic logging devices, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Hamilton continues, “On a state level, in the Legislature, we continued to push back on tax increases, and we were successful there.”
On the legal front, Wyoming Farm Bureau was also successful in their challenged to the re-definition of the Wind River Indian Reservation boundary.
As he looks towards 2019, Hamilton expressed disappointment with a 2018 decision that repealed one section of Wyoming’s data trespass law, saying, “We’ll look to address trespass however best we can.”
Hamilton additionally hopes to see meaningful reform of the Endangered Species Act begin in 2019, though he acknowledges the changes in Congress will make the process more difficult.
“In 2019, Wyoming Farm Bureau is going to celebrate 100 years, and we’re really excited about that,” he emphasizes. “This is a big milestone for our organization, and it’s exciting.”
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Another organization with members in Wyoming, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, says they have seen a handful of big wins at the national level in 2018, also citing the farm bill.
“We spent a lot of time working on the farm bill during the spring and early summer months. Then, we waited this fall to see if they were going to reach a compromise,” says Scott Zimmerman, Rocky Mountain Farmers’ Union government affairs specialist. “We’ll also see if we can get more assistance in certain pieces of the farm bill next year.”
Zimmerman notes that Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is also particularly pleased with the increase of 3 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land.
“I think we’ll see enrollment from many of our members who weren’t able to get land enrolled in the past,” he comments.
“Overall, 2018 was a good year,” Zimmerman comments. “By and large, we had plenty of irrigation water, and while we had some fires, we didn’t see the major impact that other states had. Commodity prices stayed fairly strong, and production was good.”
As he looks to 2019, Zimmerman and his organization will continue to watch trade agreements as they move forward.
At the local level, Zimmerman says the legislative session will new priorities.
“It’s hard to see what our priorities will be quite yet, since we don’t have text for many bills available yet,” he comments. “Overall, we’ll try to hold the line on tax increases, and we’ll monitor other issues as they approach.”
WSGA also saw positive momentum, both for their organization and within the agriculture industry.
“From an association perspective, we have made significant progress towards our 150th anniversary goal,” WSGA’s Executive Vice President Jim Magagna comments. “We made a goal two years ago to raise $1.5 million in an endowment to support the work of WSGA.”
The funds generated by the endowment will be used to fund non-lobbying issue work, enabling the association to concentrate membership dollars on issues as it moves into the future.
“On a broad scale, I think WSGA has also had a number of opportunities to build resource-based and constructive working relationships with federal natural resource agencies,” Magagna continues. “Those relationships have expressed themselves in many ways.”
As an example, he cited the Forest Service’s work to revise grazing regulations, as well as Bureau of Land Management’s similar upcoming efforts.
“We hope to continue building strong working relationships into 2019,” he comments, specifically noting that building relationships with Wyoming’s new governor, new agency leadership and new members of the Wyoming legislature are a particular highlight.
Magagna explains, “I put a high value on relationship building.”
Tangibly, WSGA will continue to work on efforts initiated in 2018 around Wyoming beef.
“We hope to see meaningful success in our efforts to build marketing opportunities for Wyoming beef,” Magagna says.
Read the Roundup through 2019 for updates from the activities of Wyoming’s agriculture organizations.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.