Magagna discusses state and federal issues in Gillette
Gillette – “We are lucky to live in a state with such a friendly environment for agriculture,” said Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “We are blessed to have a governor who is one of us and understands the issues agriculture producers face in the current climate.”
Magagna was featured as a speaker at the inaugural Excellence In Agriculture Symposium, hosted by the University of Wyoming Extension in Gillette. He went over priorities of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), as well as current issues affecting agriculture producers at the state and and federal level.
Environment for agriculture
“WSGA has been around for nearly 150 years, and a lot of old timers like to talk about a time when Wyoming’s legislature was ‘controlled by us,’” Magagna continued, “While that may be true, I am pleased with the current state of our legislature and their stance on agriculture issues.”
“I like to describe agriculture as the foundation of the state of Wyoming,” he said. “For agriculture producers, it is obviously important, but even those in industries such as energy and tourism understand the importance of agriculture and how it relates to those industries.”
Magagna explained those in the tourism industry understand Wyoming is a tourist destination because of the abundant wide-open spaces and robust wildlife, all of which are made possible by the immense amount of agriculture.
“I always ask energy people if they would rather deal with a single demanding rancher on a lease or 100 demanding people whom each own a few acres, and they choose the rancher every time,” Magagna joked.
“For those involved in agriculture, Wyoming is a good place to be,” Magagna said.
College of Agriculture improvement
“Our highest priority right now is improving the College of Agriculture at the University of Wyoming (UW),” Magagna said. “This includes on-campus improvements as well as Extension and research centers around the state.”
Magagna noted several legislators in the state have made this their top priority, and created a focus group centered around improvements to the college.
“The focus group will have their first meeting in June and then meet again in September to discuss issues and strategies,” said Magagna.
Magagna was a member of the search committee for a new dean for the college. He noted they recently finished up their work and sent their recommendation to the provost.
“Getting the new dean in place will be a big first in making improvements to the college,” commented Magagna.
Magagna noted there are a number of other issues, some new, some old, that the legislature is hoping to address in the coming years.
“One thing we really want to look at is changing how our current trespassing laws function,” said Magagna. “Currently, a trespasser cannot be found guilty unless the land was posted or they were asked to leave and refused.”
“We really think, with current mapping and GPS technology available to the recreational user of the land, they need to assume a higher responsibility for their actions,” Magagna noted.
Magagna noted the state is also looking at changes in how it handles oil and gas leases. Under current laws, big companies are allowed to lease out large pieces of land with no limit on time.
“These companies can go in, lease these parcels for a long time and never develop them, which means no royalty checks in the mail for mineral interest owners, because the mineral isn’t being developed,” said Magagna. “Luckily, we have some support within the mineral industry on this as smaller producers in particular feel that this practice hinders their ability to develop minerals.”
“We are also working with a company in Cheyenne on ways to repurpose wastewater from oilfields to use on range and croplands,” Magagna explained. “The water would be filtered to a set standard. Done correctly, this has huge potential for Wyoming.”
“Some other things we are working on at the state level include in-stream flow laws, the Sage Grouse Executive Order and in-state processing for beef products,” according to Magagna.
“One of the biggest reoccurring issues we deal with at the federal level is the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” said Magagna. “Under Gov. Mead, we looked at proposals to reform the act and make it more effective.”
Magagna explained the reforms look to improve collaborative efforts between land managers and agencies instead of increasing regulatory control.
“Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo) has taken initiative with the reform bill, but it’s taken longer than expected,” Magagna noted. “If we can’t get votes from the other side, we can’t move forward, but it has potential.”
“Federal agencies released updated sage grouse plans that addressed some previous concerns we had,” said Magagna. “Unfortunately, less than 24 hours after the plans were released, environmental groups filed a federal suit in the Federal District Court in Idaho.”
Magagna explained these groups are challenging individual state plans, including Wyoming’s. The groups are attempting to use a mechanism that would revive a lawsuit filed six years ago. Magagna noted many groups urged the court to reject the suit.
“If these groups want to challenge state plans, they need to do it in that state, not somewhere where they feel they have a more favorable jurisdiction,” said Magagna.
Magagna noted Wyoming’s Congressional Delegation is also working on bills that deal with hours of service (HOS) requirements for livestock haulers and the marketing of plant and lab-based meat products.
“The HOS requirements were made with really good intentions, but they just don’t work for livestock haulers,” Magagna explained. “A driver can’t just park and leave a trailer of cattle for five hours.”
“We are also tackling fake meat on both the state and national level,” he said. “Wyoming recently passed a bill forbidding plant and lab-based products from being marketed as meat, and other states are following suit.”
Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.