State ag organizations wrap up 2020, look to 2021
In wrapping up the year 2020, many uncertainties follow through to 2021. However, as always, agriculture remains resilient and continues to strive for progress in many arenas.
COVID-19, changes to administration and budget restrictions in local governments are all challenges from 2020 Wyoming will face into the new year.
“One of the strengths of agriculture is we have always dealt with uncertainty,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Director Jim Magagna. “We are more prepared to deal with it than other segments of our economy and population because it’s the nature of what we do.”
“The coronavirus has been one of the main issues for the sheep industry,” shares Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) Executive Director Amy Hendrickson. “The shutdowns caused lamb producers to lose their main markets – restaurants and cruise ships – which impacted over 50 percent of the market.”
The combination of foodservice shutdowns, along with processing plant shutdowns from COVID-19 illness and the loss of Mountain States Rosen certainly had an impact on livestock markets, says Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation President Ken Hamilton.
“Even though our markets were stronger in the fall of 2020, we received a wakeup call this past year, and we need to remain actively involved on market-related issues,” adds Magagna. “In 2021, WSGA along with the National Beef Cattlemen’s Association will continue the focus on marketing structure in assuring transparency in markets and fair play as we deal with major meat processors.”
Hendrickson believes some of the greatest questions of 2021 are the concern over continuing shutdowns and what it means for the livestock production industry to have a COVID-19 vaccine in distribution.
New faces in government
“The coming year is interesting,” shares Hamilton regarding changes in politics. “With the change in administration, we are going to have some challenges in how the agriculture community is treated, and I have already heard concern over the potential of eliminating mineral, oil and gas on federal land, along with concerns of grazing on federal land.”
Maintaining and building relationships with federal land management and natural resource agencies is a top priority in 2021 for WWGA and WSGA as well.
“It seems clear to me there will be an education process, as I think so many people come into administration with preconceived notions,” says Magagna. “Particularly for agriculture, we need to continue educating the public about how agriculture is not a threat to climate change, but rather a priority for the industry.”
Magagna notes the ag industry has have seen a lot of things in the natural resource arena as far as regulatory and policy changes over the past couple years and a challenge for 2021 will be helping people understand how those changes are positive. This year could prove working to find common ground and create relationships with moderate conservation groups valuable to livestock producers.
“We have to keep telling the story, not only to new political leaders, but to the public about the role of agriculture in general and in our case, livestock producers, through good grazing practices and enhancing soil health, in addition to what we traditionally emphasize which is feeding the world,” Magagna continues. “As an industry, we haven’t dedicated nearly enough effort and resources to just educating the public.”
Revenue and legislature at the state level as well as drought seem to be issues affecting agriculture at the state level.
Hamilton shares with budget limitations and concerns over revenue in the state, Wyoming residents could see some fee changes related to the agriculture industry. There is a potential for increase on grazing fees, livestock and brand inspections.
Hendrickson relates budget cuts and revenue challenges to questions in terms of predator control for livestock and changes to communities in general. Magagna adds revenue for Wyoming will no longer be provided by most part by energy, so those in agriculture need to keep this in mind and work to find revenue increases, such as fuel tax, which are least impactful to any one sector of industry.
“The biggest uncertainty we are facing in Wyoming, especially in agriculture, is the threat of drought,” notes Magagna. “We had a very difficult year in parts of the state, but the real limitation is going to be on forage production and how to accommodate livestock numbers if we don’t see moisture this spring. As important as markets and government policy are, we have strategies on how to deal with those, but we are limited in how we can deal with severe drought.”
In 2021, WWGA will continue to work on ensuring COVID-19 relief for producers, as well as providing educational opportunities, opportunities to meet regionally as well as the potential for an annual ewe sale. WSGA focus will remain on marketing structure and partnerships in conservation, and WyFB will continue to work diligently in being a voice for agriculture in the legislature.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.