State of the State addresses legislators, Wyomingites
“Spring is nigh, and this is always a time of renewal and rejuvenation,” Gov. Mark Gordon commented during his State of the State Address on March 2. “With each passing day, Wyoming is looking forward to getting back outdoors to calves and lambs on the ground, crops in the field and maybe even scouting for a fall hunt or drowning a fly.”
During the address, Gordon commented on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinations, as well as employment, economic recovery and moving into the future. Additionally, he highlighted the impact of Wyoming’s top three industries and their importance moving forward.
Financial state of Wyoming
Gordon highlighted the dire situation of the state’s fiscal health, commenting significant cuts to the state’s budget in 2020 were followed by the largest loss of income in the state of Wyoming’s history.
“Undeniably, we are entering more frugal times, and we will have to continue to temper wants and emphasize needs,” Gordon commented.
Multiple rounds of cuts from the Governor’s Office and state agencies have started the process of ensuring the state can effectively use the funds in the state’s budget, but Gordon noted, “We have more work to do.”
Agriculture as a pillar of economy
While energy and minerals and tourism are the top two industries in the state, Gordon emphasized the importance of agriculture in continuing to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
“Agriculture will play an ever more significant role in our economic revival,” he said. “The experience of this past year has laid bare the food insecurity which plagues our entire country. Wyoming is not immune to those issues.”
Particularly, Gordon lauded what First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative, along with Food from the Field, Food from the Farm and Ranch and others, have done to alleviate food insecurity in the state.
“As with many things in Wyoming, folks are stepping up to help neighbors. It is important work, and there is a lot more to be done. But, it is work which will benefit our broader economy by bolstering domestic meat processing, feeding our school kids with Wyoming-raised produce and generally integrating our own production into local economies, ” Gordon explained. “These efforts fit with other farm-to-table programs which make it easier to get food from producers to consumers, improve ways to brand Wyoming products and expand our export markets.”
Gordon called the efforts “hallmarks of what my administration will continue to emphasize in the coming years,” also recognizing, however, the Biden administration may offer additional challenges to the industry. He further cited, however, unknowns may also bring new opportunities for farmers and ranchers.
To continue to support the agriculture industry, Gordon explained Wyomingites must recognize such opportunities to build new income streams for the agriculture industry.
As one example, he cited a recent trip through Thunder Basin National Grasslands with former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, which led to conversations with University of Wyoming researchers.
“I have asked researchers at the University of Wyoming to help find ways the good practices of our farmers and ranchers can lead to more compensation for their care of the land and other resources,” Gordon said. “I want you to know I will always be a champion of any way in which we can keep our producers profitable, sustain the industry and bring in new producers.”
Further, Gordon will convene a team of industry leaders to outline those opportunities and develop initiatives to strengthen the agriculture industry in the state.
In particular, he cited the Mountain States Lamb Co-op’s bankruptcy in mid-2020, stating Wyoming must be equipped to “fight the antitrust practices of some of our industrial giants.”
Senate File 124 provides the Wyoming Attorney General the ability to investigate and seek relief “from anticompetitive conduct which harms Wyoming businesses.”
“This civil enforcement authority will also help us to defend all of our citizens when caught in the crossfire of multinational corporations,” Gordon commented. “It is important legislation.”
Taking action on the future, Gordon added, advancing the agriculture industry will continue into the future with goals to build capacity in the industry over the next several years.
Specifically, Gordon thanked legislators for delivering legislation which implements invasive species recommendations following the work of his task force.
Further, he noted a special thanks to the Wyoming State Fair for their work in holding the Wyoming State Fair in 2020, despite pandemic concerns across the nation. Wyoming was one of three states to hold their state fair last summer.
As Gordon looked to the future of the state of Wyoming, he noted real estate sales in the past year ballooned, with new residents attracted to the state by “our mountains, our people, our way of life and the fact we are a conservative state dedicated to living within our means.”
Despite the addition of new residents to the state, there are challenges moving forward with the state’s financial situation.
“Here in Wyoming, we have a tradition anchored in the belief of building a better future. I do not know of one successful rancher who is not a steward of resources. We are faced with this challenge today,” Gordon said. “Will we steward our resources, savings and all, so our children have a change? Or will we be so self-centered we spend ourselves into oblivion and leave them with the bill? We must address the issues I have spoken about here today, and we must keep our eye on the future.”
With this challenge of maintaining the Wyoming citizens admire, love and hold dear, Gordon explained the next few years of the state will be pivotal.
“Let us seek to do the right thing, do it the right way and do it right away,” he concluded. “God bless Wyoming. God bless America and keep her free, and God bless you, the people of Wyoming.”
Information in this article was compiled from Gov. Mark Gordon’s 2021 State of the State Address, presented on March 2.
Saige Zespy is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.