Past president shares his involvement and the importance of WSGA
Thermopolis – Jim Wilson hangs his hat on his family’s ranch near “T-Town,” a small town in western Wyoming, where natural hot spring waters flow. The town’s motto, “A Past to Behold, A Future to Uphold,” perfectly describes the upcoming Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) 150th Anniversary Celebration.
Jim ranches with his wife Terry and daughter Billie Jo Norsworthy. He has been very involved with WSGA and now serves as the endowment campaign co-chair.
“WSGA has been a big part of the history of Wyoming,” he shares. “I really enjoyed being a WSGA president and serving the association for nearly 20 years. Besides it playing a part of the history of Wyoming, it still plays a huge part in the making of the state today – what happened 150 years ago and what is happening this past year; WSGA still is quite the influence.”
Jim served as WSGA president from 2013-2015.
Role as president
The association influences a lot of the agriculture industry, he continues by saying, “WSGA is a leader, especially with what happens in the livestock industry, animal and wildlife health, property rights and mineral development. A lot of our members are sheep producers as well as livestock producers.”
Jim feels fortunate to have been involved in such an outstanding organization and recalls a lot of his interest in the organization began when he served on the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB).
“I first became a committee chair of WSGA when I was chairman of the WLSB,” he says. “I then moved from committee chair up to regional vice president. From there, to vice president and then president.”
“A lot of people I looked up to were very involved in the association, and this encouraged me to get more involved,” he adds.
Benefits of being
There are several benefits of being a member, but regardless of membership, there are still benefits by being involved, he notes.
“It’s kind of a shame more ranchers don’t realize how much influence WSGA has and the benefits of working on wildlife and public lands issues, not just on a statewide level, but regionally and nationally,” he says.
From the governor’s office, to local representatives, WSGA always has a seat at the table – this is one of the main advantages, he adds.
Throughout the year the organization has several ways for members to connect to the happenings of WSGA. In December, the organization hosts a winter convention in Casper, as well as a summer convention, which moves throughout the state each year.
This year’s summer convention is taking place in Cheyenne during the association’s 150th anniversary.
“Everybody’s voice can be heard,” he says. “Attendees can attend any committee meeting if they are a member or not. Members are the only ones allowed to vote, but nonmembers’ voices will be heard.”
“It’s a unique procedure – the way things are brought from WSGA or through the association, but issues are heard and addressed regardless of membership,” he shares.
150th milestone and endowment
“I think it’s huge for the association – we’re older than the state of Wyoming,” jokes Jim. “It’s something not very many other organizations have accomplished.”
The WSGA has an endowment trust, established to ensure the future of Wyoming’s cattle industry through support of several programs.
Current programs funded include: public education; environmental stewardship recognition; student scholarships and internships; producer education and information; and programs focused on keeping the next generation of ranchers on the land.
“When I was president, I pushed for the younger people to step forth,” he says. “The president appoints committee chairs and vice chairs, and I encouraged and appointed several young members to fill these roles.”
It’s important to support the younger generation and get them involved in agriculture because they are the next generation of this industry, he explains.
“Through this endowment we can support additional programs in promotion of agriculture,” he adds. “My thought was, with others as well, with the 150th we would have $1.5 million as our goal to have in the endowment.”
By investing these funds into an endowment, the organization would be able to use the interest from the funds to help the next generation, he says.
“I’ve made some really good friends through the association,” says Jim. “I used to be involved in the livestock brokerage business, and I didn’t realize a lot of the customers I sold livestock to in Nebraska and Kansas were also involved in their associations and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. It was kind of interesting to see those people involved in all aspects of agriculture.”
“Agriculture is the grassroots of America,” he concludes. “It’s what keeps us going, and I think as time goes along there will be more emphasis on agriculture to produce more, and it will be important to be involved in grassroot associations, such as WSGA.”
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.