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The Farmer’s Field: We can do better

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Ron Rabou

After all the hard work both teams put into their season, many are now declaring a Super Bowl LVII victory was stolen from the Philadelphia Eagles because of a holding call near the end of the fourth quarter.  

After the game, Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni said, “But, it never comes down to one play. This is not what wins or loses the game.” 

Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts responded to the loss by saying, “You either win or you learn. I always reflect on things I could have done better.”  

Considering recent weather challenges, I think there are some lessons we can learn from these leaders.

While the past few months of snow have brought desperately needed moisture to those of us involved in production agriculture, the storms have also brought forth many challenges and tensions. 

I’ve witnessed heated exchanges between various levels of leadership and the public regarding the conditions and maintenance of many of our roads. Perhaps tensions have been brewing for a while and have only been exasperated by recent storms.   

It’s always a welcome sight to see snowplows clearing the path. Working in treacherous conditions is a dangerous job, and we owe our gratitude to those who are willing to step up to do it.

There are routes in our state that will never be fixable until after a storm subsides. However, there are others that can be kept clear with a proactive plan of action. While I can only speak about the small corner of the state where I reside, I simply think we can do better.

In every aspect of life, leadership matters. In a world torn in so many ways, leadership in our political system is especially more important than ever. It’s imperative when we elect people to leadership positions, we don’t just “unplug” and develop an apathetic mindset. 

We must continue to engage all leadership, elected or not and hold them accountable.  

In fact, it’s necessary we hold all those in leadership positions to a high standard. When we don’t, the “it’s good enough” mentality sets in, and we begin to accept things as they are, rather than as they should be.  

While most farmers and ranchers in my neighborhood accept the burden of using their own resources to keep county roads open, they do it out of necessity. 

They cannot operate their businesses otherwise. The expenses they bear in doing so are significant and are an added layer of stress to many operations who have struggled to make ends meet after years of drought. 

And it’s not just snow removal. The complete absence of any maintenance throughout the year has created a mound of additional problems. It’s just not acceptable.  

When we look beyond the surface of the situation, there’s an underlying problem much bigger than we realize. It is, emphatically, an issue of public health and safety. 

If emergency services cannot get to a medical or fire emergency, then lives and property are at risk. If a neighbor cannot get to her cancer treatments, then it’s a massive concern. If children cannot get to school to learn in-person in a consistent manner, then it ultimately becomes a major issue. Virtual learning does not replace classroom time.  

When adults cannot make it to work, it creates a trickle-down effect. Furthermore, if a young student is killed traveling on roads which have not been maintained in a timely fashion before morning traffic hits, then I would suggest the burden of liability lies completely with the county or state.      

I’ve heard it from everywhere – labor shortages, tight budgets and heavy workloads – I get it. As a business owner and leader, I understand the shortage of labor supply and a pile of other challenges, including weather. 

I also know it is my sole responsibility to figure it out. It’s my job. All the excuses and explanations in the world won’t fix problems, only proactive solutions will. This is what we need from our leadership.

For years, we have known it snows, blows and gets cold during Wyoming winters. My question is, what is our contingency plan when things get tough? How can we better deal with these challenges? What processes do other states use where the winter conditions are much more severe than they are here? Have we thoroughly researched all of the solutions and left no stone unturned? Are we proactively implementing improved processes?

Have we ever considered utilizing private contractors to help when situations become too difficult to manage efficiently? I suspect most contractors would work all hours in nearly all conditions because they would be incentivized to do so. 

Competition is healthy, and in this case, performance-based pay is a good thing for everybody. It makes us better.

The bottom line is whenever we are faced with problems, we are presented with an opportunity to learn.

The recent storms should have us all thinking about how we can do better. 

Just as Coach Sirianni and Jalen Hurts message is constant improvement, ours should be too.  

Only the best will do. We should demand nothing less from ourselves, our tax dollars and our leaders.

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