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  As this is my last column for 2017, I thought I would reflect back on the year concerning politics. It certainly hasn’t been boring. This was a year that broke almost everyone’s predictions in a lot of ways. At the start, we all just hung on and rode the waves, and as the year went on, we got used to everything and let go some.

For the year 2017, the big story came when Donald Trump was elected, and we knew change was coming starting on Inauguration Day in January. Some said they were headed to Canada after President Trump got elected, and that was okay with others of us as they just didn’t fit our examples of good Americans. We learned that there were some not very nice political losers out there, and their main goal was to hinder President Trump and his administration in anything he did – and some in the press helped. Our new President seems to like to keep us all guessing with his never-ending tweets, but hey, doing business in the West and proposed tax breaks for families are really looking up.

Fake news came to be the most used phrase all year, as cable news and even some print news had their own slant on everything. The news never got reported. We just heard someone’s opinion. One news outlet reported Donald Trump won the election and was headed for the White House, while another reported Donald Trump forced a minority family from their home. I stopped watching the news. It was just trash, all of it.

The good news was that our Congressional delegation is a strong one, and they’re in leadership positions. Newly elected Liz Cheney established herself on some powerful and top committees in the U.S. House, and she won over those at home who heard her speak. Our Senators, both in U.S. Senate leadership in committees and in the Senate, represented our state and nation well as we have become accustomed to. They all had a hand in “changing and draining the swamp around the Potomac.” I heard time and time again from others in western states about how they respect our Congressional delegation for their work helping the West. I’m proud of them.

Politics back home in the state was tough, too. State government needed at least a 10 percent cut, and with strong leadership from Gov. Mead, we did just that. Now, we are still short of cash, especially in education. We’ve got good leadership in our legislature, and we’ll come out of this as we’ve done before. Some want more taxes, while others want more cuts to balance the budget, as we have to by law. It will be an interesting session. I’m leaning towards more cuts. Those in Cheyenne need your input. Visit with them and those in state government every chance you get.

Our state economy has stopped dropping, and it has even popped upward a little. Our state investments, under great watchful eyes, have really done well, as the stock market has risen since the day President Trump was elected. With the new ENDOW program started by Gov. Mead, Wyoming is hoping to create more diversity in the state and help our workforce and youth find jobs in the future that last. We all support this action.

There is a lot of work to do in our state. This hard work lies in the hands of our elected officials, and it is our responsibility, too. Have a blessed and prosperous New Year in 2018.

Once again it’s Christmas time,

An’ we ponder the old, old story,

How the holiday began

As the Lord came down from glory.


One thing always bothers me,

Bein’ a cowgirl, with cowboy pride–

Somehow, somethin’ went a’wry,

Why were those sheep men in the light??


Here it was, the biggest deal

That would happen on earth in ages–

Why were shepherds picked to be

Written up on holy pages?


Why’d they hear the angel choir?

Why did they get to worship Him first?

Why’d they see the heavn’ly light,

And be told of the Saviour’s birth?


Here’s the reason that I heard

Why such unorthodox things were done’

Cowboy angels were to blame –

They’d been havin’ WAY too much fun!

They’d been pullin’ cowboy pranks,

Messin’ up all the other angels,

‘Till Boss Angel said, “Eee-Nuff!”

“You’re so bad you’ve near de-ranged us!”

First of all he grounded them,

Took away their ropes, spurs and saddles;

Wonderin’ how he’d punish them –

For they’d plumb outgrowed the paddle.


Now, he was bent on ven’gance,

Designin’ a permanent pay-back;

To hurt those cowboy angels

And not cut them one bit of slack.


“What do cowboys hate the most?”

His sinister search sought the answer.

“That’s so obvious, ever’one knows,

They think sheep are rangeland cancer!”


Sheep – of course!  The perfect curse!

Just the smell of ‘em made cowboys mad–

How ‘bout if sheep were honored,

And placed in some wonderful plan?

Boss Angel knew the answer

Once the sheep idea lit up his mind;

‘Cuz right then he was plannin’

The night of God’s gift to mankind.


He made song angels practice–

Learn special tunes in choir every night;

While savvy ones were busied,

Riggin’ up a heavenly light.


He’d reached the point of plannin’

Just where all of these things would occur,

So the timing was perfect

For the ultimate cowboy slur.


He’d give center stage to sheep,

An’ put sheepherders in the headlines–

They’d go down in history

As the ones on whom God’s light shined!


Boss Angel called those cowboys,

Sayin, “You’ve got a lesson to learn,

I’m gon’na make you jealous,

Settin’ a fire that will always burn,”


“In your teasing, scheming hearts.

I’ll hopefully make you all humble,

Plus ashamed of all your pranks,

And how you’ve made others stumble.”


Gathered like errant schoolboys,

Boss Angel made ‘em all sit and watch,

While the great announcement came

To shepherds, in fields with their flocks.


No parts for cowboy angels

In that great heavenly production–

It was a total put-down,

Upstaged by wooly ol’ mutton!


The scheme was so successful

Cowboys suffer o’er it yet today–

You’ll notice few young cowboys

Takin’ part in Sunday School plays,


A’dressin’ up like shepherds

Who kept watch over smelly ol’ sheep.

They’re rarely cast as angels.

There’s a character conflict, see?


An’ so the cowboy angels

Got all the punishment they deserved

They lost their place in Christmas,

Aren’t mentioned in God’s Holy Word.


Of course, they’ve been forgiven,

An’ the rest of us have, just the same;

Jesus loves us as we are!

It’s Christmas – let’s honor His Name!

– Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

From our family at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

     As we all realize, global beef trade is vital in the beef business, and that makes it very important to ranchers across the country. The projected increasing number of cattle in the U.S. in the next few years makes it even more important.

The Trump administration is having conversations on two trade agreements at the moment – the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPA-TPP). To say the U.S. meat industry, all the way down to the beef producer in the hills, is concerned and watching closely is putting it mildly. But in reality, all in the agriculture community are very concerned and watching the administration’s action very closely. The whole agriculture industry and its future depend on expansion of trade into foreign markets.

If one takes the entirety of the agriculture and food industry in America, they drive close to 20 percent of America’s economy. Now, you know not only are beef, lamb and pork important, all of agriculture is essential. Food and agriculture products support around 22.8 million jobs in the U.S., totaling over $763 billion in wages annually. And the most important part, agriculture exports over $146 billion of its products. Just the meat sector, including beef, pork, sheep and lamb and poultry, exports over $135 billion annually.

President Trump said he wants to negotiate trade agreements on a bilateral basis. That is, he wants one-on-one conversations with each individual country. I have no idea if that will work, but if it doesn’t, America will get left behind in terms of trade, with higher tariffs to pay to get our products into other countries. As technology improves practices in farming, the number of and bushels of corn, wheat, soybeans and others increase, and with the expected increase in beef, pork and lamb, we will have to export these products to keep prices up. Overseas and in Mexico, the middle class is growing. They like the taste of better proteins and can afford them. Other countries need to get these proteins from America.

With the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11 remaining countries will have some sweet deals with each other, unless the U.S. can also reach a deal with those 11 countries individually. That could be a little tough, especially if China gets involved.

Just take the meat exports to Japan from the U.S. as an example. The U.S. is subject to quarterly safe-guards, while other countries with trade agreements only have an annual safe-guard mechanism and lower tariff rates.

A country everyone is looking at these days is Vietnam, whose middle class is growing fast, and its people are looking for something to eat instead of a bowl of rice and a fish. To show the importance of Vietnam, China is building a large highway through the middle of Vietnam straight up to China. We can’t just sit back and give the whole trade deal to China.

I, like you, hope all of these trade deals work out for the U.S., especially in the beef trade business. The demand for U.S. beef, not only around the world but also here at home, is a story not soon forgotten.

Always remember, opportunities are never lost. The other fellow will always take those that you misplace.

For those of you out in the hills, if your business, farm or ranch is touched by federal lands, doing business may be getting easier. For a start, the climate of doing business on federal lands seems to be one of more cooperation.

Not all may not agree with me, especially those who have never had to deal with public lands managers or those who now have to allow tribal consultation if any part of an oil and gas development crosses federal surface or sub-surface minerals. That is a hard pill to swallow.

But for those of us who grew up dealing with either Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service (FS) personnel, one knew there would always be conflicts – not only with the regulations but also with personnel, and I’m sure the federal land managers out there felt the same about us. At times, there was good cause on both sides, and we agreed to disagree, so to say.

I sense, for the most part, those days are hopefully behind us. The word “cooperation” is being heard more and more frequently today. We, as public land users, need to take advantage of this opportunity and not only use that word more often but practice it. As you know, cooperation is a two-way street.

When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took office, he said he was planning a major reorganization of the Department of Interior (DOI). Now, he has said he is currently considering moving at least three DOI agencies’ headquarters outside of Washington D.C. – BLM, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. The new Trump administration, along with western states Republican lawmakers on the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees the DOI, are also in favor of moving the agencies out to the West.

A letter sent recently to Secretary Zinke by Republican committee members stated, “Any thoughtful DOI reorganization should give serious consideration to relocating select agencies away from Washington, D.C. As a result of mission drift, federal agencies have lost touch with concerns of Americans most impacted by administrative and regulatory burdens.”

The Republicans have also backed a more cooperative approach to western land management, promoting activities like resource extraction, hunting, fishing and ranching in conjunction with environmental stewardship.

The word cooperation was repeated time and time again during a recent public agency meeting held in conjunction with Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous last week in Casper. The number of Wyoming BLM regional and area managers and Wyoming FS managers who attended was large, the largest in recent memory.

Tony Tooke, FS chief, also backs more cooperation, especially in the West. He has never managed a forest in the West but has good friends here who back him and like his message.

I welcome cooperation from all sides. It makes getting good conservation and good decisions easier. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support the Public Lands Council any more. We still need them – more or as much as ever. With parties cooperating, decisions will come faster and more frequently. Western ranchers still need someone to lobby Congress and others in Washington, D.C. Last year, if you paid your assessment with $100, this year, write the check for $120, and get your neighbors to do the same.