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By Ron Pulse, Wyoming State FFA Advisor

There are over 2,000 high school students in Wyoming who belong to the largest high school student organization in the United States: the National FFA Organization. The Wyoming Association is one of 52 states and territories that belong to this national organization.

The FFA is an organization of, by and for students enrolled in agriculture education programs in 20 of the 23 counties in Wyoming. The Wyoming FFA chartered with the National FFA in 1928, the same year the national organization was founded in Kansas City, Mo. FFA in Wyoming has enjoyed a long and rewarding affiliation with an organization whose sole purpose is to develop premier leadership, promote citizenship and career development leading to an occupation in our world of work. We’re in the business of building good citizens that will and do make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others around us.

I have been personally involved with the FFA program continuously since the mid-‘60s. This includes active student membership, through agriculture teacher preparation training, as a high school ag teacher, college professor and as the State FFA Advisor since 1985. Agriculture education is a lifestyle that I have shared with a great many people over the years. I think the thing that makes this affiliation so unique is that it has allowed me to share what I do with my family, or at least it has allowed my family to be a part of my engagement in some activity, conference, fair or other event where they could go along with me. I can’t remember the last time we actually had a vacation that didn’t involve work, but I’m sure my turn will come sometime. I don’t worry about retirement; I worry about what I’m going to do with nothing to do! Maybe I will figure that out sometime.

The FFA teaches us many things, but one of the most valuable things it does is make failure absolutely impossible. Our students do not have failures, they have a setback; they don’t lose, they just haven’t figured out the process or learned enough yet; they don’t know what the word quit means, and they see the unknown as simply the next challenge. The ability to take the lessons that are taught and actually put them to work in a real world setting is an amazing thing – the discovery that algebra and trigonometry actually are necessary on the farm and organic chemistry is really what we learn when we teach about medicines and chemicals and what they do to an animal or to the soil or plant.  

Communication is the key to maturity. I’ve never met a student who wouldn’t or couldn’t sit down and carry on an adult conversation with me. Our students know the importance of family, respect for their elders, a work ethic that equals their parents’ and they know the difference between when it’s time to be a kid and time to be an adult. Our students don’t say “don’t pick me,” they say, “let me help you with that.” FFA teaches life lessons in so many different venues, whether it’s in the show ring, the public speaking contest or visiting with one of our Congressmen in their office on Capitol Hill. They are able to stand up in public and champion a cause or explain the importance of their opinion and know that in the end a compromise may be made and that has to be alright with all parties.

The quality of a program, regardless of what it is or where it is, equates to the quality of the person who leads it. Your school system works because it is led by capable leaders, your classroom teachers provide services and experiences for our youngsters that are essential for life, your ag programs are measured by the successes of the students all being prepared by the best teachers available.

Wyoming recently competed at the National FFA Convention in over 20 different competitions and we finished in the top 20 percent or better in every event. Wyoming doesn’t go to participate; we are in it to win it. Our teachers make that happen; our parents provide us support and the raw materials that is the fabric of this country. I’m proud to be associated with all of you that believe in our children and our future.

By Dick Loper, Rangeland Consultant, Wyoming State Grazing Board

On Oct. 13-14 the latest meeting of the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board was held near Washington, D.C. This Advisory Board was created from a provision in the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act, and its function is to advise the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture on matters related to the management of “wild” horses and burros covered by this federal statute.

The board is composed of non-government people who have a recognized expertise on the various subjects related to the wild horse and burro program. Wyoming has contributed a number of very well qualified people to this board over the past years. Renee Taylor from Casper and Dr. Vern Dooley from Powell have just completed their membership on this board, and Gary Zakotnik, rancher from Farson, continues to serve as a co-chairman on the group.  
The BLM’s “wild” horse management program is an issue that the Wyoming State Grazing Board (WSGB) attempts to monitor on behalf of the ranchers who hold Section 3 grazing permits in Wyoming. On behalf of the WSGB, I attended this meeting in an attempt to remain current on the national direction of this program and to take the opportunity to discuss with members of the board, the BLM national office and the staff of our Congressional delegation, the horse management issues of importance to Wyoming.

This Advisory Board is required to function under the rules and regulations of Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and as such, the meetings are conducted under a structured agenda and are tightly managed by the BLM and federal law enforcement. Representatives always attend these meetings from organizations that hold very radical and agenda-driven positions related to the horse and burro program in the West and they have, at times, conducted disruptive actions at some of these meetings.

Many of these radical groups have become very well organized and are a very powerful influence on the Secretary, the BLM, Congress and public opinion. They seem to have more than adequate funding to support their agenda, which is to eliminate roundups and replace livestock on federal BLM lands with “wild” horses and burros. I know as a range technician, and you know as ranchers, that this agenda will create significant adverse impacts to our wildlife habitat and other multiple uses including your livestock operations, the health of the land will deteriorate, and additional inhumane on-the-ground conditions will be created for the horses themselves.

During the three minutes provided to each of us from the “public,” I conveyed a comment from Rick Myers, rancher from Baggs and chairman of the WSGB Committee, on wild horse issues in Wyoming. Rick has attended some previous meetings, but could not attend this one due to his fall livestock business workload. He ask me to convey that at least some of the future meetings of this Advisory Board should be held in locations much closer to those of us in the West who are directly affected by the horse program. These western locations should be in places like Rawlins, Rock Springs, Lander or Worland. At these types of locations, the board could actually go on the ground to view local horse issues and local people personally affected by the horse program could afford to attend and participate in the meetings. Locations in Washington, D.C. and Phoenix, Ariz. are very expensive and very few ranchers can afford the time away from the ranch to attend in the big-city locations.

I have attended a number of these advisory meeting over the past 30-some years on behalf of the WSGB. There may have been other times, but I have only once observed that someone from the office of the Secretary of Interior has been in attendance. So, I also provided a comment to this board that they should specifically request that the Secretary themselves, or at least a person from the Office of the Secretary of Interior with policy responsibility, be asked to attend each of their meetings. After all, they are, by law, an advisory committee to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, so why not provide advice directly to these two cabinet officers instead of relying on the BLM in attendance to convey their advice on horse issues?

Of particular interest to those of us in attendance who support the multiple use concept on western rangelands were comments from a very articulate lady from the state of Maine. She used to live in Colorado, and obviously knew something about the subject. It was obvious that the members of this Advisory Board were very interested in her remarks because they came from a member of the silent majority “public.” Her remarks illustrate the importance of the direct participation on our issues of people who are not directly tied to the ag industry.     

BLM Director Bob Abby provided opening comments, but did not stay for the meeting. Various BLM employees gave reports on the number of horses rounded up and adopted since the last meeting of the board. This information was not distributed to the public in attendance and the minutes of the October meeting are not yet available to the public.

I do have a three-page summary of the information provided by the BLM to the board, and would provide it to any of you by request.

The BLM conveyed to the board that the Secretary of Interior has directed the BLM to reduce the number of horses gathered from western rangelands from 10,000 to 7,500 next year because of a lack of space available in both short-term and long-term holding. He has also conveyed that the number of horses removed will continue to be reduced until after receipt of the latest report from the National Academy of Science that is currently reviewing the entire BLM horse and burro program. It was also apparent that the BLM has been directed to place more emphasis on a birth control method that’s currently available to them.

Most of us involved in the program support the BLM’s continued use of birth control methods as one of the tools available for overall population control, but this emphasis on birth control, which is very expensive and still in the experimental stages of development, is disconcerting to many ranchers who currently hold grazing permits inside Herd Management Areas (HMAs). The current preferred procedure must be applied to a significant number of the mares in an HMA every two years to be an effective control measure on reproduction in that respective HMA. As we are all aware, “wild” horses don’t much like being rounded up every two or three years and it will become increasingly more difficult for the BLM to keep horse numbers down to acceptable levels unless all of the management tools available to the BLM are used.

The WSGB would like to thank the Wyoming Livestock Roundup for this opportunity to convey this article, and express our appreciation to the staff of our Congressional delegation, the office of our Governor, the Wyoming Departments of Agriculture and State Lands, the Wyoming ag groups, and to the ranchers currently involved in the horse program, for their continuing work on these issues.

If any of you would like more information about how you can become more involved in helping to resolve the many issues related to the BLM’s “wild” horse program, please contact any of the above mentioned participants or myself at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or P.O. Box 1202, Lander, WY 82520 or 307-332-2601.

By Scott Zimmerman, Cooperatives Specialist, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

October is being celebrated across the U.S. as National Cooperative Month, and Governor Matt Mead has signed a proclamation declaring Cooperative Month in Wyoming as part of this celebration. Here at Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and our Cooperative Development Center we applaud the Governor’s action, and we join with him in saluting cooperatives nationwide.  

To understand what cooperatives mean today, it helps to understand the history of cooperatives. The cooperative movement began in Europe in the 19th Century, not long after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The increasing mechanization of the European economy transformed society. It threatened the livelihoods of skilled workers and destroyed businesses too small to compete with industrial giants. Labor and social movements attempted to address the need for change.

The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was formed in Rochdale, England in 1844. Mechanization was replacing skilled workers with unskilled labor. Weavers were being replaced with machines that produced quantity without much regard for quality. These tradesmen, driven into poverty by industrialization, banded together to open their own store. They designed the Rochdale Principles to govern their business and they pooled their meager capital to stock their store with simple necessities at affordable prices. They were so successful that, in the next 10 years, more than 1,000 co-ops sprang up in Great Britain.

Cooperatives worldwide still subscribe to the Rochdale principles that guided these first cooperators to success. There are seven original principles:
1. Open, voluntary membership
2. Democratic governance (one member, one vote)
3. Members control capital and equity
4. Autonomous, independent governance
5. Education and training in cooperative principles
6. Cooperation among cooperatives
7. Commitment to their communities

Agricultural cooperatives have played a huge role in developing and sustaining local agriculture here in Wyoming and across the West. Wyoming agriculture has created and benefited from three general types of cooperative: service, supply and marketing. Each type fills a different role in our state.
The service cooperative, as its name suggests, provides its member owners with a service typically not available otherwise. A good example of this type of cooperative is member-owned Rural Electric Associations. Had it not been for the vision and hard work of the founding members of these co-ops, rural Wyoming would have remained without electricity many years longer. Co-ops emphasize benefits to members rather than measuring their results in raw profits, so small “local” electric utilities were able to address the need.

The supply cooperative offers its members the opportunity to buy inputs and raw materials at prices competitive with the volume discounts offered to the industrial corporations they must compete with. Typically the co-op can offer the supply item at volume pricing based on the buying power of the entire membership, and typically the co-op will deliver to small, independent operations. Many rural Wyoming agricultural communities have been home to “fuel and supply” cooperatives. These operations offered fuel, seed, fertilizer and farm and ranch supplies to their members. Cenex is a well-known example of this type of cooperative that is still part of the Wyoming landscape.

The marketing cooperative typically pools its members’ goods and offers them for direct sale to obtain the best price. Grain or commodity marketing cooperatives fall into this category, as well as the co-op food markets that benefit both consumers and producers.

Starting in the late 1970s, many states changed the legal definition of “cooperative,” and a new kind of co-op emerged. New-generation cooperatives in rural America adapt traditional cooperative structures to the increasing need for capitalization. Some states now allow capital investors to participate as voting members. This kind of co-op often is an agricultural processor adding value to a primary product. Capitalized by investors and run democratically by members, they might be producing ethanol from corn, pasta from durum wheat or gourmet cheese from goat’s milk. The highly successful Mountain States Lamb Cooperative, headquartered in Douglas, is an example of such a cooperative.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union takes cooperation as one of its founding principles, and we have promoted cooperative solutions to rural and agricultural challenges for more than 100 years. Since 1991, our foundation has been a leader forming and assisting cooperatives of all types. Our Cooperative Development Center, created in 1996, has used funding from Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) awarded each year by USDA - Rural Development to support our cooperative development work in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. In the Center’s 15 years we have helped design, develop, incorporate and manage more than a hundred cooperatives, many of them, like Mountain States, still thriving. We continue to seek out and assist individuals and groups with ideas that may become the next successful cooperative venture.

As you can see, cooperatives have had a significant role in shaping the Wyoming agricultural landscape. We celebrate that role each year in October. RMFU and our Co-op Center will ensure that the role of co-ops will be important for years to come, and we will strive to enhance that role wherever possible.

By Niels Hansen, Wyoming Director, Public Lands Council

According to federal land agencies, public land livestock grazing is a mere privilege. However, if you are a Forest Service or BLM grazing permittee or lessee, you understand that your grazing “privilege” is, in fact, a significant investment and an integral part of your ranching operation. Like all of your ranching investments, it must be protected. However, unlike many of those other investments, the biggest threat to your grazing investment is not weather or market value – it is government regulation, Congressional action and environmental litigation.

This week you should have receive a letter from the Wyoming Public Lands Coalition seeking your financial support to enable Wyoming to meet its obligations to the national Public Lands Council (PLC). You may be asking yourself, “Why should I support PLC?” Perhaps you already support one or more state and national organizations that serve the livestock industry. Because the Public Lands Council works solely on public land issues, PLC is your insurance policy on your public land investment.

When leaders of the Western sheep and cattle industries began the discussions that led to the establishment of the PLC in 1968, the threat to public land grazing was described as “the elevation of multiple use over domestic livestock grazing.” Over 40 years later, Western ranchers are the champions of multiple use against the threat of those who would stop virtually all economic uses of BLM and Forest Service lands through wilderness designations and other single purpose restrictions.

It is due in large part to the singular focus of PLC that we continue to graze these lands in the face of ever growing challenges. PLC is in the halls of Congress every day carrying the message of our stewardship of these lands. They interact regularly with both friend and foe within the federal agencies, and PLC has led numerous recent efforts to protect our interests in court.

You know the issues well – permit renewal, range improvements, meeting Rangeland Health Standards, endangered species, NEPA compliance, forest planning rules, Wild Lands, wild horses. The FY 2011 PLC Annual Report reviews 11 legislative issues, seven administrative issues and three judicial issues on which PLC has provided leadership this year. I encourage you to visit the PLC website publiclandscouncil.org for more information.

In 2010, when our industry learned that El Paso, builder of the Ruby Pipeline from Opal to Malin, Ore., had made agreements to provide access to major funding to Western Watersheds Project and the Oregon Natural Desert Association in the futile attempt to “buy” their way out of potential litigation, PLC immediately sprang into action, demanding that these agreements be nullified. When it became apparent that this would not be done, PLC sought a commitment from El Paso to support the public lands livestock industry. The result was that El Paso offered to establish a $15 million endowment that will serve the industry for the next 75 years. Annual earnings on the endowment will be used “to protect, enhance and preserve public lands and the public lands livestock grazing industry.” While these revenues will provide critical additions support to the public land livestock industry beginning in 2013, they do not diminish the need for your strong support today.

The Wyoming Public Lands Coalition struggles each year to meet its PLC assessment and to provide minimal assistance to delegates to the PLC Spring Conference in Washington, D.C. and to the annual meeting in the West. We express our gratitude to those BLM and FS permittees who each year provide their generous support. This year we have avoided the apparent need to increase the assessment level because of our belief that, with significantly higher prices for both sheep and cattle, we can count on many of you who have not been able to support this effort in previous years to now get on board. Thank you in advance for your support!