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By Ann Wittmann, Executive Director, Wyoming Beef Council

When I started working at the Wyoming Beef Council more than a decade ago, I had fewer gray hairs, fewer wrinkles and enthusiasm that might have been referred to as effervescent. My ideals were grand, my trust was large and I had great faith in the public to seek and gravitate toward the truth. Don’t get me wrong, my enthusiasm has not waned, anyone who works with me or in the continental vicinity of me knows that I am passionate about my work, but the direction and means of expressing my enthusiasm has become more focused over the years. It’s become less like an exploding soda pop and more like simmering gravy.  

Several weeks ago I read with great interest an invitation to work with an organization called Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to participate in and facilitate “Food Day” activities throughout Wyoming. The invite billed “Food Day” as a national event on Oct. 24, 2011 to “encourage people around the country to sponsor or participate in activities that encourage Americans to ‘eat real’ and support healthy, affordable food grown in a sustainable, humane way.”

Had I received that offer 10 years ago, I would have been shocked to discover the true message and motive behind the effort. After all, the event was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and who among us doesn’t believe that science should be in the public interest? My older, wiser simmering brain prevailed, however, and held back enthusiasm pending further investigation.

Research into the event listed partner organizations as Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Farm Animal Rights Movement and the notorious Humane Society of the United States. Similar to the CSPI group, these organizations have feel-good names that serve to mislead the public. Most of us are aware that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is a national nonprofit organization with a $200 million budget raised under the guise of funding pet shelters, but that spends all but one percent of that budget on efforts to eliminate animal agriculture. The other two groups, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and Farm Animals Rights Movement (FARM) may not be as familiar. PCRM, in spite of its name, has a very small number of physicians as members and has direct ties to PETA, as well as several FBI-designated terrorist groups including Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). FARM is a national nonprofit organization promoting a vegan lifestyle through public education and grassroots activism to end the use of animals for food.

As cautious as I am about jumping to conclusions, less than 60 seconds into my research I began to think “Food Day” was not a beef-friendly event! Sadly, other organizations that have been, and often continue to be, beef-friendly did not come to the same conclusion. Specifically, the American Dietetic Association, the American Culinary Federation and the National Association of City and County Health Officials signed on as partners to this campaign.  

The five central goals of CSPI Food Day are: reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods; support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness; expand access to food and alleviate hunger; protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms; promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids; and support fair conditions for food and farm workers. This campaign recommends a nearly-vegetarian diet to meet these goals.

The fourth goal of protecting the environment and animals by reforming factory farms continues to bring up false claims, such as the fat content of grain-finished beef or the greenhouse gas emissions from cattle. This alone is enough to make a simmering brain steam up and boil over. However, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my conversion from carbonation to stove top is to ensure that actions and reactions don’t provide unintended publicity to the event or issue.  After all, do these folks really need help giving their events more attention? Careful behind-the-scenes work is most often the best way to navigate these waters.

Two Wyoming events were posted on the CSPI Food Day website. The first was a mailing to Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics throughout the state. After discussing my concerns with a long-time beef-friendly contact at Wyoming WIC, she and I decided that sending out checkoff-funded information detailing the true story of beef production was in order. This effort is currently underway.  

Second, the University of Wyoming posted plans to host their own version of Food Days on Oct. 24-26 to includes a food drive and resource fair along with a harvest dinner made with locally sourced foods. UW Food Days will wrap up on Oct. 26 with a day of trayless dining and cooking demonstrations showcasing local foods. Wyoming Collegiate CattleWomen and other university contacts have been alerted and asked to ensure the events are balanced and the truth about beef production is also available.  

Nationally, proactive checkoff-funded programs such as panel discussions and national town hall conversations about America’s food system are taking place, seeding the environment with positive messages about agriculture. Additionally, national beef checkoff staff has been meeting with several of the afore-mentioned beef-friendly organizations and advisory board members to try and educate them about the beef industry and understand why they are supporting this campaign. State beef councils across the country are meeting with state/local chapters of the organizations on the advisory board for Food Day, as well explaining that, while on the surface Food Day appears to be an initiative to promote healthy foods versus fast-food and junk-food, it is actually a cleverly disguised event by groups opposed to modern food production practices.   

Ultimately, I believe the true story of beef production and the opportunity to share the reality of the wholesomeness of our product and production methods are enthusiasm worthy and the checkoff will continue to roll along, working proactively, reactively and frequently behind the scenes, like a savory gravy on the back burner, to tell the positive story about our product.  

For more information about the beef checkoff program visit mybeefcheckoff.com, wybeef.com or contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wyoming Ag In the Classroom (WAIC) would like to thank all the supporters who have helped us achieve our goal of integrating agriculture and natural resources into the classroom for the past 25 years. The rich history and courageous leaders are worth celebrating and we hope you can join us at the Wyoming Stock Growers Convention on Dec. 13 for a night of remembering where we have been and to be a part of our exciting future.

It will be a chance to meet the new staff. Jessie Dafoe, Executive Director, lives in Cheyenne with her husband. Jessie grew up on the Berry Hereford Ranch north of Cheyenne and most recently worked for the Wyoming Conservation Alliance out of the law office of Hageman and Brighton. Dafoe graduated from the University of Wyoming with an agriculture business degree and served as a UW Ag Ambassador.  

Jennifer Nehl, the new Education Director, lives in Sundance with her husband and two sons. Nehl has a Masters of Art’s in educational leadership with K-12 administrative endorsement and 17 years of instructional experience in the public school system. She has been working with various communities and districts across the states of South Dakota and Wyoming for the past four years delivering professional development.

With the new staff on board, WAIC is developing a comprehensive K-12 curriculum and will pilot the first strand in the fall of 2012. Students become our businessmen, community leaders and legislators without understanding the value and role agriculture plays in our daily life and economy. Our goal is to bridge the gap.

The vision is to start at the kindergarten level and build on the concepts and values of the agriculture industry each year. When students graduate from high school we want them not only to know where their food and fiber comes from, but how it gets from the pasture to the plate. We want students to know where the electricity comes from when they charge their laptop and why safe, affordable energy is so important. WAIC doesn’t intend to tell students how to think, rather, to provide all the information and let the students decide for themselves.

Every day, classrooms are bombarded with propaganda. We are joining the debate and enabling students to use their critical thinking skills and find their own voice. Not only do we want students to develop an understanding of the agriculture and natural resource sector, we want to pass on the values the industry lives by every day. WAIC aims to instill the belief that every business deal is handled with integrity, your word is a contract and work doesn’t always end when the whistle blows at five.

It is a daunting task to develop a curriculum to encompass everything; we will depend on many resources to meet this challenge. We know the pressures teachers face now are more stringent than ever with constant testing and standards. We are writing all curriculum to align with the current standards and benchmarks.

The new WAIC curriculum will be designed specifically to educate students in a global agricultural education community, proficiently utilizing 21st Century skills employing the new “4 Rs” of education: Relevance, Results, Relationship and Rigor. With the recent adoption of the National Common Core Standards on June 16, 2010 by the Wyoming Department of Education, educator’s instructional practice and how students participate in learning with their peers – locally and globally – will greatly impact classroom instruction. Students enjoy exercising collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, creativity and innovation. These very essential “Cs” make up the core knowledge instruction of the 21st Century skills where students learn the essential skills for success in today’s world by preparing them for future roles, jobs and careers.  

This new curriculum does not stop with the development of lessons. WAIC will also provide onsite training for teachers with a professional development component prior to, during and after instruction in the classroom. WAIC will aid teachers in bringing students to the field and visits from specialists to the classroom. The hands-on learning and interaction will be a unique and welcomed change of pace for teachers and students.

An endeavor this large is not possible on our own. We are calling on individuals, industry, academia, experts and government agencies’ knowledge to help develop the curriculum. WAIC does not view this as an isolated project, but a chance for the agriculture community to join together and help grow our next Wyoming generation. We appreciate all the support and hope to see you in December!

For more information on WAIC visit wyomingagclassroom.org or contact Jessie Dafoe at 307-421-4341 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Bobbie Frank, Executive Director, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts

The conservation districts in this state are definitely committed to watershed health and water quality work, and their commitment is evident through their actions: conservation district employees who are several months pregnant wade streams in the winter to collect water samples, and retired conservation district supervisors volunteer their time to help with water quality monitoring and implementing water quality management practices.

Many landowners, community leaders and homeowners have and continue to volunteer hundreds of hours working on watershed plans, and then they work hard to implement those plans. There is no shortage of dedicated and concerned citizens working to maintain and improve the water quality of this state, and every two years the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) publishes its “Watersheds Progress Report” to show all of the incredible efforts at the local level across Wyoming. The 2009 edition is available on our website.

Highlighting the dedication to water quality is important to recognize, in the context of this discussion, because, inevitably, when one starts debating the issue of regulatory jurisdiction – federal versus state – if one leans toward less federal intervention and regulation, then it is easy for others to try to paint one as anti-clean water. As one district supervisor put it, “The only conservation that matters is that which gets put on the ground.”  

In April 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published draft guidance that would replace previous agency guidance issued in 2003 and 2008, detailing modifications to which waters EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) would regulate under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act). Who should have the authority over water quality issues, the federal government or the respective states, continues to be a hot topic of debate. Key Supreme Court decisions have refined the EPA’s and the Corps’ authority over the regulation of certain types of waters.

In the past several years there have also been attempts in Congress to advance legislation to redefine “waters of the United States.” These bills would have resulted in a definition that would have included a number of waters that are currently not subject to federal regulation, or are in a “gray” area. These attempts did not move forward. As a result, that which cannot be done through the appropriate processes, i.e. legislation and or rules, apparently will be done through the development of “guidance.”

The two primary decisions, the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (SWANCC) and Rapanos v. United States (Rapanos), resulted in restricting federal authority over certain types of waters.

First, the SWANCC decision removed from federal regulation isolated wetlands by nullifying the “migratory bird rule.” In a nutshell, the agencies, via regulation, exerted jurisdiction over these types of isolated waters by arguing that isolated wetlands will have waterfowl in them that would fly to another state and land in another isolated wetland, hence there was interstate commerce occurring on these waters to render them under federal jurisdiction.

The other suit, Rapanos, resulted in what is argued by the agencies to be a complicated and unmanageable approach to determining jurisdiction. Many lauded the decision as a win for reining in the heavy hand of the agencies. In Rapanos, the court addressed CWA protections for wetlands adjacent to non-navigable tributaries, and issued five opinions with no single opinion commanding a majority of the court. The plurality opinion, authored by Justice Scalia, stated that “waters of the United States” extended beyond traditional navigable waters to include “relatively permanent, standing or flowing bodies of water.” There is a lot more detail to this opinion, but suffice it to say, the outcome was additional limitations placed on federal jurisdiction.

A comparison of the December 2008 memorandum issued by EPA and Corps guiding agency personnel on which waters would be jurisdictional and this new proposed guidance, provides for some significant changes in what waters would be regulated. The agencies specifically state in the draft guidance: “However, after careful review of these opinions, the agencies concluded that previous guidance did not make full use of the authority provided by the CWA to include waters within the scope of the Act, as interpreted by the Court.”

The 2008 guidance established a “significant nexus” standard, whereby the agency would have to determine on a fact-specific basis whether certain types of waters, such as wetlands, tributaries or traditional navigable waters, fell under federal jurisdiction. This significant nexus standard would contemplate the flow functions of the tributary itself and the functions performed by all wetlands adjacent to the tributary to determine if they significantly affect the chemical, physical and biological integrity of downstream traditional navigable waters. The significant nexus also included consideration of hydrologic and ecologic factors.

This 2011 draft guidance takes the same type of approach, but expands on the significant nexus approach by establishing that waters that are in “close proximity” or “proximate other waters” to traditional navigable waters will also fall under jurisdiction. Basically, the guidance establishes a watershed approach to determining significance. In essence, based on our analysis, most waters in a watershed draining to a “traditional navigable water” or interstate water, would ultimately meet the “significant nexus” test and be subject to federal regulatory oversight.

There is a list of certain types of waters that would “generally” not fall under federal jurisdiction. Note the term “generally.” There is a potential that some of the specifically exempt waters, such as reflecting pools, ornamental waters, gullies, etc., could also be jurisdictional.

Also of import is the application of the above as it pertains to the different provisions of the Clean Water Act. The agencies acknowledge in the guidance that “although SWANCC and Rapanos specifically involved section 404 of the CWA and discharges of dredged or fill material, the term ‘waters of the United States’ must be interpreted consistently for all CWA provisions that use the term. These provisions include the section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, the section 311 oil spill program,5 the water quality standards and total maximum daily load programs under section 303, and the section 401 State water quality certification process.”

This issue is not about whether our water resources should be protected or not, which is often the spin on this issue. It is about whether the authority to regulate certain types of waters should lie with the federal government or should be retained by the states. WACD’s comments reflect the opinion that, on those waters falling outside of the traditional “navigable,” interstate waters’ realm should be regulated by the states. It has been our experience that those closest to the issue are typically most knowledgeable and capable of common sense, cost effective approaches to resource protection and management.

WACD and the conservation districts have a solid record of projects that do successfully protect water quality in a common sense, cost effective approach that benefits all water users and the state. The EPA’s 2011 draft guidance document hinders our ability to continue this mission by oftentimes placing districts in a position of reacting to federally driven requirements and priorities versus the highest priority resource issues in our communities.

Thanks to Senator Barrasso for his diligent efforts on this issue. We appreciate his work to ensure that the federal agencies don’t try to evade the appropriate processes and expand their authorities.

For a full copy of the draft guidance and information on how to submit comments, visit water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm. The original comment deadline was the end of June, but it was extended to July 31. WACD’s comments are available at conservewy.com.

Most ranchers have heard about the negotiations between the Secretary of Interior and Governor Mead regarding the wolf issue. Many have probably even had some conversations with the Steve Ferrell, the Governor’s representative, over some of the details. Of course, less clear is what all of this means.

The Governor met with the Secretary of Interior and agreed to a couple of major points. The first, and perhaps the most widely reported, deals with an adjustment of the wolf boundary farther south from the current wolf trophy game boundary. The agreement allows wolves to be treated as trophy game animals from Oct. 15 until the end of February between the old boundary and the new boundary and as predators from March 1 until Oct. 15. The boundary lines can be found in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s proposed updated wolf management plan.

The other area where there was agreement reached between the feds and Wyoming is that Wyoming will now be responsible for 10 breeding pairs of wolves (roughly 100 wolves) outside of the national parks. The Park Service may or may not manage wolves for the five breeding pair “buffer,” which has been a part of the Wyoming wolf management plan since the adoption of legislation in 2003. In addition to these two main points, there were agreements on changes of management within the trophy game management area (TGMA). All of these changes will require amendments to Wyoming’s statutes.  

In addition to Wyoming changing our laws, the federal government has maintained they must go through another public review and perhaps more disconcerting another peer review of the plan.

Naturally there is skepticism towards the whole process in the agricultural community. This will be the third time that Wyoming has gone forward with a plan that would allow for state management of wolves. Another part of this whole picture will be a Congressional approval of the agreement to avoid another legal battle. Absent such approval, all Wyoming has done is raised the floor on where the next round of negotiations will begin.

We are all aware that, prior to wolves being brought into Wyoming, they agreed that recovery numbers were 10 breeding pairs, or approximately 100 wolves. The number was then increased to 150 to allow for a buffer number. That, however, seemed to be the number we needed. Indeed, Norm Bishop, who used to work for Yellowstone National Park as a ranger, told the Big Horn County Farm Bureau back in 1990 that the wolf population will not be allowed to expand beyond 150 wolves over the next 30 years (People Magazine, Sept. 24, 1990). Mr. Bishop has since retired from Yellowstone but sits on the board for the Wolf Recovery Foundation, and is a frequent critic of wolf delisting efforts. As of December 2010 there were over 243 wolves, 33 documented wolf packs and 19 breeding pair in Wyoming outside of the parks and Wind River Reservation.

Proposed legislation has not been made public yet, but if this agreement goes forward, then Wyoming legislation will need to move the state from being responsible for seven breeding pairs to 10 breeding pairs, as well as alter the southern TGMA boundary.

Ranchers who have livestock losses within the trophy game management zone will be compensated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department based on the same process that is currently used for losses caused by other trophy game animals. Wolves outside of the TGMA will be treated as predators and losses of livestock will not be compensated by the Department. Losses of livestock in the flex area will not be compensated if they occurred when the wolf was classified as a predator as explained in the wolf management plan.  
Should Congress not approve the agreement reached, then about the only option left for the state would be to prepare for the another round of litigation, and there certainly is disagreement between folks on whether the decision from Judge Johnson’s court will hold sway. Once the plan moves away from the original facts litigated, then a judicial concept res judicata (a thing judicially acted upon or decided) utilized by the courts to avoid needless re-litigation of similar facts, becomes moot.  

In order to find out whether the current agreement does move beyond those facts decided in Judge Johnson’s court will probably take another law suit. Undoubtedly, if the environmental community has a choice the case will not be filed in Wyoming. A peer review with a different conclusion that the first peer review will also moot any gains made by the state in Judge Johnson’s court.

Should Congress not ratify the agreement, Wyoming would be wise to hit the reset button on any changes that have been proposed but even then it may be too little to late, depending on the outcome of the peer review process.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Association Executive Vice President