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Washington, D.C. – “A year ago, the American people voted for fundamental change in this country,” says Wyoming’s Sen. John Barrasso (R). “With the election of a Republican president and a Republican Congress, we have been able to roll back many harmful Washington regulations that have previously hurt Wyoming’s farming and ranching communities.”

Senior Sen. Mike Enzi (R) adds, “Wyoming’s livestock industry is part of the backbone of our state’s economy, communities and the heritage of families across Wyoming.”

Enzi continues, “President Trump and the new administration are also bringing a totally different perspective on how the government should work. Already, we’ve seen progress on issues that will make a real difference for people in Wyoming and across the country.”

Specifically, Enzi sees new approaches to federal government regulation of air, water and wildlife management, and such actions have provided relief from unnecessary and burdensome regulations that get in the way of small businesses and economic growth.

Policy wins

Among notable federal action targeting the agriculture industry, Barrasso cited the revision of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule as particularly monumental.

“Early in the year, the administration began the process of revising the Obama administration’s flawed WOTUS Rule,” Barrasso says.

WOTUS, he comments, would have given the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jurisdiction over backyard ponds, puddles and prairie pot holes in Wyoming.

“I applaud the Trump administration for working with Congress to remove this indefensible regulation. I will continue to work closely with the administration as it seeks commonsense ways to keep America’s water clean and safe,” Barrasso adds.

Another win for Wyoming came when Congress overturned the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Planning 2.0 using the Congressional Review Act.

“The misguided BLM Planning 2.0 rule would have taken authority away from local land managers who have the most knowledge and experience overseeing resources in their own backyards,” Barrasso explains, noting that local management plans with input from county commissioners, sportsmen, local businesses and those on the landscape should be the primary factor in federal land management decisions. “Now that this rule is overturned, we can work together on new policy that makes the planning process more efficient and improves input at the local level.”

“While there are issues with the current land management program, we should be empowering state and local voices in land management processes not trying to sideline them,” Enzi comments.

Delisting of several large carnivores – the gray wolf and grizzly bear – from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections was also notable.

“After years of moving the goal posts, Wyoming will finally be able to move forward with managing our wildlife,” Barrasso adds.

Trade

For beef producers in particular, Barrasso notes the end to a 13-year ban on beef trade with China was an important step this year.

“This is a huge step forward for American producers who have been shut out of the market for more than a decade,” he says. “After traveling to China in April to meet with Chinese Premier Li on this issue, I’m pleased he worked with the Trump administration to make this a reality.”

Barrasso comments, “Ranchers in Wyoming now have access to a larger market to sell our high-quality American beef.”

Looking forward, Enzi mentions that negotiations will continue with Canada and Mexico to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Canada and Mexico are two of the top five trading partners for U.S. beef,” he states. “This is a relationship that shouldn’t be jeopardized, and I am working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that as they seek to modernize the agreement, they don’t hurt our producers back home.”

Taxes

“Since we have changed administrations, we have been able stop playing defense and instead pursue some real change, including tax reform, which Congress just passed this week,” Enzi explains.

Tax reform includes “robust” individual and business income tax rate reductions, relief for pass-through entities as many family ranches are organized, some relief from the alternative minimum tax for individuals and businesses and protected cash accounting for agriculture producers, he says.

Enzi continues, “This action will also provide immediate relief from the death tax by doubling the amount of the current exemption to reduce uncertainty and costs for many family-owned farms and businesses when they pass down their life’s work to the next generation.”

The new year

Barrasso also has a list of priorities for the new year and comments, “In 2018, I’ll work to make sure Wyoming is well-represented in the upcoming Farm Bill.”

Enzi says, while he doesn’t serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is a close colleague of Enzi’s, allowing him direct access to promoting Wyoming’s goals for the bill.
Barrasso has also prioritized modernization of the ESA, an action that will be facilitated by his position as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Healthcare will be an additional priority for Enzi, who notes insurance markets are collapsing and premiums are “out of control.”

“It is only going to get worse,” Enzi says. “Here in Wyoming, we have only one insurer on the Obamacare exchange, and families are paying some of the highest premiums in the country. I am hopeful that bipartisan efforts in the Senate to stabilize the markets and provide more flexibility will pay off, and we will be able to provide at least some relief while we continue to find a way forward to overhaul our health care system. Congress still has a responsibility to find better alternatives to America’s current healthcare fiasco.”

“Working together, I believe Congress and the administration can empower state leadership in key natural resource decisions, including sage grouse management plans,” Barrasso says. “I will also continue the fight to unwind red tape and give people in Wyoming relief from burdensome Washington regulations.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you want to run a successful business, it helps to be innovative. Powerful technology is becoming more accessible to us every day – for example, an iPhone has four times as much processing power as NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. 

It may not always be easy to know what opportunities are out there for your business. One of the best ways to find out is to learn what innovators in other industries are doing. Ranchers in Wyoming are a perfect example of an industry taking advantage of technological advancements to improve efficiency and marketing. 

Ashley Garrelts, who lives in Douglas and works for the University of Wyoming Extension, runs a blog called Writing on the Range. She writes about topics like grazing, rangeland soils, livestock herd systems and technology in ranching. Garrelts explains that the number of agriculture technology investors increased by 52 percent during the first half of 2016. Prior to that, new technologies were lacking.

“If you spend time with a rancher, you will soon come to learn they are innovative,” she writes on her blog. “They have to be.”

For her, part of this innovation includes smartphone apps. Garrelts shares a spreadsheet of helpful apps she has used.

“These apps allow managers to keep records and make decisions based on those records,” she writes.

Her list includes a pasture map, soil survey data, a grazing calculator and even a manure analyzer. 

An important aspect of any business is marketing, and social media can be an incredible resource. Social media platforms allow you to quickly interact with customers, connect with new audiences and promote your brand.

Mike and Erin Galloway recently created a YouTube channel, Our Wyoming Life, to share their experiences and the ways they have diversified to keep their ranch afloat. 

“The series invites viewers to experience Wyoming ranch life and learn about everything from raising livestock to raising and harvesting crops and everything in between,” Mike writes on his website. “Our goal is to bring the consumer closer to the producer through education and understanding.”

The Galloway family posts several videos each week that show the inner workings of their ranch, which is located 10 miles south of Gillette. They even use drones to provide aerial and panoramic views. In their first month of production, their videos garnered more than 30,000 views. Two months later, they were up to 125,000 views.

“The ranch is a business. That’s the bottom line,” Mike tells his YouTube subscribers. “It’s here to help support my family, raise my kids, send them to college, and – hopefully – maybe one of them will want to do the same thing I am, just a million times better.”

If one of the Galloway children does follow in their father’s footsteps, it is hard to say what new technology and business strategies would be available to them. One thing is certain – the opportunity to utilize progressing technology and share best practices in the ranching world – and across all industries – will continue to grow. Businesses that learn to innovate using new technologies will likely thrive into the future.

As this year draws to a close, we are once again approaching a federal budget deadline that will likely be postponed. Over the last 40 years, since the modern budget process was established, Congress has enacted 175 temporary spending bills, formally known as continuing resolutions, to avoid doing its job. It’s time to change the way Congress does business.

The November election results showed that hardworking taxpayers are eager for real change. With a new president taking office on Jan. 20, Congress has an opportunity and responsibility to get back to work.

The first step must be fixing America’s broken budget process to provide our nation with a responsible fiscal blueprint and help guide our spending decisions now and into the future. As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, this will be one of my top priorities in the new congress.

We are a nation on course for a fiscal disaster, because, when it comes to spending money, Congress is like a binge eater. We don’t want to start our diet until right after the next dessert. That attitude has led to a mammoth, oversized national debt that, left unchecked, will crush the prosperity of future generations.

We must start spending within our means and establishing healthy fiscal habits. Unfortunately, America’s broken budget process makes it easy for Congress to spend without ever checking its fiscal waistline.

Currently, only 30 percent of the national budget is annually distributed to federal agencies and programs by Congress. This money funds the activities that most people would associate with good government, such as national defense, education and infrastructure spending. 

We must pass spending bills to fund these government activities every year, forcing a public debate about where taxpayer dollars should be spent.

In fact, this is the portion of the budget that attracts the most congressional scrutiny and debate, and there are limits in place that make it very difficult to spend more than what’s allotted. But it is not growing rapidly and is not the cause of our unsustainable fiscal course.

The real culprit is the other 70 percent of the federal budget that is spent automatically, without regular congressional action or review.

In just 15 years, it will consume all government revenues, as debt interest payments and entitlements continue to grow rapidly. There are no effective limits to the amount that can be spent on this side of the budget, at least until this spending drives America into bankruptcy. 

This is how the budget process makes it easy to spend money. There is regular review and strict limits on the small and shrinking portion of the budget. But the much larger automatic spending programs are not regularly reviewed and can grow almost without limit.

To make matters worse, the historically low interest rates that America has relied on to pay its debt are poised to surge, according to the latest signals from the Federal Reserve. When these rates rise, we can expect to spend more every year on interest payments for these loans than we spend on national defense.

The Senate Budget Committee has been working on reforms that would fix America’s broken budget process. Many of these reforms strengthen the congressional budget, the only existing tool we have that forces Congress to examine all spending and revenues, including automatic spending, over a 10-year period. This budgeting process should be easier to adopt and harder to ignore.

Congress can start by reducing the needless political hurdles to passing a budget and making it harder to ignore overspending once Congress agreed to it.

The congressional budget is easily ignored in the Senate because it takes the same number of votes in the Senate to waive a budget violation that it does to overcome filibuster and pass a bill. The fiscal year 2016 budget was tossed aside in less than five weeks. Our rules should make it harder to pass a bill that busts the congressional budget by requiring more votes to waive the violation. 

We must also create new rules to ensure Congress passes its annual spending measures on time. The current process has been completed on time only four times in the last 40 years, and the last time it was completed on time was in 1998. 

Obviously this year is no exception to the rule. Congress should set aside specific floor time only for consideration of spending bills and enact legislation establishing a two-year spending cycle so that it has more time to review spending and complete its work. It should also enact Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) legislation that would end government shutdowns to prevent our annual, end-of-year spending crises.

These reforms and others would begin to create healthy fiscal habits that would force Congress to recognize and begin to address the daunting fiscal challenges that face our country.

I will continue to tirelessly work to get as many of these budget reforms as possible enacted in the new Congress. It’s time to take seriously the crisis that is threatening the future financial solvency of this country. 

The American people have spoken, and we owe it to them to put politics aside and get back to work.

Farmers, ranchers and foresters take great pride in their stewardship of the land. They are the original conservationists. And while it may be popular among some to blame farmers and ranchers for any and every environmental concern that crops up, I know that nobody cares more for the environment than those who work the land every day. When a farm family’s livelihood depends on caring for natural resources, there is an undeniable economic incentive to adopt practices that enhance the land’s long-term viability.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has pursued an agenda seemingly absent of any recognition of the consequences for rural America and production agriculture. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is creating regulations that are burdensome, overreaching, and negatively affecting jobs and the rural economy. 

Perhaps the most poignant example is the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ recent power grab with the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule or, as EPA likes to call it – the Clean Water Rule. I’ll be frank – this rule is not about clean water.  Everyone wants and deserves clean water. This rule simply embodies EPA’s insatiable appetite for power. When EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before the House Committee on Agriculture in February, members of the Committee brought forth many concerns with the WOTUS rule. Numerous times, Administrator McCarthy brushed off their concerns with statements that were intended to assure us that farmers would have the same longstanding farming exemptions that were originally included in the Clean Water Act.

These verbal assurances give little comfort to farmers and ranchers who will face steep civil fines for any violation. While the EPA Administrator was telling the farming community they have nothing to fear with the new WOTUS rule, a California farmer was being prosecuted by the Justice Department for simply plowing his field.

The lawsuit brought against this producer claims that by plowing a field, which every farmer I know considers a normal farming practice, this farmer has created “mini mountain ranges” in his field.  These mountain ranges are furrows from normal farming.  The suit also claims this producer discharges a pollutant into a waters of the U.S.  This so-called “pollutant” was the soil he was plowing. 

These perceived violations only came to attention when an overzealous Corps bureaucrat “just happened to be driving by the property” and discovered perceived WOTUS violations on the land.

Regardless of the degree to which some deem government regulation justifiable, all regulations must be developed in a manner that is based on science and mindful of the economic consequences. This rule clearly was not. Farmers, ranchers and foresters believe the EPA is attacking them, and it is easy to understand why.

Instead of using the EPA and Corps’ preferred strategy of fear and intimidation, coupled with punitive enforcement and overreaching regulatory authority, we should be building on the successful approach taken in the 2014 Farm Bill and farm bills prior to protect our natural resources through voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs.

This is Chairman K. Michael Conaway’s prepared remarks for remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives, which intended to draw attention to the negative impacts of EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ regulations on farmers, ranchers and rural America.