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By Jim Logan, Wyoming State Veterinarian

Over the past three years, brucellosis has been found in elk in Wyoming Game and Fish Hunt Areas 39, 40 and 41 in Big Horn County, which is outside our brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area (DSA). 2013 was the first time the disease had been found outside of the DSA in Wyoming, which is significant. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has increased surveillance on hunter-killed elk in the herd unit on the Bighorn Mountains and may soon be undertaking some additional studies to determine elk movement patterns. With the disease known to be in elk in that area, there is potential risk of exposure and transmission to cattle herds. If transmission occurs and the disease infects cattle, it would result in herd quarantine and would require increased management to enable testing and quarantine release. 

The Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) is monitoring the situation closely and has asked cattle producers in this area to continue to participate in voluntary brucellosis surveillance testing in their herds. This helps producers and WLSB capture baseline data, which is vital to management and control of any disease. It is also important that testing is done before calving season or late gestation to determine if brucellosis has entered the herd through exposure from elk since the disease is spread in a cattle herd at the time of birthing events, either through abortion or full-term delivery. If infected cattle are found and removed before calving, the risk of intra-herd spread is greatly reduced. 

Testing in this area will also help show other states that Wyoming is doing adequate surveillance to assure that our cattle herds are free of brucellosis.

Many producers have had cattle tested since the WLSB first requested the voluntary surveillance in 2013. The WLSB and I would like to thank those producers for their efforts in protecting Wyoming’s brucellosis-free status and also for protecting their own herds. We encourage all area producers to continue conducting voluntary testing in their herds until they can determine the true risk from potentially infected elk in the area. This could be through herd testing at pregnancy testing time, testing cull cows, testing adult female cattle that are sold for breeding and having cattle sold through a market tested at the market.

The WLSB will reimburse veterinarians five dollars per head for brucellosis surveillance testing in Big Horn and Sheridan Counties, just as it does for testing within the DSA. This is a mechanism to help producers protect their herd’s health and also protect marketability with other states. If adequate progress in volunteer surveillance testing is not apparent by the end of 2015, the WLSB may establish surveillance testing requirements for Big Horn and Sheridan Counties.

For further information on risk assessments, concerns or surveillance planning, please contact myself or Thach Winslow at 307-857-4140 or Bob Meyer at 307-777-7515. 

By USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 saw the United States once again make significant gains in international trade as the U.S. Department of Agriculture expanded opportunities for American producers overseas. In FY 2014 American farmers and ranchers exported a record $152.5 billion of food and agricultural goods to consumers worldwide, an $11.6 billion increase over FY2013’s figures.

USDA plays a key role in fostering American agricultural exports by opening new markets for our producers and ensuring their products meet foreign requirements for import. As a result of these efforts, U.S. agricultural exports now drive overall U.S. economic growth by supporting nearly 1 million American jobs on and off the farm. These trade efforts also contribute to a strong rural economy, which is critical to the overall economic health of the United States.

FY 2014 capped a six-year period that represents the strongest period for agricultural exports in our nation’s history. From FY 2009 to FY 2014 U.S. agricultural exports totaled $771.7 billion.

To support this thriving trade, USDA ensures American agricultural exports are free from pests and diseases of concern to trading partners, certifies that the millions of U.S agricultural and food exports meet the importing countries’ entry requirements, and solves issues involving U.S. shipments held at foreign ports of entry.

In FY 2014 USDA resolved more than 170 trade-related issues involving U.S. agricultural exports valued at $2.5 billion. For example, USDA worked with trading partners to successfully release 273 shipments of American agricultural products that were held up in transport, with a value in excess of $49 million. This meant products like almonds, meat and poultry entered Europe, Asia and other continents to be processed or purchased and enjoyed by overseas consumers.

USDA continually removes barriers that impact trade to create new market opportunities for U.S. producers. In 2014 USDA removed restrictions to help farmers export chilled pork to Colombia, live swine to China and cattle to Mexico. USDA and Canada, in 2014, negotiated and signed guidelines that facilitate exports to Canada valued at over $300 million. USDA also worked with Chinese officials to open China’s market to U.S. apples, a major achievement. In the first full season of trade, the U.S. apple industry expects to ship apples valued at nearly $100 million to Chinese consumers.

In other efforts to facilitate trade, USDA issued nearly 892,000 certificates in 2014 to allow the export of U.S.-raised animals, plants and plant and animal products to countries around the world.

USDA also helps foster trade by working with our stakeholders, industry and exporters to share information about foreign rules that would impact their ability to trade internationally. We continually alert exporters to proposed changes in foreign import requirements and comment on the development of foreign regulations so we can minimize impacts on U.S. agricultural exports. In FY 2014 alone, USDA reviewed nearly 2,000 such measures, submitting comments to foreign governments on 261 of them.

We are proud of our efforts so far and their immense benefit to agriculture, but we continually work to build upon our successes. Right now, USDA is in the midst of negotiating an important trade deal that would provide 480 million consumers in 11 partner countries with the opportunity to enjoy U.S. agricultural products. The hallmarks of this Trans-Pacific Partnership would be transparency and scientific decision-making. The end result for U.S. agriculture would be expanded access for commodities that currently face restrictive barriers in these 11 countries, including meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and processed foods.

So, while we celebrate the past year’s accomplishments that foster free and fair trade, we look forward to FY2015 and bringing even greater access to international markets for U.S. agricultural products. USDA will continue to pursue opportunities to increase agricultural exports, helping farm and ranch businesses grow and supporting a strong, vital rural economy.

Visit for more from Secretary Vilsack.


By Scott Talbott, Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department

On a weekend early this spring, a group of volunteers and wildlife managers from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) opened up the doors on three horse trailers and released 25 Bighorn sheep. The sheep sprinted off and were soon deep in the Seminoe Mountains. The animals are augmenting the established herd in south central Wyoming. WGFD captured these sheep near the Montana border from the Devils Canyon herd the day before. 

This transplant shows that we are having success in managing wild sheep, and that was all made possible because of a Wyoming-style handshake deal made over 10 years ago. In 2000, Senator Craig Thomas and Governor Jim Geringer convened a diverse group – domestic sheep producers, county officials, conservation groups, agricultural groups, federal and state land and wildlife management agencies. All of these interests came together and agreed on a goal: maintain healthy Bighorn sheep populations while sustaining an economically viable domestic sheep industry in Wyoming. 

This is the kind of deal that makes Wyoming a unique place. We care deeply about wildlife, but we know people need jobs so we have to have a strong economy. To support both wildlife and the economy, we need plans that provide balance. WGFD has often been a part of these deals and is proud to partner with those in sheep production and ranching to achieve them. I believe these efforts are the hallmark of Wyoming. 

But, none of it has been easy. Despite their strength and size, Bighorn sheep are a sensitive lot. They are particularly susceptible to diseases. The Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Working Group recognized this fact and also that there is a risk of disease exchange between Bighorn and domestic sheep. 

We have also seen that domestic sheep production is under threat. The economics of the industry are hard enough, but in the West some groups have targeted grazing on public lands and opposed sheep producers. 

Still we found a way in Wyoming. Our plan has been in place for over a decade now. What we established was a series of core areas for Bighorn sheep. This encapsulated habitats for over 85 percent of the state’s Bighorn sheep. There are approximately 6,000 sheep living in Wyoming now. 

Domestic sheep production has our support as well. We want to support the industry and feel that the lack of conflict in Wyoming – especially during this period when other states have had conflict – shows the best path forward. 

When we have a plan like this, it truly is in the best interest of all parties involved. No matter your viewpoint, if all sides advocate for a common goal, we see better results. At the heart of this is a commitment from WGFD, agriculture and other groups involved to talk. When there are concerns we have a forum to discuss them and find solutions. Now, 14 years after this group first met, we are still talking. That’s a great achievement, and it is embodied in events like the transplant of Bighorn sheep that took place this spring. 

The Devils Canyon Bighorn sheep herd population is above objective, and this herd has grown over the last few decades. WGFD has always had the goal of using animals from this herd to augment other herds in Wyoming. So, in March we advanced a goal from the Working Group’s Plan, which was to enhance the numbers, health and distribution of Bighorn sheep. 

At the same time, removing the Bighorn sheep from Devils Canyon also reduces the likelihood that wild sheep will end up mingling with domestic sheep. This transplant keeps the population close to objective, and that means we are less likely to have a conflict with domestic sheep producers. 

While we have this level of success with management, recent actions by the U.S. Forest Service related to grazing led us to strengthen the Wyoming Plan. In 2014, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and Wyoming Board of Agriculture formally adopted the plan. Then during this year’s legislative session the Working Group’s Plan for Bighorn/Domestic Sheep was put into state law. This comes almost exactly 10 years after the diverse groups that forged the plan put it into place with our word and our handshake. 

On behalf of WGFD, I want to thank all those involved in creating this plan and even more importantly thanks to those who put into action. This plan shows what can be done when we come together and seek common ground. It is something that those in Wyoming’s agriculture community have done throughout our history, and hunters and all of the people who appreciate wildlife enjoy the benefits.

Ordinarily, a water right is obtained by filing an application for a permit with the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office (SEO). However, under some circumstances, an existing water right can be used temporarily by another user for other purposes and at different locations by filing a Temporary Water Use Agreement (TWUA) with the SEO.  

Some of the most common uses of TWUAs are oil and gas uses and road construction, although there are a handful of other uses enumerated in the statutes.  

The SEO’s job is to ensure the statutory requirements are met in each TWUA.  However, it is not the SEO’s job to protect water right holders from the things that could go wrong when another party is temporarily using their water rights.  It is the duty of each water right holder entering into a TWUA to protect him or herself.  

Although the SEO does not require it and cannot give legal advice, the best practice is to utilize a two-step approach.  

First, you should enter into a separate agreement with the oil and gas company or other water user, hereinafter “end user,” to cover all the other issues that can arise. Second, after the separate agreement has been signed, you should file a TWUA with the SEO.

In the right circumstances, allowing the temporary use of your water rights for a fee sounds attractive. However, it is important to protect yourself, your land and your water rights in the process. Here are some of the issues you should consider.  

First, in whose name will the TWUA be filed?  Do you want the end user to be the holder of the TWUA or do you want to be the holder of the TWUA? If the end user is the holder of the TWUA, he is in control, and you have no way of ensuring the process is handled correctly. You also give up your ability to protect yourself on other issues through a separate agreement.  

Second, how do you ensure payment? The SEO’s TWUA does not protect farmers or ranchers with respect to ensuring payment. Therefore, we have developed a separate agreement ensuring farmers and ranchers get paid and addressing numerous other issues.  

Third, do you want to give the end user an exclusive deal?In effect, the SEO’s TWUA creates an exclusive agreement to temporarily use your water rights if the end user is the holder of the TWUA. It is best to avoid giving an exclusive right to any temporary end user. However, there are alternatives. For example, if the landowner enters into an agreement with himself under the TWUA, then he can work out arrangements with more than one end user.

Further, who cleans up environmental contamination? One might assume that, when a water pump truck is pumping water from your ditch or wellhead, that water only flows one direction. The reality is that contaminated water from the pump truck can flow out of the truck and into your ditch or your groundwater well. The SEO started requiring back flow prevention devices on all groundwater wells involved in a TWUA a few years ago.  However, this does not answer the question of who must clean up the mess if your land or water is contaminated in the process. Therefore, the best approach is to have a separate agreement that addresses these liability issues. 

In addition, avoid giving up your right to use water to end users who use less water than expected.  The SEO has taken the position that landowners must forego using water on the acres specified in the TWUA if even one gallon of water is pumped from the groundwater well.  

Therefore, the landowner may enter into a TWUA and hereby give up his right to farm certain acres for an entire season thinking that the end user will be using significant quantities of water at X cents per barrel, just to find out the end user did not use enough water to justify giving up their right to irrigate those acres or otherwise use the water.  Under this example, the water user gave up his right to farm certain acres for the year and did not generate enough income from the TWUA to justify giving up the right to farm. The SEO’s TWUA does not protect the landowner in circumstances such as these.  

For this reason, the best practice is to have a separate agreement that addresses this issue. Further, although easier said than done, coordinate with end users to accurately estimate the amount of water use so you can dry up only the number of acres necessary to generate the amount of water the end user will actually use.

The remaining issues you should address in a separate agreement will be discussed in next week’s edition.

This is part one of a two-part article. Look forward to the second half, which discusses issues that should be discussed in a second agreement, in the March 21 edition of the Roundup.