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Natural Resources

Arlington, Va. – Energy markets will continue to play a role in agriculture, and Adam Sieminski, administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), noted that oil, natural gas and renewable fuels will all play a role going forward.

Sieminski marked five major conclusions from the 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, published by the EIA.

“Growth in energy production is outstripping consumption growth in the United States,” he said. “Second, crude oil production is rising sharply and is likely to continue on that path for decades. Meanwhile, motor gasoline consumption is reflecting more stringent fuel economy standards and the introduction of biofuels and other nontraditional petroleum fuels, and that’s reducing demand for oil.”

He also marked U.S. export of natural gas as important, saying, “We think the United States is going to be a net exporter of natural gas, probably starting sometime around 2020. The United States is already a net exporter of coal, so we are getting closer and closer to a dream that six presidents have had for 50 years – energy independence.”

Lastly, Simeinski said that the U.S. is likely to remain below 2005 levels for carbon dioxide emissions through 2040, and important factor. 

Based on a reference case that projects oil near $100 a barrel, Sieminski noted that the U.S. expects to be importing only about 10 percent of energy consumption needs by 2040, compared to the 20 to 25 percent imported in 2005.

Future growth

Sieminski marked growth in renewable energy, including biofuels, as continually important through the coming years and noted that decreasing demand for oil is also likely. 

“Coal, interestingly, we think will hold on to a lot of its share because we project that natural gas prices are likely to go up and that will make coal economically competitive,” he said.

However, Sieminski cautioned listeners that the EIA makes its projections based on existing legislation, laws and regulations, noting that if laws and regulations change, outlooks may also be affected. 

Projections also mark domestic oil production as increasing from 5 million barrels a day to as high as 8 million barrels per day.

“On the demand side, because of the EPA and Department of Transportation, new fuel economy standards kicked into place,” he added. “It reduced our gasoline demand projection by 1.5 million barrels a days, so in 2035, instead of the U.S. consuming 9 million barrels a day of motor fuels, that number will likely be closer to 7.5 million barrels a day.”

For transportation, Sieminski noted that EIA is looking for growth in non-traditional fuels like ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, compressed gas and liquefied natural gas.

Natural gas

“In the last three years, we’ve had the sharp upturn in oil numbers, but proved natural gas reserves have been going up since the late 1990s,” explained Sieminski, “and if you plotted it, it would look like and exponential growth. That is because of this breakthrough in shale gas development.”

Because of the increased ability to horizontally drill, he noted that increased yields have been seen in natural gas.

Additionally, fracturing, commonly called fracking, has resulted in controversy. 

However, Sieminski said, “The Secretary of Energy has a big group looking at this, and their conclusion was that hydraulic fracturing, like almost any human activity, can potentially have problems, but these things are manageable.”

With increases in technology, he added, “We think gas from shale is going to dominate.”

“It’s about a third of our production now,” Sieminski continued. “In 2000, it was less than two percent, now it’s a third of the gas supply in the United States, and by 2040 it could be 50 percent.”

The next big development, said Sieminski, will come in the ability to utilize more liquefied natural gas.

Non-traditional fuels

Renewable fuels are another topic of interest for the U.S. energy industry, and Sieminski marked waterpower generation, wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal and waste energy products as being important.

“There will be quite a bit of growth, we believe, in biomass, although, just recently, EIA had to reduce estimates of cellulosic ethanol because the technology just hasn’t evolved as rapidly as we thought a year or two ago,” he explained. “Most of the growth, we think, really will not come in straight ethanol but will be in biodiesel, in cellulosic biofuels and other advanced biofuels.”

In motor fuel markets, Sieminski noted that biodiesel’s share of the market is just under two percent and, by energy content, ethanol accounts for about six percent of the current transportation market.

“We think those numbers will go up a bit, and they’d go up even more if we had a technological breakthrough,” he said.

Sieminski also noted that the growth in biofuels will likely be tax-incentive dependent.

“There’s a lot of talk in Europe about limiting carbon output, but it turns out the ‘walk is being walked’ in the United States,” summarized Sieminski. “It seems to be a combination of technology and movement to lower-carbon fuels, including natural gas and renewables, that’s played a huge role.”

Sieminski addressed the 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 21. 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..

Casper – On May 11-13, the Society of American Foresters hosted their annual Colorado/Wyoming meeting, featuring educational talks and discussions led by presenters from around the country.

During the Wyoming Interagency Timber Meeting on May 11, State Natural Resource Advisor for U.S. Senator Barrasso, Travis McNiven, talked with attendees about the current political climate and recent changes at Capitol Hill.

Positions

Things are continuing to progress with President Trump’s cabinet, said McNiven.

“On April 28, he just nominated a gentleman by the name of David Bernhardt to be undersecretary, so he joins Secretary Zinke there at the Interior,” he commented.

On April 24, the Senate confirmed Sonny Purdue as the Secretary of Agriculture.

“There’s no doubt that a lack of a secretary has slowed the transition process and that really impacts the forest service,” noted McNiven. “We hope that there will be other key personnel coming for natural resources and the Forest Service.”

Beginning on May 11, Secretary Purdue began announcing restructuring changes for the USDA.

“The biggest change is there’s going to be a new undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs,” he said.

McNiven continued, “There’s also going to be a bit of a reshuffling with the Natural Resource Conservation Service as it will be shipped over to what’s called the Farm Services side of the new structure and be joined with the Farm Service Agency and risk management agency at USDA.”

According to McNiven, this will free up the Undersecretary of Natural Resources to focus primarily on the Forest Service.

Congress

As the 115th Congress progresses, McNiven noted that active management of forests is an important discussion topic.

“In Wyoming and other western states, the private land owners and state agencies in our industry and the stakeholders do a great job of managing the forests to reduce the fire risks, but in many ways forest management policy has agencies’ hands tied,” he said.

According to McNiven, large forest fires dramatically impact budgets, in addition to destroying wildlife habitat, causing soil erosion and air pollution.

“There’s millions of dollars in reclamation work that needs to be done down the road,” he commented. “It’s really been problematic on those fronts and then also policy with the never ending litigation of timber sales are often subject to.”

McNiven continued, “Those are some of the focuses we’ll be addressing in the upcoming Congress, as well as the Farm Bill.”

Trade

In 2006, McNiven explained that the U.S. and Canada reached an agreement that the U.S. would lift countervailing and other duties on certain Canadian timber if timber prices stayed above a certain point.

“That agreement expired in 2015 and since then, the two countries have failed to renegotiate a new agreement, primarily because Canada has effectively very little motivation to change the trade situation as it stands today,” he said.

On April 24, the Commerce Department announced they would implement tariffs up to 24 percent on Canadian softwood lumber imports, which McNiven noted has had “some ripple effects.”

“It has started to create a discussion with some of our Canadian friends who are calling on Canada to place tariffs on U.S. shipments of poles for Canadian imports,” commented McNiven. “There’s a little bit of a threat of retaliation if that goes through.”

He continued, “We’re hopeful that the two countries will be able to come back to the table and put an agreement back in place.”

Policy

McNiven explained that recent changes have been made in policy definition of biomass

“We just changed that biomass will be viewed by the United States government as carbon neutral at it relates to the carbon cycles,” he said.

While some argue that biomass is not carbon neutral because of emissions during logging and burning, McNiven noted the mindset is shortsighted.

“It fails to recognize and account for the fact that the harvesting of trees and biomass does promote forest regrowth, which is a carbon sink,” he continued. “Also, if we do nothing or take no action, wildfire emissions and decaying trees put out a lot more carbon and methane emission than the biomass industry.”

He explained that the opening paragraph of the policy states that federal agencies are to be consistent in the federal policies enforced and that they recognize the benefits of biomass used for energy, conservation and forest management.

“We definitely think that this is a step in the right direction, although not a silver bullet. This statement will start to set the table for federal policy,” McNiven concluded.

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

With drought potential looming for 2013, another tool for ranchers to utilize is the Cumulative Forage Reduction (CFR) index. 

“The CFR index came out of working with ranchers and agency folks in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming,” commented Pat Reece, the principle consultant and owner of Prairie and Montane Enterprises, LLC. 

Reece educated ranchers on what the CFR index does and how to use it in the third webinar in the Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch series, presented by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and National Drought Mitigation Center.

Benefits and assumptions

The CFR index offers two benefits to producers said Reece, mentioning that that tool allows an assessment of drought impacts and planning of grazing strategies. 

“The first expected benefit is to avoid drought-induced declines in livestock market value,” Reece commented. 

Noting examples where waiting two weeks to move cattle to markets could cost losses of $40,000, he emphasized the necessity of selling cattle before ranges are over-grazed.

“The other expectation is that this system will allow you to optimize the resilience of your rangeland vegetation,” Reece noted. “We are going to do everything possible with the CFR Index to help ranchers avoid overgrazing and drought stress.”

The combination of overgrazing and drought stress drives range conditions down most rapidly. 

At the same time, he commented that the method will allow ranchers to leave optimal amounts of litter to influence the infiltration of water into the soil and minimize the negative impacts of temperature extremes on the soil. 

Necessary data

In using the CFR Index, Reece also emphasized that it is important to utilize the best, most specific information available. 

“It is critically important for you to be specific with information as close to home as you can possibly get,” he commented. 

Data for total monthly precipitation and long term precipitation averages are also necessary.

“The numbers are cumulative in this index,” Reece said.

He also mentioned that data for monthly percentage of herbage production is necessary.

“Producers can go to the web soil survey website to get the information, but it would be a big time savings for them to work directly with the local NRCS folks,” Reece explained. “They can provide long-term herbage production numbers and monthly percentages, often referred to growth curve data.”

The data differs among range sites and with range conditions, so he commented that working with local NRCS personnel can help producers to get more accurate data.

“The last category of data that we need is the monthly percentage of local livestock forage use,” said Reece. 

Assumptions

In using the index, Reece said there are several assumptions that producers must make. 

“In order to do this, we must assume that expected herbage production is going to be directly related to precipitation,” said Reece. “The second assumption, in terms of the calculations, is that all drought-induced herbage deficits are billed directly to the livestock enterprise.”

The herbage category of the formulas utilize in the index only account for current plant growth, or the non-woody, above ground plant growth, so drought losses are accounted for in the livestock category.

“The third major assumption is the total estimate of livestock forage use is based on moderate stocking rates determine in years with near average precipitation,” said Reece, noting that the stocking rate is the same rate that is the moderate stocking rate used by NRCS.

Calculating data

Utilizing the index involves some calculations by producers. Calculations should be done on a month-by-month basis.

Among the first calculations, it is necessary to figure the monthly deficit of cumulative precipitation.

Deficit is calculated by subtracting current year precipitation from the long-term average precipitation. The deficit should also be calculated as a percent of the normal precipitation by dividing the deficit by long-term precipitation.

In the herbage production category, producers can calculate their expected herbage production. First, divide the current year’s precipitation by long term precipitation to obtain the percentage of precipitation obtained. Then, multiply that figure by the long-term herbage production percentage data obtained from NRCS.

The deficit of herbage can be calculated by subtracting expected herbage production from long term data.

In calculating drought-induced forage losses, Reece noted that producers should take the number calculated for herbage deficit and multiply it by 3.125.

“On average, if we look at nothing but grasses and sedges – the primary species used by cattle – they are going to be consuming about 32 percent of all grass and sedge herbage,” explained Reece. “Multiplying the deficit by 3.125 is the same as dividing by the 0.32 percent consumed by cattle.” 

The sum of the drought deficit should also be calculated by adding the total drought-induced deficit.

As a final calculation before obtaining the CFR Index value, producers should sum the total livestock use from month to month. 

The CFR Index value is obtained by adding drought induce forage use to livestock use.

If the value exceeds 100, that means that producers are utilizing more forage than is available and should take action in selling or moving animals. 

“This year, we are starting out plant year with a deficit,” said Reece. “That is a point that should be emphasized.”

Using the CFR Index, he said, should help producers decide how much forage they have available in making decisions to sell cattle and to help make them at the right time.

To view this webinar or other webinars presented in the series, visit drought.unl.edu/ranchplan/Overview.aspx.

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..

With the prospect of drought in the coming years, Area Rangeland Management Specialist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Dwayne Rice noted that producers must be prepared to make the difficult decisions necessary to keep their operations functioning.

“Using trigger dates and monitoring forage production can help to make decisions,” commented Rice.

Trigger dates

“Trigger dates are simply tools,” clarified Rice. “They are supposed to be used to help managers adapt to variations in rainfall season by season, and certainly year by year.”

Because scientists understand that rainfall and effective moisture drives the major part of production in forage systems. Effective moisture, he explained, is the moisture that gets through the soil surface, become useful for plant growth.

Rice noted that trigger dates were developed and have been tested numerous times, though the true extent of the capabilities is yet to be seen.

Precipitation

“We have noticed that March, April and May precipitation drives April, May and June production,” Rice commented, adding that the grass that results in June is also dependent on heat, rates of transpiration and wind, as well as numerous other environmental factors.

He further added that precipitation arriving later in the summer has less of an impact on grass production.

“The production curve doesn’t respond as favorably to precipitation that happens in July,” he said. “That precipitation is important for the next year’s growth.”

Rice continued, “July precipitation helps the grasses to finish the season – they start putting energy back into the root crown and for reproduction. If we don’t finish the season well, the production line may be steep and it will peak lower.”

For example trigger dates, Rice said that April 15, June 15 and July 1 are important for making decisions. 

Recharging the soil

He also noted that taking into account soil moisture recharge is also important.

“We have to look at the past 12 to 24 months to ask how the pasture finished the growing season and did you leave enough standing residue,” said Rice. “Coming out of March and into April, is there enough grass or mulch to protect the soil? If we start getting rain, can it get through the soil surface to become effective precipitation instead of just rain?”

These questions, said Rice, allow the producer to determine if soils will be recharged with water to begin a good growing season. Also looking at the previous two year’s precipitation helps producers to establish if the soil is recharged. 

Late growth

Rice noted that the next area of importance is the late part of the growing season in September to November.

“If the grasses are short, like they were here last year, there is going to be little crown energy stored, so the plants are going to come out with less energy, and I would expect them to be not be as vigorous,” he said. 

Then during the winter, Rice noted that it is important at maintain at leas 800 pounds of residue to protect soil surface.

“Once we get into the longer term droughts, any residue on the soil surface is good – whether it is cool season, annual or perennials,” he said.

Maintenance of residual litter on the ground is important for collection of future moisture, though it isn’t easy. 

New year

“Once the November through April 1 decision is made, we are going to look at our initial stocking decisions,” explained Rice. 

If less than four inches of effective moisture has been received since November, Rice noted that he reduces stocking rates by at least 10 percent. Reductions are made by weight, said Rice, rather than by number. 

At the June 15 trigger date, Rice noted that 75 percent of the annual precipitation has occurred, but only about 50 percent of forage production has occurred. 

“In this case, if our precipitation for Nov. 1 through June 15 is less than 80 percent, we plan to reduce by 30 percent by weight,” said Rice.

In a situation similar to last year, where green-up occurred early, Rice noted that the phenology curve moves forward by two to four weeks, and producers must adjust their trigger dates forward to compensate.

Another big date is the July 15 date. By that point, approximately 75 percent of grass production occurred, and if rains come, it will not affect grass growth.

“Even if it starts raining, we will not get a catch-up growth in forage. The plants will grow, but they can’t catch up in forage production,” he explained. “They want to get into the reproductive stage as quickly as possible.”

Measuring the biomass may not show much of a loss, but forage production is lower.

“By July 15, we need to start making some serious decisions,” he commented.

Finally, looking at Aug. 15, Rice noted that producers should begin to look at how much grass is available going into winter.

“We are still looking to try to keep minimum residue on the ground for next spring and soil surface protection,” Rice commented. “We’ve also got to start thinking about how the pastures are going to recover, how fast they will recover and how we can get back in the ball game as a rancher.”

Developing dates

In order to develop trigger dates, Area Rangeland Management Specialist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Dwayne Rice marked several important factors that need to be considered.

“As a producers, you will need to know you historic monthly average precipitation,” he said, “and you can get that data at the National Weather Service’s website.”

He also noted that forage phenology data is also important.

“Forage phenology looks at when the grass grows and how much of it grows,” Rice explained. “Most of the time, Extension or your local NRCS can help you develop that, considering different types of forages, different elevation and different pastures where the phenology curves might be different.”

Lastly, Rice noted that ranchers must understand their operation’s average sustainable carrying capacity.

“The trigger dates only work if you are properly stocked,” he added. “The only way to be properly stocked is to have a grazing plan and understand what your carrying capacity is.”

Rice presented in a webinar hosted by the National Drought Mitigation Center on Feb. 27. 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.

With drought and fire affecting much of Wyoming, producers are seeking ways to alleviate the strain from lack of available resources.
    “Sadly, our programs are pretty limited compared to normal,” comments Executive Director of the Wyoming State Office of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Gregor Goertz of disaster assistance programs.
    Wyoming Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Doug Miyamoto adds, “There are a lot of emergency programs that are not funded right now. They expired at the end of last year, so there won’t be money available until we get a new Farm Bill.”
Disaster designation
    “Governor Mead asked for a state-wide disaster declaration on June 21 for all counties except for Teton County,” explains Goertz.
    In the past, in order to receive a disaster designation, state governors were required to request the designation, county FSA offices collected data and the information was submitted to the national FSA office.
    However, updates to the disaster designation program have created a fast-track process.
    “FSA was looking at revising the designation process to try to speed it up, and with the conditions this year, it moved quickly,” he notes. “As soon as a county or any part of a county is in D3 drought on the drought monitor, they automatically receive the secretarial designation.”
    A secretarial disaster designation is important in many years because it allows producers to qualify for a number of Farm Bill programs. This year, however, with a lack of funding for those programs, the declaration allows producers to qualify for low-interest loans.
    Disaster declarations were made for Hot Springs County on June 22 and, under the fast track program, for Carbon, Laramie and Lincoln counties on July 12, and Fremont and Sublette counties on July 16. On July 24 Goshen, Platte, Niobrara, Converse, Campbell, Weston, Crook, and Albany counties received a primary disaster designation.
Emergency loan
programs
    FSA’s emergency loan program can be used to restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; or refinance certain debts.
    “They cover production loss as well,” comments Goertz. “Just recently, Secretary Vilsack lowered the interest rates from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.”
    In order to qualify for emergency loans, producers must meet a set of criteria and can borrow up to a maximum amount of $500,000.
Conservation programs
    “We also have the emergency conservation programs (ECP) to help producers with drought and fire,” Goertz explains, noting that funding for these programs is also limited this year. “We have to ask the national office for funding on those programs, and right now they are out of money.”
    However, last year, Goertz mentions that Congress approved additional dollars for flood damages and hopes that funding is allocated for drought and fire assistance.
    “With the money, we can assist producers with emergency water  wells,” he says. “We can help producers build fences if they were destroyed by fires, and in tornado areas, we can do fencing and debris removal.”
    “We also have water hauling programs,” Goertz mentions. “Water hauling seems to be a big item, especially in southern Wyoming.”
    Fencing replacement is available for fire damage on federal allotments, provided the practice does not specifically benefit the federal agency and leases provide for the practice.
Wyoming involvement
    “We’ve had really good participation across the state,” Goertz comments. “In the past there has been limited participation in certain areas, but we are putting together the reports now.”
    Goertz adds Albany, Carbon, Lincoln, Platte, Sublette and Sweetwater counties have been approved and partially funded for Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) cost share assistance.
    Other counties across the state have requested funding. Several have been approved to conduct ECP signup, but have not yet been funded due to lack of available money. Those counties include Converse, Johnson, Natrona and Weston counties for fire and drought, Niobrara and Sheridan counties for fire, and Uinta County for drought assistance.
    “Whether Congress will come up with additional funding, I don’t know,” says Goertz.
CRP grazing and haying
    Emergency provisions have also been put in place on conservation reserve program (CRP) lands.
    In normal years, CRP lands can be routinely grazed every third year of the contract and half of a contract can be hayed once every five years, but in emergency situations, special provisions are made.
    “On emergency grazing, when we have permission, producers can actually graze CRP land on a more frequent schedule, and then the three year rotation starts over,” Goertz explains, adding that the provisions apply to the time period outside the primary nesting season, which ends on July 15 in Wyoming.
    With letters of support from wildlife groups around the state, Wyoming was granted a variance, allowing producers to start grazing CRP lands earlier.
    “He also says that Wyoming was granted emergency CRP haying after the primary nesting season.
    “Secretary Vilsack has now released all counties that are in an abnormally dry situation for emergency grazing and haying across the nation,” says Goertz. “Producers, of course, need to receive approval from their local FSA office prior to any grazing or haying on CRP.”
    In order to participate in any FSA program, Goertz mentions that producers must contact their local FSA office.
    For more information or to participate in any of the FSA disaster assistance programs, contact your local FSA office. Visit fsa.usda.gov for fact sheets on these programs. 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..

Congress works for disaster assistance
    On July 13, Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) introduced legislation to extend agricultural disaster assistance programs for one year.
    These disaster assistance programs would provide relief for producers experiencing severe drought and natural disaster impacts until Congress passes the next Farm Bill that includes the programs as it was passed out of the Senate and House Ag Committees.
    “The disaster programs that expired at the end of 2011 were very beneficial to Wyoming producers,” comments Wyoming State Executive Director at USDA’s Farm Service Agency Gregor Goertz. “It would be helpful to have the programs.”

WDA works to help producers
    The Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) has gathered information about the drought and is working to connect producers to available programs for disaster assistance.
    “The Department is collecting information about where there might be hay or grass,” explains WDA Director Jason Fearneyhough. “We are also working with the Canadian Consulate Office on how to get hay down to our producers.”
    In a series of public meetings held at the beginning of July, Fearneyhough mentions that they were interested in gathering information about the situation across the state.
    “People are concerned about having to come off their range early and if there is going to be any winter range for the sheep,” summarizes Fearneyhough.
    A second set of meetings will be held in Rock Springs on July 30 and Thermopolis on Aug. 8. The meetings will serve to inform attendees of current programs and garner input on how WDA can help Wyoming producers.
    For more information on the public meetings or efforts of the WDA, call 307-777-7321.