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Laramie – “The biggest challenge of understanding the Farm Bill is it is a truly sprawling piece of legislation, coming in at over 1,000 pages,” said Jonathan Coppess, a leading expert on the farm bill and assistant professor of law at the University of Illinois. 

“One major thing we have to take into consideration as we break down the bill is the things that affect the ranchers in Wyoming may not affect the corn farmers in the Midwest and vice versa,” Coppess explained. “The farm bill has a lot of moving parts that work together to form a functioning piece of legislation.” 

Coppess was invited to speak to students at the University of Wyoming College of Law as a part of their Workers’ Compensation Symposium held in late March. The series covered topics ranging from the farm bill to the legalities of employing workers on the farm.

Measuring the bill 

“The four main components of the bill that will be included no matter what are supplemental nutrition, conservation, crop insurance and farm programs,” Coppess said. “These four components will help frame budgets for the rest of the programs in the bill.”

Coppess explained the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is tasked with calculating the estimated spending for the bill and the actual spending, as well as other economic factors that play into the bill. 

“CBO houses the economic experts when it comes to the Farm Bill,” Coppess said. “They calculate what is happening in the economy and how each of the four main programs in the bill are estimated to spend money.” 

He noted the Farm Bill has a five-year “sunset period” meaning it must be voted on every five years. Once the five years is up, CBO looks at how the money in the bill was actually spent and compares their original estimates to help frame the new farm bill. 

Supplemental nutrition 

Coppess explained the main thing to understand about supplemental nutrition provisions within the farm bill is that it is not an unemployment program but a poverty program. 

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) generally takes upwards of 70 percent of the spending within the farm bill,” Coppess said. “It’s very sad to think about, but the fact of the matter is, millions of Americans still struggle to put food on their table.” 

He noted the spending on the 2014 Farm Bill was much lower in actuality than the original CBO estimates. 

“The economy has improved a lot, fewer people are unemployed and when people are employed they move above the poverty line and no longer qualify for the program,” said Coppess. 

Crop insurance

“The bulk of the funds within the crop insurance section of the farm bill comes from premium subsidies,” Coppess explained. “This is not a direct payment to farmers but an offset to the premium cost.” 

“About 62 percent of the cost of this policy is federal crop insurance, including the costs associated with loss and delivery expenses,” said Coppess. 

He explained crop insurance can be purchased on a field-by-field basis or on an entire enterprise basis. Crop insurance is rated looking at loss ratios and likelihood of loss based on historical data for the county or field.

“For every dollar spend on indemnity payouts or loss, we want to bring a dollar back into this program,” Coppess said. “A lot goes into the rating in this program and keeping it functioning as a whole.” 

Conservation

“The way we look at conservation has changed a lot over the last few decades,” Coppess said. “There are increasing concerns as to how farming practices affect conservation and overall quality of the environment.”

One of the biggest topics of conservation lately has been the use of cover crops during fallow stretches to reduce wind and weather erosion. 

“We want to remove any negative impacts associated with using conservation techniques,” said Coppess. “When we improve the risk component of fields through healthy practices it encourages farmers to adopt better soil practices.”

Coppess noted conservation programs account for $6 billion a year in federal investment on private lands, the largest of any private land investment. 

“Some of the programs involve taking fields out of production completely and moving to a cover system with grass or trees and others keep production in the field intact but provide contract payments as farmers improve conservation practices across the farm,” Coppess explained.

He continued, “There are also working lands agreements that help offset costs of implementing conservation tools, as well as easements that maintain wetlands and other sensitive habitats.”

Farm Programs 

“Farm programs weren’t a topic of priority in discussions about the current farm bill in comparison to previous bills,” said Coppess. “There are two main types of payments within these programs that producers need to understand.” 

He explained the first type of coverage is agriculture risk coverage (ARC), and the second is price loss coverage (PLC).

“The ARC program provides revenue loss coverage at the county level,” Coppess explained. “ARC payments are issued when the actual county crop revenue of a covered commodity is less than the ARC guarantee for the covered commodity.”

“PLC program payments are issued when the effective price of a covered commodity is less than the respective reference price for that commodity,” Coppess said. 

“The farm bill is such a broad and often ominous piece of legislation, we have to look at it in small pieces to get a better understanding of how it affects individual producers,” Coppess noted. 

Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Denver – “Modern agriculture has become a math problem,” says Anthony Frank. “The world has a finite amount of land that is becoming increasing smaller, demands on ag land are increasing, there is a scarcity of water and increasing costs in terms of mitigation and fertilizer.”
    Frank, the president of Colorado State University, adds that as a global industry, agriculture faces challenges that cover the same scope, and each year the world’s food supply becomes more integrated.
    “As we are looking at increased density and growing food demands, we try to take advantage of the opportunities,” he comments. “But regulatory environments are going to be a big deal.”
Regulatory impacts
    With the global scope of agriculture, producers and consumers are seeing more regulations across the board – from production to preparation and sales.
    “We have some ways that we can work effectively to address regulatory problems and understand the etiology of what is causing regulations, rather than fighting them from a distance,” suggests Frank.
    He points out that regulations are about addressing consumer needs, mentioning that constituents are no longer satisfied with the agriculture industry self-policing, which has resulted in a demand for third-party regulations.
    “As fewer consumers and elected officials understand the industry, elected officials set up regulations that are well-intentioned to respond to the needs of their constituents,” explains Frank. “People within bureaucracies are good people, and they care about what they do – they want to improve safety and accountability.”
    The resulting regulatory costs have increased 69 percent, a cost increased that is passed to the consumer. In order to prevent this trend from continuing, he adds that agriculture needs to be proactive.
    “We have a negative spiral where people are pulling in opposite directions and the regulators are trapped in the middle,” he notes. “Industry wants less, constituents want more, and we are giving up the common ground.”
The middle
    “We make the most progress when we identify common ground and spend time making sure we understand that common ground,” Frank explains. “If we can start with trust, we can oftentimes push off from there.”
    The common ground between regulatory agencies and agriculture is to produce a safe, high-quality and sustainable product.
    “Nobody understands the need for sustainability more than this industry,” says Frank. “Consumers want the same safe, high quality products, and they want to feel good about how it is produced.”
    At the same time, he mentions that an affordable product is also important for the consumer base.
    “There is middle ground, and there are some regulations that strengthen the global marketplace,” says Frank, “but there are others that place a strangle-hold on it. They can increase costs for producers and consumers, and they can exacerbate, rather than solve what the regulations were designed to fix.”
Solutions in sight?
    “We can start to be proactive rather than to wait on regulations,” Frank mentions. “We can start to change the tone of conversations and form an expectation that we want to be an active partner in the regulatory process.”
    Right now, he adds, is the best time to sit down and work through the issues, before regulatory burden reaches a crisis point.
    He comments, “Collaboration can serve as the best defense against unwise and unwanted regulation.”
    “I think we can get there,” Frank says. “If we do more actual talking and focusing on the common ground, I think we can fix the situation and move toward a good regulatory environment.”
    Anthony Frank add-ressed the opening session of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture at the end of March 2012. Saige Albert is managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Gov. Mark Gordon applauded President Trump for signing the Executive Order “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth.”

“I am delighted President Trump issued his Executive Order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to modernize guidance on the application of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act,” Gordon said. 

This Executive Order requires the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, to study and report to the president on the economic and other effects caused by limitations on the export of coal, oil, natural gas and other domestic energy resources through the West Coast of the United States.

“This review is sorely needed,” the Governor stressed.

“In issuing this Executive Order, President Trump sets the stage to help correct the misapplication of the Clean Water Act that has been used inappropriately by some states to stymie the industries and commerce of others, and I commend him for that,” according to Gordon. 

“Far from weakening environmental regulation, this Executive Order recenters the application of the law on its original purpose as a tool to protect our water quality not a platform for electioneering. We should focus on addressing climate change through advancements in carbon technology, as well as cooperating to improve technology across the spectrum of energy sources,” Gordon said.

“We are excited for the promise of a new day when Wyoming coal will be better able to compete internationally. We have cleaner coal and better technologies that we can marry to remove carbon from the atmosphere,” Gordon said.

U.S. meat and poultry producers are in a position to capitalize on growing global markets, according to an industry analyst for the Knowledge Exchange Division of CoBank. Trevor Amen tells producers the global gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to increase to $38 trillion from now through 2030. 

“Based on historical data, that number is highly correlated to an increase in meat consumption. Based on that figure, global meat and poultry consumption is projected to increase 45 percent,” Amen says.

Emerging markets

The increase is being attributed to emerging global markets, which are growing at a rapid pace. Most of the growth is expected in the Asian-Pacific region, where the middle class population continues to increase. 

According to a study Amen shares from 2017 for the next five years, 160 million people are expected to enter the global middle class. The definition of the global middle class is a daily income of $10 to $100 in U.S. currency. 

“They definitely have a different lifestyle than we have here, but as their incomes increase, they will be looking for better sources of protein in their diets,” he says. 

U.S. consumption

In the U.S., consumers spend only a small fraction of their per capita income on the high-quality food they purchase, but other countries spend a high percentage of their income on food. In fact, during an economic downturn in the U.S. economy in 2009, the first thing consumers stopped spending their money on was high-end restaurants. 

“During the recession, U.S. consumers shut down 30 percent of the fine dining restaurants here in the U.S., as they traded down their shopping preferences for lower-priced cuts,” he explains.

Protein competitors

Amen feels it is important for producers to understand the interaction between beef, pork and poultry, because in consumers’ minds, it represents the meat case. 

“On the price side, price pressures will naturally drive prices down,” he explains. “We are going to get bearish inventory reports all year long.” 

“The Cattle on Feed reports over the next months are expected to show supplies are building. Naturally, that will drive prices down, which makes the demand side of the market that much more important moving forward,” he says.

Demand surprises

Amen tells producers 2017 was a good example of how demand can be a surprise. 

“Supply was growing and prices were going up, which is the exact opposite of conventional economics,” he states. “It has created cautious optimism in the industry. There will be more beef in the next three years, as the expansion cycle continues.” 

“It will create some thresholds, short-term, that are somewhat alarming,” he explains. 

From 2008-14, high energy and input costs stifled production growth in the U.S. 

“Since then, growth has been steady because of low grain and energy costs and a good economy around the world,” he says. 

In 2014, Amen says short supplies lead to high beef prices because the world was fighting over the small supply of beef. 

“Prices skyrocketed, and it showed us there really was a willingness to pay for beef. That spurred the expansion phase we are in now,” he says. 

Export role

The U.S. has a growing dependence on exports as production continues to increase. 

“In 1990, we hardly exported any beef as a percentage of production,” he says. “But in the last 25 to 30 years, the U.S. has become more dependent on exports. In any given month, 10 to 12 percent of U.S. beef is exported.”

“What that says is we still have a very strong consumer base. About 88 percent of the beef we produce is still consumed here. When consumers are happy with the economy and have more jingle in their pockets, they buy more beef,” he notes.

Amen tells beef producers they should consider themselves fortunate. 

“In some months, almost a third of the pork produced in the U.S. is exported. The beef industry is a little more insulated than the pork or poultry industry,” he adds. 

The more beef that is exported, the higher risk the industry is taking. 

“New Zealand exports 90 percent of their product,” Amen says. “It would be devastating to them if the world shut them out. They are taking a lot of risk.” 

“We are fortunate in the U.S. to have a strong consumer base,” he adds.

Other markets

Markets in Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea and China represent over 80 percent of the beef exported from the U.S. 

“The U.S. recently passed Australia as the number four supplier of beef to China. There is huge market potential there,” he says.

The U.S. beef industry has been successful at creating demand in other countries for beef cuts and other products, like variety meats and offal, that aren’t as popular with U.S. consumers. 

“It has been a great way for us to add value to the beef carcass,” he says. 

“Growing exports creates a lot of opportunity for us, but it still heightens supply risk,” Amen says. “If there is any disruption in the market, the product still has to move through, but it will do so at a lower price.” 

U.S. benefits

“There is a lot of incentive out there to grow our supply. Now, that is all dependent on demand. We are the lowest cost, most efficient, unique producer of beef in the world. Our grain-fed beef is the most superior,” he states. “Our competitors, like Brazil and Australia, lack genetics, experience in feeding systems and the trade infrastructure to be more competitive with us. They are years behind us.”

“The U.S. is, by far, the largest beef producer in the world,” he continues. “We are the most efficient when we look at reproduction, average daily gain numbers and carcass weights. We are very advanced in beef production, with our genetic and feeding systems.”
“Our export infrastructure, which is the roads, railway and horse, that we use to get our product to the rest of the world, is unmatched. Some of our competitors have the product but not the infrastructure to handle that demand,” he continues.

Amen addressed producers during Beef Day at the Colorado Farm Show, held in Greeley, Colo.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – “First and foremost, the industry that is here, good and bad, is agriculture. It’s going to pull us through as it has before. It’s the skeletal structure that makes this state run,” said Wyoming State Treasurer Mark Gordon.

Gordon spoke about the current state of Wyoming's economy on April 19 at the Natrona County Fairgrounds during a cattle business update sponsored by Superior Livestock Auction, Zoetis and First Northern Bank of Wyoming.

Then and now

Over the last two years, Gordon explained that Wyoming's economy saw oil prices drop from $100 to $26 at the low.

“We were supposed to have all of these great resources, and the economic market was supposed to counteract that, but markets did the same thing,” he continued.

Since 1926, Gordon explained that there have only been two worse years to be a broad investor, which was in 1931 and 1937.

“Wyoming had the largest drop in revenue that it has ever seen,” he commented.

Last year, severance tax levels were not low when compared to tax returns over the last five years, and sales and use taxes trended to the lowest ever seen.

“In fact, there were only two counties in the last three quarters with positive sales tax numbers,” noted Gordon.

He continued, “The state has big problems and big challenges, and the House and the Senate both spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we can bring that down without causing too much pain.”

In good news, Gordon commented that 2017 looks like it will be a more stable year.

“Severance tax is almost back to that five-year average because we’ve seen a little bit better return on gas and oil,” said Gordon. “More rigs are working, and we’ve seen more coal moving, but these things can't be counted on as predictable for the future.”

Politics

“The other challenge we have is a global financial market that is incredibly complicated,” said Gordon. “It used to be, when the Federal Reserve said something, everybody did it.”

Now, he explained that global market decisions are based largely on politics.

“Markets go up and down with politics now. It’s very uncertain,” continued Gordon.

He gave the example of the impact of the recent presidential election on markets.

“One thing that has happened and helped is regulatory change,” commented Gordon. “We’re starting to see those changes come into effect, and that’s going to have a really positive effect on the agricultural industry and on our mineral industry.”

He cautioned, however, that Wyoming should “mind our P’s and Q’s.”

Gordon explained, “For the last several years, we had people in the legislature and people generally in the state who started to say, ‘We’ll make up declines on capital gains.’”

However, the state actually experienced capital losses in 2016, noted Gordon, saying, “This is a really good reality check for Wyoming.”

Funding

Gordon noted that he is often asked, “If we have $20 billion, how can we be broke?”

He explained that the state has permanent funds to be used for specific purposes.

For example, the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund accounts for approximately $7 billion.

“We’ve changed it a little bit. We’re going to try and take a little more risk with that because we can get a better return over time,” said Gordon.

Some other funds include the University Permanent Fund and the Common School Permanent Fund.

  “We changed asset allocation to deliver more income,” he continued. “We’ll help to bring more income into the school system, but that comes at a cost to future generations, so we’re trying to balance that.”

Less than one-third of the $20 billion in state money is for the state agency pool, which is what Wyoming government officials are most concerned about, said Gordon.

“Normally, we would think that means there’s less risk for agencies,” commented Gordon, “but when we saw rates start to increase with the Federal Reserve, the appropriation challenges the value of that state agency pool.”

He concluded, “That means the value we hold actually starts to shrink. That’s the biggest challenge that we have for the state.”

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..