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Policy

When considering Wyoming’s five elected positions, and their replacements to be elected this fall, ag voters in the state may want to keep in mind a few aspects of the officials’ responsibilities that relate to state land leases and ag loans.
Wyoming’s five elected officials are the sole members of the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) and the Board of Land Commissioners, both of which are housed under the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI). The five elected officials are the Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“When I look at those offices and the candidates who are up for them, I look as much as anything at how they’re likely to view things, particularly on the Board of Land Commissioners and the State Loan and Investment Board,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna.
The OSLI is the administrative arm of the Boards and it is the statutory responsibility of the OSLI to carry out the policy directives and decisions of the Boards.
“The Board of Land Commissioners adopts the policies that the Office of State Lands carries out,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Director Ken Hamilton, adding in the past the Board has adopted policy on topics including grazing fees and subleasing state lands.
“They’re also the ones who approve the policies on how easements are negotiated across state lands,” continues Hamilton. “Years ago, when a pipeline company wanted to come across state land, they negotiated the easement with the state land lessee, and the fee structure was set up so the lessee could obtain some benefit from the easement. The State Land Board and the oil and gas industry thought the lessees were holding up the process, so the Board made a policy decision that industry could negotiate directly with the Office of State Lands.”
However, Hamilton notes another policy recently dictated by the Board of Land Commissioners says state land lessees are allowed to negotiate with wind energy developers for damages.
“Some major decisions that indirectly affect agriculture are the proposed state land rules on wind energy leasing,” adds Magagna. “They contain important provisions with regard to negotiating payment for the impact of development on grazing.”
Magagna adds in recent years the Board of Land Commissioners has been more proactive in looking at proposals for state land sales or exchanges.
“State land parcels are so often an integral part of a ranching operation, and decisions with regard to sales or trades can have a major impact,” he says.
Magagna also says an important question from the perspective of the Board of Land Commissioners is exactly to what is their first obligation to maximize and get the highest revenue possible, or optimize and consider the long-term value of the asset?
“A question for the candidates is how they view their responsibility as a trustee of state trust lands,” says Magagna, adding another question pertains to recreational use on state lands.
“By statute the Board could close all state land to recreation, or open it up to more recreation, or charge for recreating,” outlines Magagna. “If the lands are part of your ranch, and you’re otherwise not allowing recreation, that could cause some problems.”
“If the elected officials have some familiarity with agriculture, or some understanding of the situation, it helps them make better decisions,” notes Hamilton of the policies they set. “When we get into controversial decisions, having individuals on the boards that understand agriculture is very helpful.”
Today’s SLIB was statutorily created in 1921 as the Farm Loan Board, which administers the Farm Loan Program. According to the Office of State Lands and Investments, the Farm Loan Program was established to “foster and encourage agriculture, dairying and livestock raising in Wyoming.”
Since its inception the Farm Loan Program, which is authorized to loan up to $295 million in state permanent funds, was expanded to include irrigation, replacement breeding stock and beginning ag producer loans.
“In the past, when interest rates were higher, the State Loan and Investment Board was an important entity in loaning to ag folks,” says Hamilton, noting that today’s interest rates are low enough the state program hasn’t been used as much in recent years.
The SLIB also oversees the Beginning Ag Producer Loans, as well as community development grants.
“There are a lot of things they do that tie them to agriculture,” says Hamilton.
“The current Board of Land Commissioners has been in position for quite a while, and for the most part they understand the process,” notes Hamilton of Wyoming’s current leadership. “It’s partly the job of people in positions like mine to educate the elected officials on some of the issues important to us.”
Hamilton says that, at the end of the day, Wyoming’s Governor has the most influence of the Board members, because it’s the Governor who appoints the Director of the OSLI.
“That individual will answer first to the Governor, and it’s important to have somebody as Director who has some experience with agriculture and can make informed decisions considering the impacts to agriculture,” says Hamilton.
“The Director oversees the surface and subsurface portions of state land management, and when the Board of Land Commissioners meets they receive the Director’s recommendation for most of the issues before them,” says Magagna.
“If we can get someone appointed as Director of the Office of State Lands who understand agriculture and can establish a working relationship with the elected officials, that helps,” he adds.
Of the Superintendent of Public Instruction specifically, Magagna says he’ll pay close attention to how committed the candidates are to vocational education. “Nationwide we’ve seen a decline in a focus on vocational education programs, and having a Superintendent committed to that is really important,” he says.
Christy Hemken 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..

Sheridan – According to American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Director of Congressional Relations Rick Krause, it’s still too early to see what’s going to happen with changes in committee structure in the U.S. Congress.
    Krause spoke at the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in early November.
    Krause said one very disturbing thing relates to the House Energy Committee, which deals with energy and natural resource issues, including the issue of climate change. A representative from California has challenged the current committee chairman, who is from Michigan and is more practical, according to Krause.
    “The current chairman represents Detroit and is more practical and reasonable than others,” said Krause. “The one from California will be much more aggressive in trying to pass climate change and other nasty things. I don’t think he would have done this challenge had he not had the support of the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and a few other key Democrats.”
    Regarding President-elect Barack Obama, Krause said, “We know what he said before the election, and now that it’s over there’s a clean slate on everything.”
    Krause said he began working with Obama in early 2005 when the AFBF was looking for support on an Endangered Species Act reform bill. “He was on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and his reaction was that he wanted to work to bring people together and get something that would be workable for both sides,” said Krause. “Back then he was already saying the things he was saying during the campaign and I really hope he’s able to do that.”
    However, Krause said it will depend on the people Obama has around him. “If they’re agenda- and activist-driven we won’t get anywhere, but if they’re really trying to accomplish something for the good of everybody we might not be as bad off as we think.”
    Krause said the economy will be issues number one, two and three for the new administration and that health care is high on Obama’s agenda, as well as energy independence. “He’s more interested in things like alternative fuels. He’s not as keen on extraction in the U.S. and on public lands. He would do more things with renewable fuels and wind energy,” he noted.
Bending the law
    Krause said the Bush Administration tried to do some things with the delisting of the wolf. “They listened to what we’ve said, but they’ve done their own thing with this. Now it’s come down to the federal judge in Montana saying wolves should not be delisted.”
    He said the decision is an example of how a federal judge has bent the law and has not gone back to original discussions. “He found a hook to prevent delisting through finding a place in the final Environmental Impact Statement that talks about the need for genetic interchange,” said Krause. “That final EIS was four volumes long. If you can find only one or two places that talk about genetic interchange – that really doesn’t mean anything.”
    Discussions with the U.S. Department of the Interior have revealed the current staff fully intends to delist wolves before they leave the administration, said Krause. “They have vacated the final rule and have gone back to the drawing board, which is not a bad move because it keeps the control of the process in their hands,” he said. The strategy to delist the wolf has been put out for public comment until Nov. 28.
Sage grouse waits
    Concerning the sage grouse, Krause said the schedule provided that last June there would be a status review, which there was, and by December the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was supposed to make a finding to list or not list, leading to a final decision in June 2009.
    Krause said the problem with the December deadline is that one of the requirements for the 12-month finding is consideration of an updated report from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The update was due two months ago, and it’s still not out. WAFWA expects its completion in March or June 2009. FWS cannot move forward until they receive the report.
Cow, pig tax
    “The Environmental Protection Agency is itching to implement a cow and pig tax,” said Krause, explaining it’s in the context of climate change and greenhouse gases and regulating automobile emissions. “The problem is once you make a finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare, all other provisions of the Clean Air Act automatically kick in.”
    Under the law, any entity that emits more than 100 tons of a regulated pollutant per year is required to get a permit to continue operation. “This is a tax on your business – it gives you the opportunity to continue operating,” said Krause.
    According to USDA figures, any operation with 25 or more dairy cows, 50 or more beef cows or 200 or more hogs emits more than 100 tons of carbon dioxide per year and would trigger the requirement for an operational permit. Krause estimates 200 sheep would push a producer over the limit.
    In the dairy industry, operations with over 25 cows are 99 percent of the country’s milk production. Those with more than 50 beef cows compose over 90 percent of beef production, while operations with 200 or more hogs equal 95 percent of pork production.
    Under EPA guidelines, the tax equals $40 per ton of emissions. “If the states were to follow that rate, it’d cost $175 per dairy cow, $87 per beef cow and a little over $20 per hog per year. This is just a tax. This doesn’t get you anything,” explained Krause.
    EPA has already begun asking for some comments on whether they should move forward with the new regulation. The comment period runs through the end of November.
    “This is something everybody needs to fight,” said Krause. “It not only taxes animals, but farm machinery and dairy barns. Anything that involves greenhouse gas emissions would count toward the 100 tons.”
    “This tax is very significant and part of a much bigger regulation that EPA would do under this greenhouse gas rule,” he explained. “If this rule goes into play, then EPA would have control of the economy. The administrator of EPA would be the most powerful person in the country.”
    Christy Hemken is assistant 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..

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule will go into effect on Dec. 18, 2017 and will be required in all newer commercial vehicles.

According to Huckfeldt Trucking Company Manager Dennis Huckfeldt, the rule will “change the way we transport livestock.”

“In 2017, an electronic logging device will be put into all trucks that are year 2000 or newer,” says Huckfeldt.

Currently, drivers are required to keep written records of their duty status. They will be required to transfer to the use of the ELD.

The ELD logs in when the truck is started and begins the hours of service clock, regardless of whether the driver is at the pickup location.

Impacts

The logging device will have a major impact on agriculture, says Huckfeldt, commenting, “I think it’ll definitely change the way we do business.”

The device is predicted to increase the costs of transporting livestock by limiting the time that truckers are able to drive in a day.

He comments, “If we run over our hours, we have to shut down, and if we’re not to our destination, what will happen to our stock on board?”

To get stock delivered to their destination, trucking companies may be forced to utilize team drivers or to connect with other trucking lines.

“If we know that we can’t be to a destination on time, then it may end up that the cost will increase due to potentially putting team drivers in or connecting with another truck line to get the stock delivered,” says Huckfeldt.

Proposed speed

Another proposed regulation that would impact agricultural trucking is a proposed speed limiting regulation.

“The proposed speed limiting regulation would set a nationwide speed limit for commercial vehicles,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) Field Services and Federal Lands Associate Holly Kennedy.

The proposed speed limit would be enforced through the use of a speed limiting device that will cap the revolutions per minute (RPMs) that a commercial vehicle is able to obtain.

The speed would be a standard speed or a “one size fits all approach” for all highways, explains Kennedy.

Huckfeldt comments that while there are cases where going the speed limit is not advisable in a commercial vehicle, it also would be a challenge in good conditions to get to destinations in a timely manner.

“If they run some of the speed limits in a truck, that’s too fast. Although in the same sense, on a nice open highway, drivers want to make as much time as they possibly can,” says Huckfeldt.

Concerns

One of the concerns that the WyFB is voicing with the proposed speed limiting rule is governmental overreach on states’ rights.

“In 1995, the National Maximum Speed limit was repealed, and that authority was given back to the individual states to decide what speed was best for their highways,” says Kennedy.

“We feel that each state does and should have the right to set the speed limit that fits their highway conditions and situations,” she continues.

She also notes that limiting commercial vehicle speed will require an increased number of commercial vehicles on the road to maintain the same level of productivity.

“One of our primary concerns with that is that’s going to chew up our highways even more than they already are,” explains Kennedy. “That cost is going to get passed down to every citizen in Wyoming to maintain those roads that are receiving more traffic.”

Safety

“We’re opposed to the speed limiting rule primarily for safety concerns,” says Kennedy.

High traffic areas that are prone to clogging are a major concern with the proposed rule.

“Highway 59 is a classic example of a high traffic area. They’ve had to put in passing lanes to increase safety, so we have less incidences of vehicles trying to pass commercial vehicles while facing oncoming traffic,” says Kennedy.

“We can only see that this will increase those incidences because we’ll have more vehicles traveling slower than the passenger vehicles. That creates a safety problem for both the passenger vehicles and the commercial vehicles,” she continues.

As the speed limiter regulates the RPMs that a vehicle can achieve and therefore limits the ability to accelerate quickly, Kennedy notes that it could increase accidents because commercial vehicles are not able to avoid collisions.

Limiting a commercial vehicle’s ability to accelerate quickly could also cause problems with merging with traffic.

“The onramps in Cheyenne are an example of where we need to be able to accelerate to safely merge with traffic when we’re coming around those tight corners,” continues Kennedy.

“We can only see an increase in incidences of collisions with both of those situations,” she concludes.

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..

Agriculture innovation is a competitive global market that is constantly changing, but there are changes U.S. agriculturalists need to be aware of.

The Farm Foundation organized a seminar on Sep. 29 titled, “U.S. Agriculture Innovations: Changes Needed for Global Competition” to look at some of the upcoming issues facing the ag industry.

“Nothing could be of more interest to the Farm Foundation than the topic of agriculture innovation as we take a look across the spectrum of global economy,” Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman commented.

A change in efforts

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) initiated an agriculture innovation review to examine global agriculture policies involving public and private research.

The agriculture innovation review started the same time as a G20 meeting in Mexico and a meeting for OECD in 2014.

“This is where we all began to ask, why it is we do such a good job of criticizing agriculture policy and such a lousy job of advising alternatives that might be more effective,” said OECD Trade Director and Agriculture Directorate Ken Ash.

A shift of efforts from the value of the reviews towards evaluating past experiences raised questions of what governments are trying to accomplish with the reviews, if their policies help accomplish those goals and if not, why not. Their main objective was to move away from criticism to constructive advice and related analyses.

OECD also wanted to reconstruct the idea that changing one policy would fix all problems.

“We all know that everybody responds to a package of incentives that influence behavior,” Ash said. “It’s about the entire set of policies.”

Moving forward

At another OECD meeting last year, Ash commented that the same conversation was considered, but this time, it included officials from 47 countries and the European Commission. To his surprise, all of the attendees agreed on one statement that he believes actually means something.

“The statement discussed the need to begin to shift the current policy orientation focus on productivity, competitiveness, profitability, sustainability, more efficient resources and resilience, as well as mitigating risks and managing the consequences of risks that couldn’t be avoided,” Ash stated.

He credits this event as the motivation for OECD to intensify work on the innovation reviews at a national level.

U.S. agriculture policy

“In agriculture policy discussions, there are some areas we don’t hear about all the time. We began by looking at the U.S. macro-environment,” Ash explained.

The U.S. has strong economic performance, efficient labor markets competitive business environments, good education and encouragement for entrepreneurs, he reported.

Simultaneously, U.S. growth and employment numbers are not ideal, he said. Along with high corporate income tax, individual income tax and the environmental regulatory system are below average by OECD standards.

Immigration policies were also flagged in the report and will need to be monitored because the movement of people matters for agriculture, Ash stated.

“There are particular areas of concern when we get outside the aggregate and there are some hot spots that warrant further attention,” Ash explained.

Policy environment

The U.S. has been a world leader in research and development productivity innovation for a long time. According to the innovation review, the agriculture innovation system is strong, as is the research and land-grant system.

“The U.S. has a chief scientist that, I would argue, will play a more important role in the future,” Ash stated.

Cullman added that public research has typically been the tool to meet the increasing needs for food, feed, fuel and fiber. 

Meanwhile, private research has risen for decades and began to take responsibilities that were previously served by public funding, added Cullman.

“The private sector is driven by different priorities than those driving public funding,” she commented, noting that subjects of study are different as a result.

Private sector spending on research and development (R&D) has doubled, while public sector spending has declined over the last decade, which Ash noted is significant in terms of the nature of R&D spending.

“What the public sector spends money on tends to look different than what the private sector spends money on,” he added.

Shared priorities

There needs to be a conversation about the nature of spending and shared priorities to allow developments to be applied, according to Ash. 

“I don’t want to make the impression it’s all about more money because I don’t believe that. I really think how we spend matters,” he stated.

A deeper public-private dialogue about what farm households want, what the industry needs, what priorities are, what the public sector does versus what the private sector does and what they might do together are points Ash believes need to be discussed, as well.

“There can be more cooperation, mutual benefit and shared learning if we worry less about borders and more about our share in the common interest,” Ash specified.

Heather Loraas is assistant 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..

Laramie – “Things happen, and they don’t happen by mistake. The West and this country didn’t happen by mistake – it took capital and people willing to risk that capital,” said Senior Vice President and Director of the American Bankers Association’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking John Blanchfield. “As agricultural bankers, you are part of a proud tradition of people who are willing to take a risk.”
    The ag industry, however, is seeing some changes, and Blanchfield detailed some of those changes in his presentation at the Agricultural Bankers Conference, held in Laramie in May.
Dodd-Frank
    Blanchfield mentioned the Dodd-Frank bill, a 2,700-page piece of legislation that was portrayed as insignificant to agriculture, noting that the bill will have significant and unknown impacts.
    “‘We don’t need Dodd-Frank – it has nothing to do with us,’” said Blanchfield, quoting press statements. “It was reported that way – completely wrong.”
    He clarified, noting that home mortgages and farm and small business loans would be affected by the legislation, and also likening the bill to the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan in 2011.
    “I read in the paper that there is a floating island off the coast of Hawaii that is the size of Texas that is all the stuff that got washed out of Japan,” he explained. “That is what Dodd-Frank is like. So far, some stuff has washed up on the shore, but a whole, big, floating island of regulations is headed our way.”
    The future of the industry will be affected by the legislation, added Blanchfield, adding that the legislation will also accelerate consolidation of family farms.
    “We talk frequently about the decline of farmers and ranchers, and if I hang on another 20 years, I’ll be talking to myself,” Blanchfield said. “The fact of the matter is we are in a rapidly consolidating industry.”    
Farm financing
    “Right now, the cost of funds has never been lower,” commented Blanchfield, adding, “but at some point, interest rates are probably going to go up.”
    With their tendencies to borrow short and lend long, he also noted that banks are beginning to look like the savings and loan institutions of the 1990s.
    “The savings and loan industry is gone because that kind of financing isn’t very sound when interest rates go up,” he said.
    He also noted, however, that the trends for large profits is moving from the Midwest toward the West coast.
    “The debt-to-equity ratio has never been lower,” he said. “We are at $250 billion in total farm debt, and, adjusted for inflation, that number has seen no real increase in the last five to six years.”
    At the same time, Blanchfield said that the 270,000 farmers across the country who see sales in excess of $250,000 each year hold 60 percent of the farm debt.
    “This is a hyper-competitive market. Our industry – the banking industry – is so dependent on these people,” he added.
Alignment with policies
    With a small sector of the population supporting ag lenders, Blanchfield also pointed out that farm policy is at a disconnect and has begun focusing on income limits and size limits.
    “There was a time when crop prices triggered payments. Notice how that trigger is gone,” Blanchfield said, cautioning. “We are structuring farm policy today for the future based on unbelievable prosperity.”
    “A lot of people want to get rid of farm programs that have been around since the Depression,” he added, “but remember, things were great in the 70s, but in the 80s, not so much.”
    “Does this farm prosperity last forever?” Blanchfield asked. “No one really knows.”
    Saige Albert is 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..