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The state of Wyoming was encouraged moving into 2017, and looking forward to next year, many in the agriculture community remain optimistic for the future.

“This year has been most encouraging,” says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank. “There was positive change and direction on key policy issues.”

Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union’s Scott Zimmerman says, “The continued strong livestock prices received by producers helped to shore up other sectors of the agriculture economy. Coupled with the beginning of a rollback of regulatory burden on federally managed lands, we saw some positive action in 2017.”

Federal interface

In 2017, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna comments, “The general change in attitude from many of the federal agencies toward a willingness to meet challenges by working at the local level and valuing the input of local governments and local stakeholders is welcome.”

Frank adds that action on many policy issues – including efforts to revise the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), congressional action to repeal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Planning 2.0 and collaborative work to modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – has positively impacted the state’s ag industry.

State level

For Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB), delisting of wolves and grizzly bears was a major win, says Ken Hamilton, WyFB Executive Vice President.

For water users, Frank explains changes to the Wyoming Water Development Commission’s Small Water Program will hopefully open the door for additional small water development to improve rangeland conditions and enhance water distribution and watershed function across the state.

“The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality also announced in late November at the Natrona County Conservation District Legislative Meeting that over 30 miles of the North Platte River will be proposed for delisting as impaired,” says Frank. “This is a huge accomplishment for the district, irrigation district, landowners, the city and the county.”
Frank adds, “I think one of the most positive efforts over the past year has been the support we have seen for the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom Wyoming Stewardship Projects and the promise it holds in ensuring our students know and understand Wyoming’s natural resources and what they provide for agriculture, energy and recreation.”

Additionally, producers in Wyoming saw optimism from increased trade, as well.

“The opportunity to begin to build a program for export marketing of Wyoming’s beef is encouraging,” Magagna explains.

Disappointments

While much of the year was positive, 2017 wasn’t without its challenges in the state, notably as it relates to Wyoming’s state budget.

“Legislative budget cuts to the Wyoming State Fair and Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) brand program came without meaningful opportunity for discussion and demonstrated a real lack of understanding of the role of these programs,” Magagna says.

Franks adds, “The state budget has impacted all efforts, and we’re very concerned about the future of the Wyoming State Fair for our youth.”

Zimmerman also notes that, statewide, citizens hoped for an education funding solution to further alleviate budget woes.

On the federal level, the Trump administration’s failure to appoint officials to critical agency positions, as well as confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, has been troublesome.

“We would have liked to have seen key USDA officials be nominated and confirmed at a faster rate to ensure USDA continues to be the leading voice for agriculture on key policy and trade issues,” Zimmerman says.

Hamilton notes the remand of a lawsuit against the case related to the trespass to collect data litigation was also disappointing.

Overall impressions

“2017 was a mixed bag for Wyoming ag,” Hamilton says. “On  a national level, there were some positive steps taken in the regulatory arena. How well these get translated down to the level where citizens interact with the bureaucracy is something we have to wait and see about.”

Cattle prices have trended upward this year, Hamilton continues, which leads to some optimism for those in ag.

Zimmerman adds, “In 2017, the weather was conducive for crop and hay production across the majority of the state. Commodity prices remained well below the cost of production, though, and the near-term price outlook isn’t positive.”

He summarized, “I would place the 2017 year in the neutral area overall.”

“2017 has, for the most part, placed the Wyoming ranching industry on a positive path,” Magagna says, “but we’ll need more time to fully judge the results.”

Saige Albert is managing 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..

There’s somethin’ special about bein’ a country person when Christmas rolls around.

When the wood is all stacked, and the cookies are baked, and the snow is fallin’ on the ground.

You see, it is the country folks who can relate the most to that first Christmas day.

They’ve traveled a long way to comply to government wishes, and they’ve filled many a manger with hay.

Country folks understand a simpler life, where the things that matter the most aren’t things at all.

And there have been many times they’ve prepared for a baby born in a stall.

No, not the human type, but a little calf or a lamb that was in need of some extra attention.

It’s the country folks who take time to spread extra cheer and understand the most traditional affection.

Many of us have memories, even from last Christmas, of ridin’ on a hay wagon to carol all the neighbors,

Then invitin’ them back to the house to eat a big pot of chili and to play a friendly game of poker.

Some folks call it plain nostalgia, a Christmas with all of the family home and happiness,

But for country people, it’s not memories of Christmas past, they enjoy Christmas present.

However, there’s somethin’ that they still do that many folks have let slip away,

Those country folk remember to celebrate the miracle of Christmas and live for it every day.

When our lives get so filled with hustle and bustle that we forget about the sacred child born,

There can’t be too much specialness in our hearts on Christmas morn.

I’m sure glad to be a country person this Christmas and during this magical season,

This slower life is a more peaceful one. May it always help us to remember the real Christmas reason.

- Trinity Lewis

 

A year of good weather, strong prices and overall optimism from Wyoming’s agriculture industry has many of ag groups looking forward to the year to come. 

“2014 was a good year in terms of market prices and adequate moisture,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “The year is ending on a good note, as well.”

“For agriculture, 2014 went pretty well,” continues Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “We had cattle prices that were better than any really expected, and we didn’t have a drought.”

Wyoming ag

Hamilton notes good grass and good cattle prices told the story for the year in Wyoming. 

“Some producers had challenges,” he comments, noting that hay producers saw inopportune rains and dry bean producers struggled with early frosts, “but overall, things were pretty good.”

Yields for many crops were high, sheep and wool prices were fair, and moisture was adequate. 

Keith Kennedy, executive director of the Wyoming Ag Business Association (WABA), continued, “Wheat producers in Wyoming also had a good year, with some of the best moisture and best yields we’ve seen in dryland farming ever.”

“That doesn’t happen often in Wyoming,” Hamilton adds.

Looking back

In reflecting on 2014, many of the highlights come from positive work in Washington, D.C. 

“In the last weeks of December, we got key provisions from Senator Barrasso’s Grazing Improvement Act to give significant security to our permittees,” Magagna explains. 

He also notes that a delay of the listing of sage grouse, found in the cromnibus bill, was also positive. 

“We are still trying to guess what the sage grouse delay means,” he says. “As I look at it, it means that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will continue to gather data through the remainder of fiscal year 2015, but they can’t begin to prepare any type of decision.” 

Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) Executive Director Bobbie Frank adds, “I think the action taken by Congress and the pushback from everyone – both on the interpretive rule and the Waters of the U.S. rule – is definitely positive.”

Kennedy comments, “2014 was a lot of work to do with EPA – between the Waters of the U.S. rule and the interpretive rule, as well as worker protection standards.”

Hamilton also notes endangered species concerns continued in 2014, and are likely in the future, particularly citing wolves and sage grouse. 

“There are a bunch of species out there that FWS has agreed to look at for potential listing,” he says.

At home

In Wyoming, Frank notes that the return of program authority to Wyoming Natural Resources Conservation Service is very positive and will allow the agency to get back to business.

She also adds that the completion of the Categorical Use Attainability Analysis Designation of Surface Water Contact by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is an important and exciting accomplishment. 

“There is some opposition to the report in the environmental community, but we have worked with DEQ since 2010 on this to get Wyoming surface waters accurately designated for primary and secondary uses,” Frank explains. “It will save a lot of time and taxpayer dollars and will result in much more accurate designation of surface waters.” 

“Another positive from 2014 was the FWS moving forward with its 10(j) rule for black-footed ferrets,” says Frank.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) Government Affairs Specialist Scott Zimmerman also marks 2014 as a good year, specifically mentioning that internally, reorganization has yielded positive results in terms of productivity. 

“We also had a number of projects throughout co-op center that went well,” he says. 

Hamilton notes that a GMO ban in one county in Oregon means that Roundup Ready sugarbeet seed may be a concern moving forward. 

“That county produces most of the Roundup Ready sugarbeet seed in the U.S., and I think that will have an impact,” he explains.

Next year

Wyoming ag groups also highlighted optimism for the coming year. 

“With the new Congress in Washington, D.C., we hope we will be able to take some steps beyond what happened in the last 10 days of this session in terms of stopping overregulation by EPA and bringing more focus,” Magagna says.

Magagna further comments that he sees a proactive approach from Washington, D.C. moving forward.

Endangered species, particularly sage grouse, will continue to be a focus for WACD, WyFB and WSGA moving into 2015. 

Hamilton mentions, “I’d like to see meaningful reforms to the Endangered Species Act, as well.”

Kennedy continues that WABA continues to anticipate the final versions of many rules. 

“We can’t wait to see what the final rules will be like, especially on worker protection standards,” he says. “We are also expecting a proposed rule that changes certification and training for all pesticide applicators.” 

Kennedy also notes that a new program within the fertilizer industry will be a focus for that sector moving forward. 

“The fertilizer industry is starting a program called ‘Responsible Ag,’” Kennedy says. “They are starting a three-year process, and wholesalers, retailers and farmers who take bulk deliveries will be encouraged to participate.”

More information about the program is forthcoming.

“2015 will be a good year, we hope,” Hamilton says.

Within the organizations

On the ground at home, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) looks to continue to work with landowners in addressing water quality issues in 2015. 

“We are gearing up to publish our Watershed Progress report,” WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank says, noting that the report captures the progress that has been made on impaired, listed or threatened waters.

Frank also notes that Governor Mead’s highly anticipated water strategy is scheduled for release very soon, which will be important.

“As usual, we will continue to be involved in federal land management issues, and our top priorities will be water-related, including funding for water projects and natural resources and integrity in data collection,” Frank summarizes.

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) has also developed its own priorities for 2015, which include working toward their 150th anniversary. 

“This fall, we announced our 150th anniversary campaign to grow our endowment, so we will put a lot of emphasis on that,” WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna notes.

The organization will also emphasize involvement of young people in the activity of the organization and maintain a continued focus on investment and management of income, as well as generational transfer. 

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union will continue to focus on development of local markets for Wyoming producers, many of who have indicated interest in the local food movement.

2015 legislative session

The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Farm Bureau, Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union and Wyoming Ag Business Association each indicated a number of bills that they will be tracking during the 2015 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature. 

A handful of the bills of interest include those related to landowner liability to trespassers, trespass to collect resource data, driver’s license exemptions, a dry bean checkoff and animal welfare.

Look for more information on each of these bills and more in the Jan. 10 edition of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, when we begin our coverage of the 2015 session. 

 

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..