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Guest Opinions

For many years, the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) has used the slogan “Forever West” as a way to share, in one brief phrase, what Wyoming has to offer the world. Across the globe, people have developed a love affair with the American cowboy and the Wild West. For many, the West represents a romantic notion of wide open spaces, majestic natural beauty, roaming livestock and individual freedom. They envision a lone cowboy on horseback tending to their livestock and working their ranches until the sun begins to set in the distance. In nearly every ad that WOT places around the country and around the world, the agricultural community is highlighted. It’s deeply rooted in the Wyoming culture and is deservingly celebrated.

The Wyoming Office of Tourism is privileged to be able to share the Cowboy State with the rest of the world, and we are well aware that without private landowners around the state, we wouldn’t have such a beautiful place to present. Many years ago when settlers and homesteaders came to this land, they knew it was something that needed to be treasured and protected. 

Things across the prairies of Wyoming haven’t changed much since then. Ranchers and farmers in our state have been phenomenal stewards of our land for centuries. These family operations have preserved the breathtaking countryside that provides visitors with the same views seen over 100 years ago.  My grandfather, Elmer Shober, homesteaded in northern Campbell County, and my brother Ron and his wife are proud ranchers still. 

It cannot be understated how important the agricultural community is to the tourism industry. We work hard to bring people to the state to give them an authentic western experience. It’s the ranchers and farmers that deliver on that promise. They bring to life what folks imagine seeing when coming to Wyoming. Whether it’s seeing a rancher grabbing a cup of coffee in a small town, visiting a county fair, seeing a cowboy herding his livestock or visiting one of the many ranches, the agricultural community gives visitors the sense of what it’s like to be in a place “Forever West.” It takes people back to simpler times, away from their cell phones and GPS systems and gives them an opportunity to see what it’s like to have limitless freedom and the open space to utilize it. 

Rodeo is another way that the WOT gives visitors the chance to see Wyoming in a unique way. They see a sport that is rich in both culture and history. We are proud sponsors of Team Wyoming, which is a group of Wyoming professional cowboys who help to promote our state through rodeo. 

With the help of Team Wyoming, folks get to view animals and cowboys in a completely different way.  We know that the agricultural community participates heavily in rodeo. The behind the scenes work that ranchers do is rarely seen by the public, but without them, rodeo wouldn’t be possible. 

Another thing visitors to almost any destination want to experience is the local cuisine. Wyoming is a place that visitors can taste some of the world’s best beef and bison products. 

As folks are becoming more and more conscious about where their food comes from, visitors get to see firsthand the excellent treatment of the animals that eventually become their food. They see the wide open pastures filled with cattle and bison and come to have a better understanding of how Wyoming adds to the world’s food supply. This education is an important part of the equation for both tourism and agriculture in the state. 

The Wyoming Office of Tourism and the hospitality and tourism industry as a whole are grateful for the agricultural community for being good stewards of the land and giving us such a pristine place to market to the rest of the world.  You help us deliver on the promises that Wyoming is indeed “Forever West.”

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 307-777-7777.

As fall sets in and the family rakes leaves, winterizes lawn equipment and brings out the snow blower, I can be found nestled in piles of paperwork at the office preparing for the Wyoming Beef Council’s (WBC) annual independent financial review. After 14 audits – all without findings, I’m comfortable enough with the process that I could spare some time to help in the yard, but honestly, it’s more fun for me organize paperwork than it is to play with the lawn equipment. In truth, the family knows I’m hiding out, and they are grateful. The farther I am from motorized equipment and flammable fuel, the longer we’ll all live. 

An annual financial audit conducted by an independent certified public accountant is required of every qualified state beef council.  Reviews are due to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), which is responsible for the certification of qualified state beef councils, as well as the implementation of the provisions of the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order. 

Along with the audit, CBB also requires a statement of negative assurance that nothing came to the auditor’s attention to indicate that WBC was not in compliance with the provisions of the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order. WBC must also provide a statement of revenues and expenses in the CBB’s specific “Full Dollar” forma, a schedule of actual expenditures versus budgeted amounts and a full review of the financial statements of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the beef checkoff’s largest contracting organization, and the United States Export Federation, a sub-contractor of NCBA. The review of the audited financial statements of these two organizations is an important step in ensuring accountability of beef checkoff contractors.   

It should also be said that the budget and marketing plan approved by WBC are also reviewed by CBB to ensure that the state portion of the beef checkoff dollar is be spent within the guidelines of the Beef Promotion Act and Order.   

Although I’ve been through the process numerous times, I am surprised by how much the audit varies each year. And it should. It’s always beneficial for new blood to look at standard operating procedures, internal controls and operational details in a fresh new way. Even though the WBC has contracted with McGee, Hearne and Paiz, LLP for several years, each year, the WBC audit is done by a different certified public accountant within the firm. Perhaps I am a little “touched,” but in spite of the scurrying, copying, scanning, meeting, highlighting, discussing and lugging of boxes, I find the audit requirements soothing and reassuring. Simply knowing that the audit is coming is comforting, and there is no better dance than the happy dance that erupts when a clean audit is in-hand. 

WBC also takes this end-of-year accountability a step farther by evaluating each and every program conducted with checkoff dollars and measuring the success of those programs against the specific, measurable and time-bound goals established in each year’s marketing plan. This is no easy task, and we commend our outside contractors who have risen to the challenge by paying close attention to measurables and ultimately, the WBC strategic goals. 

I’m happy to report that the audit, the Fiscal Year 2015 Program Evaluation document and the WBC Annual Report are available for viewing or download on the publications page of the WBC web site, found at wybeef.com/publications.aspx.

Happy holidays to all, and let’s celebrate another year of beef checkoff success and accountability.

By K. Michael Conaway, House Agriculture Committee Chairman

Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) prepared these remarks for delivery on Oct. 28 at a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee.

Information technology is profoundly impacting every aspect of our lives.

In so many ways, this is a good thing. But, as anyone who’s had their identity stolen can tell you, it is not without its downsides.

The same, of course, is true in the case of production agriculture.

As we have learned in previous hearings, foreign countries do a lot to give their producers a leg-up over their competitors. As a few examples, along with lower worker, consumer and environmental standards, we have witnessed other countries manipulate their currencies, set up state trading enterprises and use subsidies, tariffs and other non-tariff barriers to gain the upper hand.

But we, too, have some distinct advantages going for us. Some, like our infrastructure, are tangible and easy to see while others, like a strong rule of law and a great entrepreneurial spirit, are usually just taken for granted.

But every now and again, a game-changer comes along. And we in America have had an excellent track record of inventing them and using them early to our great advantage. This record has helped keep America’s farmers and ranchers out in front of the pack.

The United States has led the way in several major agricultural game-changers, including the moldboard plow, the cotton gin, refrigeration and the Green Revolution.

Not long ago, we celebrated the addition of Norman Borlaug’s statute in the Capitol. Of course, Borlaug’s “Green Revolution” was a huge game-changer, introducing innovations that have saved billions of lives. Thanks to Borlaug, we are well positioned to be able to feed the 9 billion people who will soon inhabit our planet, and we will meet this challenge using far fewer natural resources and inputs.

Today, many believe that information technology – or “Big Data” as it has been called – is the next big game-changer for agriculture. Thanks to significant investments in precision agriculture technology by many companies, producers now have more information about their farms at their fingertips than ever before.

Big Data has what seems like a boundless potential to improve the efficiency, profitability and competitiveness of our nation’s farmers and ranchers while conserving natural resources and benefitting the environment.

In fact, the benefits of Big Data have already been paying off as we will hear about today.

But, at least one of the reasons why potential benefits have not yet been fully realized is because farmers and ranchers are getting lots of information from lots of different places. Getting all of this information into one place where it can be easily accessed and used is critically important.

Beyond practical considerations, however, is the important question of how to protect producer privacy and private property rights.

Thankfully, the law protects the privacy of most producer information that USDA gathers. But that, of course, does not cover information gathered by private entities. This has enormous implications that can, among other things, affect the commodities market, land values and how farm policies operate – and potentially expose producers to frivolous and costly environmental litigation.

My hope is that the Committee and our exceptional panel of witnesses will fully explore these and other relevant issues.

But, in closing, I want to go back to what I think is a central point, and that is the fact that this is the farmer’s information. And, as such, the farmer should own or, at bare minimum, control information about his operation.

If we can achieve this important principle, I think we go a long way in ensuring that American agriculture harnesses the power of Big Data.

Much has been said regarding the past, present and future of the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo. In recent months, there has been outreach and debate at all levels of state government and associated organizations.  While the future remains unclear, one element is certain – the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo has touched many lives in its 105-year history.

In the current environment of advocacy for technological advancement, which is necessary and inevitable, I believe we must stop for a moment and realize the value of basic skills for everyday life. Add to that the gradual disappearance of interaction and comradery with those of similar interests and vocation. Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo, the facilities provided by the State Fair Grounds and the cooperative programs with associated organizations form a valuable package that has served the people of our state for multiple generations. This valuable combination continues to provide a means for preserving and developing the critical skills needed to serve and enhance our everyday lives.

Much like other activities and programs designed to serve similar purposes, the agricultural expositions throughout our nation are subject to criticism and doubt. It is easy and often times fashionable to criticize. I have found myself in that vein at times. We need to look beyond those thoughts and actions for the results we wish to achieve and take part in the process and programs available.

Within the environment of our state, we must continue to recognize the factors that influence our patterns and priorities. Population density, distance of travel, advent of new and competing interests, changes in workplace and family time commitments, access to transportation and resources and improvement of facilities and resources at most all local levels – all of these factors are thrust into the mix when determining the value and future of the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo.

105 years is a significant achievement. Obviously there have been many ups and downs over that time period. I firmly believe that our current dilemma is merely another “bump in the road” for our state.  It has been a building block process for the facilities and programs to be where they are today. We need to look at the circumstances of this snapshot in time as a part of that process.  Many more lives will be touched by the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo. 

We still have a strong foundation. We still have a unique lifestyle in our state. We still have the opportunity for unique events that help to provide a complete package of youth development, agricultural networking, business promotion, positive economic impact and cultural experiences. 

It is all right here. We merely need to stop and recognize the significance of our achievements and continue to participate by whatever means are reasonably possible.

The Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station is excited to announce it will be celebrating its 125th anniversary during 2016. That’s right!  The Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station has been serving the great state of Wyoming by conducting research that transforms life for 125 years. The paragraphs to follow are intended to provide a brief history of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station plus provide a glimpse of what to expect as we celebrate 125 years of service.

Passage of the Hatch Act by Congress on March 2, 1887 paved the way for the creation of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station. The Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station was born upon approval of an act by the Wyoming Legislature on Jan. 10, 1891. The Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station was established as a division within the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture as a federal, legislative-mandated mechanism to leverage federal financial resources with state funds provided to the University. The Board of Trustees of the University of Wyoming appointed John “Dice” McLaren to the position of director of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station on March 27, 1891.

In the first publication of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, printed in May 1891, Director McLaren explained that the purpose of the Experiment Stations created by the Hatch Act was to “aid in acquiring and diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects connected with agriculture and to promote scientific investigation and experiment respecting the principles and applications of agricultural science.”

Director McLaren also explained that the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station would distribute bulletins containing reports of various experiments. He further expressed his desire to have researchers associated with the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station talk personally about their experiments with Wyoming citizens in what he envisioned as “Farmers’ Institutes.”

Since its beginning in 1891, the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station has been conducting applied and basic research to help solve problems that affect the agricultural sector of our state, region and nation. Substations, also known as experiment farms, were established at various sites around the state to permit experimentation that had regional relevance within the Cowboy State. The first experiment farms were located near Lander, Saratoga, Sheridan, Sundance and Wheatland. Researchers affiliated with the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station and its substations often summarized their studies in a series of Experiment Station bulletins. All bulletin reports from the early days through 1950 may be accessed via the Wyoming Scholars Repository at repository.uwyo.edu/ag_exp_sta_bulletins. The early Farmers’ Institutes involved loading participants on a train and traveling around the state to learn about the latest research findings.

Today, researchers affiliated with the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station conduct fundamental and applied research on agricultural, natural and community resource issues related to the current and future needs of Wyoming, the region, the nation and the world. The Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station currently operates four branch stations within the state, known as Research and Extension Centers (R&E centers).

R&E centers are located in or near Laramie, Wyarno and Sheridan at the Sheridan R&E Center, Lingle at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture R&E Center (SAREC) and Powell. Like the early days, the R&E centers were placed in those locations to conduct research and educational programs that are connected to agriculture in their vicinity, albeit many of the projects may be applicable throughout the state. Advances in agricultural science certainly will not lead to development of new technologies or farming practices without transfer of research-based knowledge to society. Thus, the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station publishes the Field Days Bulletin in an effort to educate citizens about research and other activities being conducted by scientists affiliated with Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station and at the R&E centers. The Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station Field Days Bulletin reports are available at uwyo.edu/uwexpstn/publications. The R&E centers also host annual field days to provide the public with an update on the center’s activities and to discuss research projects at various stages of completion.

Thanks to a highly capable and thoughtful planning committee, the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station will work hard to make its 125th celebration memorable. The committee has already recommended several items to increase awareness of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ research branch.

For starters, the College’s sheep wagon will be refurbished to be on display as well as to be pulled by a recently acquired team of horses at various events. The plan is to offer rides in the sheep wagon at events that allow for such an activity. Rides will be offered at our field days this summer for sure. 

The committee has also commissioned David Kruger, agricultural research librarian and liaison librarian for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to research and write a comprehensive history of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station. David’s insight and enthusiasm for the project is sure to bolster the excitement revolving around the experiment station’s 125th anniversary celebration! This history will include significant accomplishments of each R&E Center, which will include a celebration of each of their years of existence at their respective field days. Brief video clips of the history will be included in a traveling display.

The committee hopes to reach as many people as possible, so please contact us at 307-766-3667 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are aware of an event at which attendees would be interested in rides in our historic sheep wagon or learning more about the rich history of agricultural research in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station will be kicking off a $125K campaign to establish permanent funding sources to support research at each of the four R&E Centers. Feel free to contact me at 307-766-3667 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you wish to learn more about this opportunity.