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     We at the Roundup hope you all had a blessed Christmas season at your house. Some of us got nailed by the wintery weather on Christmas Day, but it is a new year, and we wish you, your family and your businesses all the best for the New Year.

At times, we think we have seen it all coming out of Washington, D.C., but in the last year or so, a new regulation has surfaced that will really hinder the interstate transportation of livestock.

If you have ever driven Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming with border-to-border truck traffic, one sees the need for some control of all the trucks, but the government has gone too far, and this new rule will hurt those who raise or handle livestock.

A rule that was developed by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration in late 2015 is supposed to go into effect Dec. 18, 2017. The rule says that all trucks in interstate commerce that are model year 2000 and newer are mandated to use electronic logbooks, and of course, the devil’s in the details.

The final rule does not change federal hours of service requirements. Drivers required to maintain federal records of duty status must convert from paper logs to electronic logging devices. These electronic logging devices are foolproof and by the book. They can control the truck’s speed and shut down the motor after the allotted hours of the truck running, and it doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of the Red Desert or in a Walmart parking lot. These logging devices are guided by satellite, so one cannot hide. They are also tamper-proof.

So, the problem for livestock haulers is that they may pick up a load of calves, say in the middle of the Red Desert in a location that took two hours to get to. Then, they may have left the truck running while waiting to load before returning back to the highway. The trucker stops at a truck stop to eat lunch, with the motor running, and then heads on to Garden City, Kans. to deliver the calves.

Under the new rules, the electronic logging device would shut the motor off just hours from Garden City, Kans., as the truck’s motor had run the allotted hours.

Under the new rules, it doesn’t matter if the truck’s wheels have moved or not. If the motor was running, the clock was running. Just think what would happen in cold weather.

Even if one wants to unload the livestock and shut the truck down to meet the rule’s requirements, the infrastructure is just not out there along the highways to do so. Livestock producers will have to find buyers closer to home, and with the fewer packinghouses, how are we supposed to get fat cattle or lambs to the packinghouse? I can’t imagine how rodeo stock producers are going to get to all the rodeos they need to.

I hear that the oil and gas industry has exemptions for off-the-clock waiting time. The livestock haulers need that and longer times without rest – or just exemptions from the rules. There is a lot of difference between a load of calves, lambs or rodeo stock and a truckload of Pampers. All are important, but some need to eat and drink while we sleep.

Well, it doesn’t seem that long ago that we were wishing all of you Happy New Year for 2016. They say time goes faster as one gets older. I think it is true. But anyway, there is going to be a new year, and most of those in agriculture are optimistic.

After the elections, there was a renewed optimism in agriculture. For cattle producers, part of the optimism was due to the increase in the price of calves and the cattle futures turning around some. For those in agriculture, especially in the West, there was joy over the election. It has been a long time since there was much good news out of Washington, D.C. Come to think about it, ranchers and farmers from the West, and even their Congressional members and staff, haven’t been treated with much respect in the last eight years. Government overreach was alive and well in the West.

But hopefully that is behind us to where at least we can have sensible discussions with those in our nation’s capital who are running the government in the executive branch. After all, we’re Americans, too. The West has to be more than just a playground for the rest of the nation.

We all have to realize that just a new administration is not going to solve our issues. They are just the start. The number of us in agriculture is shrinking, they say, so we have to work harder to help feed the growing populations of our world. To accomplish that, we have to be strong politically and strong in our livestock, farm and ranching organizations. We have to be even stronger in the organizations that assist us and represent us with public lands, both state-wide and nationally.

As producers – and even those who represent us at the state level – we are not able to be at all the national or regional meetings or to lobby for us where we need representation. We need a strong Public Lands Council in Washington, D.C. and a viable Wyoming Public Lands Coalition here in our own state. That means that public lands grazers need to pay their annual assessment. If you haven’t already paid your assessment, the letter and information is around your house somewhere. If you have paid, thank you.

In past years, not even 20 percent of the Wyoming public land ranchers have paid their assessment. That is a travesty. A new administration will not stop the radical groups from filing lawsuits. That’s how many of those groups are funded. It takes money from us producers to allow our state and national public land organizations to fight those legal actions. We can’t just stand by and let 20 percent pay the bill.

We are well represented on the national Public Land Council Board. Keith Hamilton, a rancher from Hyattville is the Wyoming Board member, and Niels Hansen, a rancher from southwest of Rawlins is the Treasurer on the Public Lands Council. We can’t not support them.      

So now we’re coming to a New Year. One always has to believe it will be better than the last year for our families and us. Winter has reminded some of us this really is Wyoming, after the great fall weather we had, but with God’s grace and a little help from Washington, D.C., next year will be good for us.

From all of us at the Roundup, have a great and prosperous New Year.

As we all settle in at home with our families, the Wyoming Livestock Roundup wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas Everyday 

I can still recall and remember them all,

Childhood Christmases years ago,

With all the noise of brand new toys

And everything dusted with snow.

 

The tree, you could smell, was decorated well,

With ornaments that were homemade

And gazing up when I was a pup,

Wondering if Santa was delayed.

 

But all the gifts, sleighs and snow drifts,

And memories of St. Nicholas nights

All fail to compare with the love that I share

For my Mother’s special picture of Christ.

 

Other pictures we had, but we were all glad,

When this one struck that special chord

‘Cause it was a sign of that special time,

We celebrated the birth of our Lord.

 

It was kinda small, not big at all

And wasn’t the best in show;

On it was a light, you could see it at night,

Give the room a special glow.

 

It wasn’t very flashy, not very classy,

But sat there the same every year,

A reminder of His birth, as He came to earth

To free us from bondage and fear.

 

Then stories we’d sow of the days long ago,

Of how wise men followed a star,

To a stable He lay, on a bed made of hay

In a land so distant and far.

 

I’d then be good, as a young boy should,

Remembering what was taught me,

And would never regret, but somehow forget

The toys my parents had bought me.

 

So tell me why, it is always that I

Wait until Christmas to remember,

This life that was given, my reason for livin’,

Yet I only recall in December.

 

So I now resolve, this problem to solve,

And promise to work every way

To remember His love, a gift from above

And live like it’s Christmas each day.

- Andy Nelson, Pinedale

Under our current administration, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is the longest serving agriculture secretary since Orville Freeman, who also served eight years as secretary in the 1960s. He was also our President’s longest serving cabinet member.

Before being appointed Secretary of Agriculture, he was the Governor of Iowa. Just that by itself gave him the knowledge of rural ag issues to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary. 

A while back, Secretary Vilsack gave an interview with DTN, in which he spoke on his accomplishments during his eight-year tenure. During the eight years, he was there for the implementation of two very popular Farm Bills, so politics played a big role in his duties.

He wasn’t that poplar when he was first appointed, but Vilsack worked hard, and later had the respect of some in the ag sector. As Secretary of Agriculture, one still has a bullseye on their back, and that bullseye is Farm Bill, the whole $1 trillion worth. A little over 80 percent of the Farm Bill funds goes to food stamps. That means one child in twenty lives in a house where someone receives food stamps. That’s horrific. How can anyone in Washington, D.C. say America is doing well with that many people on food stamps? In some cities, food stamps are a cottage industry where people are proud of receiving food stamps. What started as a good program is lately an out to not get a job for some.  Some do deserve food stamps, and as a nation we need to have a program to help those, but it has gotten out of control.

Secretary Vilsack was in office when the Country of Origin Labeling was stopped by Congress, but that was brought on by Canada and the World Trade Organization. He tried to change the beef checkoff and that also was stopped by Congress.

The interesting part of the interview was when Vilsack talked about the Democrats and rural voters. Despite the Democrats helping to create a Rural Council to help champion federal efforts in rural America, election hopes for Hillary Clinton were partly undone by rural voters. Secretary Vilsack tried throughout the last year to encourage the Democratic Party to do a better job of talking to rural America. 

“Democrats need to talk to rural voters. That’s the first thing that has to happen. They can’t write them off,” Vilsack told his former advisor David Axelrod during the Democratic National Convention in July. 

The Secretary warned there was a price to pay for not talking to rural Americans. 

He said, “They can’t ignore them. They actually have to spend a little time talking to them. They have to basically start the conversation with thanks, thank you for what you do for us.”

He went on and said that “the food we eat, the water we drink, the energy we use and a significant percentage of the military we rely on comes from rural America.”

Well, the Democrats didn’t do that, and the rest is history. Rural America is proud to work over accepting a handout they were not entitled to, and so when they voted, they voted with pride.