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D.C. Time

Written by Jennifer Womack

    “Money” was the theme of discussions in the nation’s capitol late February. Will the stimulus package work? Is a budget with another trillion dollars in deficit spending the answer? On Tuesday Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union and on Thursday he rolled out his first budget, which includes a “trillion” dollars in deficit spending.
    I’ll be the first to admit I have trouble keeping my millions, billions and trillions straight. I hope I don’t see the day D.C. starts talking in quadrillions, quintillions and sextillions, or I’ll be lost. At some point, maybe around a million, it becomes rather abstract in my mind. One thing I do know is that a trillion is a lot of money, even in Washington, D.C. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack put it in perspective for me when he said a trillion seconds ago was 30,000 years B.C. I counter that we may be at least a trillion seconds, or maybe that’s a quadrillion seconds, away from paying this whole project off.
    Just two days after the State of the Union, and simultaneous to his first budget unveiling, the nation’s agricultural leaders were gathering in the nation’s capitol to discuss their economic future. A reported 1,700 people were in attendance for the annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. Attending from Wyoming were Grant Stumbough with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Southeast Wyoming Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) president and rancher Jack Pugsley of Goshen County and myself.
    While it’s not all wine and roses, agriculture’s economic outlook sounds pretty good amidst the more general discussions surrounding the economy. As Obama Administration Economist Larry Summers talked about how to stave off more foreclosures, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack didn’t overlook agriculture’s challenges, but they were much smaller in magnitude.
    Grant, coordinator for the Southeast Wyoming RC&D, was invited to D.C. to speak at the annual gathering on the landowner associations he’s helped develop in southeast Wyoming for reasons of leasing wind development rights. A strong audience turned out for the presentation and Grant received numerous questions afterwards. It was quite an honor for Grant to be invited to speak at this event that highlights the most exciting developments in American agriculture.
    Grant’s message of how landowner associations have helped achieve market discovery and better leases was well received by an audience comprised of everyone from lawyers to consultants to economists. Before leaving the event he added to his ever-growing list of speaking engagement invitations. We’ll undoubtedly see more landowner associations in the nation’s windier areas in the months to come.
    Presidential stardom has struck D.C., Barack Obama’s picture is everywhere. On the plane ride home a younger D.C. resident told me, “I bet you can even buy Obama waffle irons.” That same young man told me that D.C. folks applaud the fact that the new president is getting out to D.C. events like a local basketball game and eating at local restaurants. He didn’t mention millions, billions and trillions.
Jen