Wyoming Farm Bureau sets policy for coming year, addresses multiple ag issuesWritten by Christy Martinez
Laramie – Policies dealing with wolves, eminent domain, conservation easements and federal land issues were among the many policies adopted at the 92nd annual meeting of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB). Held Nov. 10-12 in Cheyenne, the meeting is an important step in the grassroots policy development process of Farm Bureau.
“Farm Bureau policy is founded on the protection of private property rights, constitutional government and individual freedoms,” says WyFB President Perry Livingston. “The policy discussions focused on many different issues relating to our founding principles.”
Farm Bureau members voted to approve a change to Wyoming Farm Bureau wolf policy. WyFB President Perry Livingston shared this support with Governor Matt Mead when he addressed Farm Bureau members at the annual meeting Nov. 11.
“Governor, we thank you for your work and we want you to know that this morning county voting delegates voted to approve a change to Wyoming Farm Bureau policy to support state management of wolves in accordance with the agreement you reached with the federal government,” Livingston said.
Several policies reaffirmed Farm Bureau’s efforts to reform eminent domain laws. According to Ken Hamilton, WyFB executive vice president, the members reiterated their desire to have annual payments for easements or licenses.
Additional policy calls for restricting for-profit carriers from being able to utilize eminent domain until they have at least two-thirds of the affected landowners who will sign an easement. Additional policy states that for-profit carriers moving across private land should indemnify those private landowners from any possible problems that could occur as a result of their presence.
Regarding conservation easements, members reaffirmed policy that calls for conservation easements to be taxed at full market value.
“This further reiterates the concern our members have with the large amount of money being funneled into conservation easements purchased by the federal government,” explains Hamilton. “They’ve recognized the impact it will have on local communities when land use/development is restricted.”
“The federalization of private property is an issue our kids will have to deal with,” he continues. “When a lot of the land that could be used for economic purposes is restricted, it ties the hands of future generations and also takes the land out of the property tax rolls.”
Farm Bureau members expressed opposition to the Building the Wyoming We Want/High Plains Initiative, United Nations Agenda 21, Smartgrowth and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The discussion centered around protecting private property rights and trying to avoid groups with outside interests coming in to influence Wyoming’s development,” says Hamilton.
The increased use of the judicial branch by many organizations whose primary goal is to do away with production agriculture continues to be a concern of Farm Bureau members. Wyoming Farm Bureau policy supports the return of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) to its original intent, which was curbing abusive government action against individual citizens and be subject to full disclosure and review.
New policy passed this year supports H.B. 1996, the Government Litigation Savings Act, sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
“Taxpayer money is being used to reimburse environmental organizations who are suing the federal government,” states Hamilton. “Our members support this legislation which would give transparency to the EAJA and relieve the taxpayer’s burden of paying for the litigation of environmental organizations.”
Policy was approved that supports moving grazing permit renewals from a 10-year period to a 20-year period.
“The biggest concern is due to the efforts by environmentalists to slow the process down, federal agencies can’t comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in a timely fashion to get the permits renewed,” explains Hamilton. “By extending the renewal period, it would at least double the amount of time they have available to comply with NEPA.”
The national debt discussion was discussed and new policy calls for Wyoming’s elected representatives to be allowed to get in on the debt discussion.
“The biggest concern our members have is these meetings are going on behind closed doors and that isn’t how a representative democracy should work,” says Hamilton.
The federal government owns approximately one-third of the landmass in the United States. Policy was passed calling for federal land acquisition programs to be defunded. These programs include the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and all other programs that have a land purchase component.
“There are a lot of programs out there that have ‘feel good’ titles, but at end of day they result in private lands being purchased and put into federal ownership,” states Hamilton.
In other federal land management issues, policy passed that would seek to remove national grasslands management from the U.S. Forest Service and turn it over to grazing association boards.
Revisiting and reaffirming Farm Bureau policies was a large portion of the resolution process this year. Farm Bureau members strongly oppose mandated government run health care. Members supported a reaffirmation of current policy that opposes the American Health Care Act of 2010.
Members reaffirmed once again their support for the Fair Tax issue.
“This concept seems to be something that is relevant now during the Republican primary campaign,” says Hamilton.
Members also reaffirmed policy that calls for restrictions on pension payments to elected officials once they are no longer in office.
“Invaluable discussion was exchanged on these resolutions to determine what is in the best interest of all of agriculture and Farm Bureau,” Livingston concludes. “The resolutions passed at the state level guide the work of our organization for the coming year.”
“We will begin working immediately to implement these policies that the members have developed,” concludes Hamilton.
Information provided by WyFB.