2014 shows promise for Wyo agriculture
With 2013 behind us and wet snow for the first days of 2014, Wyoming agriculture industry groups are optimistic about the coming year.
Cattle prices are projected to be higher than normal and drought is easing across much of the country, leading to optimism throughout much of the industry.
“I am going to take an optimistic outlook on 2014,” comments Leanne Correll, Wyoming Livestock Board director and CEO. “We have had issues with livestock over the past year, but when we look at the big picture, it has been positive. “
Correll adds that she looks progress toward to continuing forward with the WLSB computerization project and the challenges that it will bring.
“The biggest challenges I see in 2014 are the changes in our day-to-day operation with the implementation of computerization,” she comments. “Hopefully the benefits will outweigh the detriments, and we are able to get to the point that it works well.”
“It will be challenging, but I am very optimistic that it will be a good year moving forward,” Correll adds.
Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton notes that farm policy will continue to be discussed on the national level into 2014.
“We’ll see discussions on the Farm Bill this year, and our folks in Washington, D.C. say that we will see something early in the year,” he says.
Currently, the sticking points for the Farm Bill include nutrition programs, but Hamilton also adds that elections in 2014 may results in changes in the House or Senate that could alleviate these issues for future legislation.
“If there is a change in the House or Senate, I’m sure it will change the way the political landscape works,” Hamilton adds.
Also nationally, Hamilton notes that the Chesapeake Bay decision related to the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to dictate total maximum daily loads and their implementation will affect Wyoming down the line.
“We are hopeful that the court will overturn that decision,” he says. “If the decision is upheld, the EPA will start moving into land use regulation through water quality, and that is a very serious concern.”
For 2014, Hamilton adds that the focus of Farm Bureau will be on national regulatory concerns.
For Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, 2014 brings several legislative concerns, as well as work on forests.
“Legislatively, there are a couple of things that are high on our agenda, and they carry over from 2013,” he says. “We didn’t quite get the bill on protection for landowners against liability for trespassers injured on their lands or the bill that puts parameters on state acquisition of land.”
The bills, Magagna said, will be introduced this year, and he hopes to see them passed.
He also mentioned the Grazing Improvement Act in the U.S. Congress, mentioning, “While it is a long way from anything acceptable, the fact that we were able to get grazing legislation through committee in the Senate creates some opportunity for 2014.”
He looks forward to moving in a positive direction with the legislation.
Magagna also serves in a national capacity on the Federal Forest Service Advisory Committee on the Forest Service Planning Rule.
“I think we came out with some very positive recommendations from the Forest Service that will be beneficial,” Magagna comments. “The devil will be in the implementation.”
Nationally, he says recommendations include enhancing the role of state and local governments in the planning process.
“There is also language with regards to water rights and recognizing the impacts of forests on downstream water supplies,” he explains. “The whole area of socio-economics and strengthening the rule of cultural consideration in the Forest Planning process was another area that we found common ground on.”
At the state level, he continues that Governor Mead’s Forest Health Task Force has begun meeting, and Magagna believes the group may be able to make changes to help livestock grazing.
The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) Executive Director Bobbie Frank says, “This year, I think most of our work will be with the industry and others to provide ground water related education.”
With Governor Mead’s Water Strategy being formed, Frank adds that dealing with water quality issues will continue to be a top priority.
“The state will also be issues a new updated version of the 303(d) list, so the change in workload for districts will also be coming,” she said.
Frank continues, “Like most years, we will have a combination of new efforts and completing projects.”
She notes that the Pathway to Water Quality project is nearly complete, and the Living Legacy program continues, but there are no new big-ticket projects that will be started by WACD this year.
Frank continues that as the listing decision for sage grouse approaches, WACD will be working with The Nature Conservancy and Wyoming Stock Growers Association to educate producers on the Sage Grouse Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances.
“We are not promoting the CCAA, but we are educating people on what it does,” Frank says. “For some producers, it will be a good fit, and for others, it won’t, but we will be part of the partnership making sure the word gets out.”
“If we see some decent rain and our cattle prices continue to stay, I think we will have a good year,” Hamilton says. “For producers raising corn, that may not be the case.”
While Hamilton notes that sometimes agriculture sees good years in one segment but not in other, he says, “It would be nice to see a good year all around.”
Magagna adds, “We’re looking forward to 2014.”
He continues, “I think there will be a number of issues we will discuss over the course of the next year, and it could reap benefits for us that aren’t necessarily enjoyed by other states.”