Mead reappoints Fearneyhough to WDA
Cheyenne – On Jan. 24 Gov. Mead announced the reappointment of Jason Fearneyhough as Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Director.
Fearneyhough has been director of the department for a year and a half.
“The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is the ability to work with people in the state of Wyoming,” says Fearneyhough of his time with the WDA to date. “It’s been truly enjoyable to get to know more and more ag folks, and we have a great state here full of great people.”
Looking to the immediate future, he and his staff will work together to gain more efficiency in the department, as requested by the Governor.
“The Governor has asked all directors to take a look at how we can improve what we do,” says Fearneyhough. “He asked me to sign a letter agreeing to look at my department and see where we could make some changes to benefit the bottom line.”
In that process, he says his department has already started planning to determine how business can be done differently.
Regarding the challenges of his position, Fearneyhough says some that are faced every day are those created by the federal government.
“We try to help producers interact and work within the federal system, and at times stand up against that system,” he says. “Those are challenges that I don’t think will ever go away, and it’s important we work together to decide when to stand up to federal issues, and when to work with them.”
He says some of the obvious issues are sage grouse, wolves and grizzlies. “We see the frustration on the faces of the ranchers who are in the midst of those, and we try to understand and help them through that process, which makes the job worth it.”
On the regulatory side of the WDA, Fearneyhough says he thinks his staff has done a good job in seeing how to better use utilize technology to get the regulatory work done, whether it be in food safety or fuel. “We need to keep those programs strong,” he comments.
Regarding policy, Fearneyhough says he thinks the department has started down a good road in both the natural resource section and administration in making sure the department is heard on both state and federal issues.
“We’re a well-respected voice, and we’ve been a pretty loud voice over the last few years,” he says. “I think we need to continue to enhance that, and I will have the opportunity to do that as I move up in a couple organizations, like become the vice chair for the natural resources committee of NASDA, or the National Association of State Departments of Agiculture.”
Another event on the horizon of the WDA is the celebration of the 100th Wyoming State Fair in 2012.
“We want to focus not only on the celebration, but on how we make the state fair, both as a park and as an event, better going into the next 100 years,” says Fearneyhough.
So far a committee has been formed to begin event planning, and additional funding for the celebration has been requested from the Wyoming Legislature.
Looking to this year’s General Session and the bills that relate to the WDA, HB8, the Wyoming Traditional Food Act, is still moving through the legislature, while the HB 11, the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, and HB17, the raw milk bill, have died.
“Although there are still some areas of concern to us, the Wyoming Traditional Food Act accomplishes what it needs to in making sure people have the opportunity to practice those traditional events,” says Fearneyhough of the bill. “Food safety is a topic we’re hearing more about nationally, and I assume we’ll continue to hear discussions on both sides of this argument.”
Fearneyhough says two additional food bills have been introduced in the House - HB 228 and HB 226.
The Rangeland Health Assessment bill passed in the 2010 legislature, and this year, after the requested rulemaking, the WDA has returned to request the $200,000 in funding that was vetoed by Governor Freudenthal.
The WDA has also asked for $2.66 million for grasshopper programs in the state. “We’re expecting those numbers to be high again, and we’ve asked for another program this year,” says Fearneyhough.
Looking to the department’s future, he says, “It will be interesting to work through some of the challenges that Gov. Mead has laid out in looking at changes in doing business. I have a great staff, and I know they’ll work through the process with me to make sure we have the best department and are running as efficiently as we can.”
Concerning a deputy director for the WDA, Freudenthal says he’s committed to working with Gov. Mead to make a selection sooner rather than later.