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Casper – On May 11-13, the Society of American Foresters hosted their annual Colorado/Wyoming meeting, featuring educational talks and discussions led by presenters from around the country.

During the Wyoming Interagency Timber Meeting on May 11, State Natural Resource Advisor for U.S. Senator Barrasso, Travis McNiven, talked with attendees about the current political climate and recent changes at Capitol Hill.

Positions

Things are continuing to progress with President Trump’s cabinet, said McNiven.

“On April 28, he just nominated a gentleman by the name of David Bernhardt to be undersecretary, so he joins Secretary Zinke there at the Interior,” he commented.

On April 24, the Senate confirmed Sonny Purdue as the Secretary of Agriculture.

“There’s no doubt that a lack of a secretary has slowed the transition process and that really impacts the forest service,” noted McNiven. “We hope that there will be other key personnel coming for natural resources and the Forest Service.”

Beginning on May 11, Secretary Purdue began announcing restructuring changes for the USDA.

“The biggest change is there’s going to be a new undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs,” he said.

McNiven continued, “There’s also going to be a bit of a reshuffling with the Natural Resource Conservation Service as it will be shipped over to what’s called the Farm Services side of the new structure and be joined with the Farm Service Agency and risk management agency at USDA.”

According to McNiven, this will free up the Undersecretary of Natural Resources to focus primarily on the Forest Service.

Congress

As the 115th Congress progresses, McNiven noted that active management of forests is an important discussion topic.

“In Wyoming and other western states, the private land owners and state agencies in our industry and the stakeholders do a great job of managing the forests to reduce the fire risks, but in many ways forest management policy has agencies’ hands tied,” he said.

According to McNiven, large forest fires dramatically impact budgets, in addition to destroying wildlife habitat, causing soil erosion and air pollution.

“There’s millions of dollars in reclamation work that needs to be done down the road,” he commented. “It’s really been problematic on those fronts and then also policy with the never ending litigation of timber sales are often subject to.”

McNiven continued, “Those are some of the focuses we’ll be addressing in the upcoming Congress, as well as the Farm Bill.”

Trade

In 2006, McNiven explained that the U.S. and Canada reached an agreement that the U.S. would lift countervailing and other duties on certain Canadian timber if timber prices stayed above a certain point.

“That agreement expired in 2015 and since then, the two countries have failed to renegotiate a new agreement, primarily because Canada has effectively very little motivation to change the trade situation as it stands today,” he said.

On April 24, the Commerce Department announced they would implement tariffs up to 24 percent on Canadian softwood lumber imports, which McNiven noted has had “some ripple effects.”

“It has started to create a discussion with some of our Canadian friends who are calling on Canada to place tariffs on U.S. shipments of poles for Canadian imports,” commented McNiven. “There’s a little bit of a threat of retaliation if that goes through.”

He continued, “We’re hopeful that the two countries will be able to come back to the table and put an agreement back in place.”

Policy

McNiven explained that recent changes have been made in policy definition of biomass

“We just changed that biomass will be viewed by the United States government as carbon neutral at it relates to the carbon cycles,” he said.

While some argue that biomass is not carbon neutral because of emissions during logging and burning, McNiven noted the mindset is shortsighted.

“It fails to recognize and account for the fact that the harvesting of trees and biomass does promote forest regrowth, which is a carbon sink,” he continued. “Also, if we do nothing or take no action, wildfire emissions and decaying trees put out a lot more carbon and methane emission than the biomass industry.”

He explained that the opening paragraph of the policy states that federal agencies are to be consistent in the federal policies enforced and that they recognize the benefits of biomass used for energy, conservation and forest management.

“We definitely think that this is a step in the right direction, although not a silver bullet. This statement will start to set the table for federal policy,” McNiven concluded.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – During the 22nd Wyoming Women’s Ag Symposium, nearly 100 ladies from around the region gathered in Casper, where they started the event with a presentation by Karen Budd-Falen, Cheyenne attorney, on the impacts of federal government actions on the state.

“I am completely thrilled about the outcome of the election,” Budd-Falen said during the Nov. 10 event. “I think Hillary would have been the death of the livestock industry. But this is not a time for us to think that Washington will take care of us.”

She continued, “We have a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican President, but during the Reagan Administration, we did, too.”

Budd-Falen noted that with Jim Watt as Secretary of the Interior, the industry thought they could just sit back and relax, working at home on the ranch and ignoring Washington, D.C.

“But if we look at what the environmentalists did when Barack Obama was president, they filed more litigation against Barack Obama than they did against both George Bush’s combined,” she said. “They looked at it and thought they could get regulations and programs through.”

To continue to advance the livestock industry, Budd-Falen said now, as much as ever, the livestock industry must work in Washington, D.C. to push its agenda through.

“I am here to tell the livestock industry and here to tell women in agriculture that now is really the time to push on government to roll back some of the things that Bruce Babbitt did to us when Clinton was president all those years ago,” she commented.

America’s Great Outdoors

As a prime example of action enacted by the power of the pen through Executive and Secretarial Orders, Budd-Falen cited a project called America’s Great Outdoors.

“Obama put together this program called America’s Great Outdoors, but the only public comment he took was from college campuses,” she said. “Going around to a bunch of college campuses and asking college kids how they want to run public lands in Wyoming is a really bad plan.”

Out of the program, one policy that came through was the wildlands policy.

“The wildlands policy was created out of thin air through listening sessions on college campuses. They were able to create more wilderness without ever going through Congress,” she explained.

Secretaries of the Interior were confronted and told they had no authority to create wildlands through secretarial order, so they withdrew the wildlands order, instead writing nearly identical policies into regulations and handbooks.

“They just did it anyway,” Budd-Falen said. “One of the things we should push on is to get rid of provisions in the manuals and handbooks that don’t have any rule of law behind them. The federal government shouldn’t be able to make programs up as they please.”

Blueways

Another program from America’s Great Outdoors was the National Blueways Program.

“The National Blueways Program is another one of my favorite Executive Orders,” she said. “That program was one where the Department of the Interior took entire watersheds and federalized them.”

The first designated water was the Connecticut River, which took in four or five eastern states without input from local governments. Then, Department of the Interior attempted to do the same thing on the White River in Arkansas.

“The Governor of Arkansas came to Congress and testified, saying that they had no legal authority to create this thing,” Budd-Falen explained. “Then, they tried to designate the Yellowstone River, over 56 million acres that would have fallen into that area.”

However, the Department of the Interior encountered fierce pushback, and they withdrew the designation.

Endangered species

In addition to the National Blueways Program, Budd-Falen said that one of the most horrible things done by the Obama Administration is related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“ESA was not meant to protect every bug, mouse and snake on the planet,” Budd-Falen commented. “When Richard Nixon signed the Act, there were 11 original species they sought to protect, and they were big, cool species like the American crocodile, the grizzly bear and Bald eagle.”

However, today, 2,258 plants and animals are on the ESA, with 633 of those in foreign countries.

In February 2016, the Obama Administration made several changes to the ESA that impact landowners.

“Critical habitat, under the Act, was habitat where the species lives,” Budd-Falen explained. “In February of this year, Obama completely turned that on its head.”

“For one thing, he said that we are no longer going to look at habitat that the species currently has. We can designate critical habitat anywhere the species’ range was at one time,” she continued. “And, Fish and Wildlife Service can go to a map and designate critical habitat where the species might feel like living some day, based on climate change.”

Additionally, changes were made to notice requirements for critical habitat. It is no longer required that critical habitat be noticed by providing legal descriptions. Rather, the only requirement is that a map be published on an 8.5 by 11 piece of paper in the Federal Register.

“Then, they said it isn’t enough to protect critical habitat,” Budd-Falen continued. “They want to protect temporary habitat, ephemeral habitat and migratory habitat.”

“I think this is really frightening,” Budd-Falen said. “It’s a frightening take-hold of our private property rights.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As Election Day draws closer, Liz Cheney continues campaigning across the state, telling Wyomingites her story and the reasons she will make the best candidate for Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“If I’m elected, one of my top priorities will be to make sure we are able to undo as much of the damage from the Obama years as possible,” Cheney says. “We need to start by rolling back the size, scope and authority of the federal government, particularly as it comes to issues like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), among others.”

Committee work

As a first priority, if elected, Cheney says she will focus on being placed in the right committees.

“My priority would be the Natural Resources Committee,” she explains. “I think that committee is hugely important for Wyoming because of the public lands issues.”

Cheney also says she would like to play a role in the national security arena, including making sure the military has the appropriate resources and the country is well defended.

Federal overreach

As a top issue, federal overreach is widespread throughout the current administration in Washington, D.C.

“When we look at things like BLM Planning 2.0, for example, making sure that people understand how dangerous it is and how it is a threat to our sovereignty is important,” Cheney comments. “I think it’s important that Wyoming’s representative is really leading on these issues.”

As she looks back 40 years, Cheney says that the federal government used to operate such that the general population believed they were operating in good faith and that the government listened to the people.

“I think that sense is gone today,” she says. “We really need to re-establish why local control is so important.”

She adds, “We also have to make sure that we explain to people the extent to which these agencies are operating outside of the law.”

Solid action

To start the reforms process, Cheney sees that repeal of a number of pieces of legislation as an important place to start.

“We have to think of creative ways to tie the hands of these agencies,” she explains.

Cheney believes that one of the best ways to solve some of the problems in today’s government is by looking at repealing pieces of legislation, such as the Endangered Species Act and estate tax legislation.

“Fundamental regulatory reform and really limiting the ability of agencies to change the meaning of the law by the rules that they pass are very important,” she continues. “We need clear, quantitative requirements.”

Moving to local control

“We have got to have more authority invested in the state,” Cheney says, adding that government that is closer to the people it governs is better.

The concept also applies to federal lands, though Cheney does not believe that clear-cut transfer of public lands to state hands is the best solution.

“I think there are a lot of options when we look at federal lands,” she says. “I think it’s important to guarantee access and make sure the state has the resources it needs for an increased role that we ought to play.”

She continues that management of federal lands is not a cut-and-dry issue with a simple "yes" or "no" answer.

“We’ve got to do whatever is best for the land and the people of Wyoming,” Cheney comments. “Certainly more authority and more autonomy is important, but this issue is too big and too important to answer with a 'yes' or 'no' response.”

“The people who are dependent on the land ought to be in charge of it,” she adds.

When the federal government begins to get involved in people’s lives, the result is often unfavorable, Cheney adds, noting that healthcare is an prime example.

“That is what happens when the government starts to reach its tentacles in,” Cheney comments. “We shouldn’t have to keep learning this lesson over and over again.”

Running for Congress

“It has been a real honor to be the Republican nominee,” Cheney comments. “I think it’s a sacred obligation and duty to be Wyoming’s representative in Congress.”

She adds, “If I’m honored to be elected, I’ll fight every day on behalf of these issues that impact Wyoming. These are issues I really care about and will fight for so that we’re able to build the kind of coalitions we need to defend our people.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Running for Wyoming’s lone seat in the House of Representatives hasn’t been an easy feat, but Ryan Greene, Democrat candidate for House, is confident that he is the best choice to represent Wyomingites in Washington, D.C.

Priorities

As he looks to representing the state, Greene says his first priority would be to bring Wyoming tax dollars back to the state.

“We send tons of our taxes to D.C., and I think we need to fight to bring those back in the form of grants,” Greene says. “Farmers and ranchers could all benefit from things like rural healthcare, improved transportation, export assistance and infrastructure improvements.”

He also sees that decreasing the overreach of the federal government is also a top priority.

“I am also a small businessman,” Greene says. “I’ve helped my family expand one welding truck into a 250-employee energy service company.”
He started as a welder and worked his way up the chain to operations director.

“Every single day, I have to put up with red tape and regulations,” he comments. “Personally, I see the impact of these things. I will work to get the federal government off our backs.”

Finally, Greene promises that he will work to “keep public lands in public hands.”

“This priority is so important to me,” he says. “Under our system, Wyoming became the number one coal state in the country. Under this system, Wyoming became one of the top oil and gas producers in this country, and under this system, we can hunt and fish wherever we’d like.”

Greene adds, “The reality is, the state sells land. When that happens, hunters lose access and ranchers pay more for grazing. I say we keep public lands in public hands, and I’ll fight for that every day in Congress.”

As he looks at examples from around the country, he sees the loss of public lands as an assault on freedoms, and he promises to fight to preserve freedom for Wyomingites.

Work in Washington

If elected to the House of Representatives, Greene looks to leverage his background on committees.

“I’ve worked for 18 years in Wyoming’s coalmines, the oil patch and the fertilizer plant,” he says. “I would certainly try to leverage my background in these industries to get on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”

He also will prioritize the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Agriculture Committee as committees he hopes to serve on.

“I work with these industries every day, and my expertise is in those industries,” Greene says. “I would hope to serve those industries on committees.”

First term

With just under a month left to campaign, Greene also adds that he is realistic in his goals for his first several years in Washington, D.C.

“I have to be honest with what I can accomplish as a freshman congressman,” he says. “Big promises are not going to serve Wyoming well. It’s important not to promise the voters the world from a first-term congressman.”

Greene adds that the extravagant promises of congressmen and women across the country are likely the reason that Congress has only a nine percent approval rating.

“At the end of the day, it’s just not realistic to make big promises,” Greene comments. “I will work to leverage my backgrounds to work in my committees. I will do what I can to work with both parties to make sure Wyoming issues are represented on both sides of the aisle.”

Working forward

Greene also adds that it is important to work together in Washington, D.C.

“I am the only candidate who will work with whoever America elects as their next president,” he comments. “I will make sure that Wyoming’s issues are represented.”

As he looks at Wyoming, Greene comments that our state is one of only four in the nation that does not have a growing economy.

“We have to take a look at what we can do for Wyoming,” he says.

Greene also notes that this election is critical.

“There are so many things at stake and so many critical issues we should be talking about,” he comments. “We need to ask these questions and discuss the solutions. We need to work together.”

“I look at taking practical, proactive steps to accomplishing our goals,” Greene notes. “We need to have Wyoming in our conversation to start working to advance Wyoming issues.”

Whether he is elected or not, Greene comments that he understands the agriculture industry and the energy industry, and he believes that he can make an impact for Wyomingites.

“I have put my sweat and muscle into our ag sector,” he says. “I want to ask Wyoming’s ag communities, will they support someone who has supported you? Win or lose, I will keep working with the ag industry. The other candidates can’t say the same.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

After several years deliberating and refining, United States President Barack Obama officially signed into law the Genetic Modified Organism (GMO) Labeling Bill on July 29, which prevents states from requiring on-package text to identify GMO products.

The monumental passing of the bill will have significant impacts on biotechnology, food processers and agricultural producers alike.

“We cannot understate the importance of this agreement and the importance of this bill. I’ve been covering farm policy full-time for 17 years now, and this labeling issue has been a huge issue not only in the United States, but internationally ever since then,” said AgriPulse Senior Editor Philip Brasher.

Brasher was joined by AgriPulse Associate Editor Spencer Chase to give recent update regarding the bill in a recent video interview.

Bill stipulations

According to Brasher, the two most important elements of the bill for the agricultural industry are labeling language requirements and the definition of GMO products that would require labeling.

Genetically modified organisms, for the purpose of the bill, are identified as those products that are produced through transgenic technology.

“The definition of genetic engineering for the purposes of this disclosure is pretty narrow. It’s limited to the sort of transgenic products that we now have on the market where we take a gene from a bacteria and put it in a plant,” said Brasher.

New techniques, such as gene editing and RNA interference are not covered by the definition and will not require mandatory labeling.

The bill will also not require the labeling of meat products that were fed genetically modified products prior to slaughter.

The mandatory disclosure element of the bill will not require on-package text but allows food companies to have the option to choose text, a digital quick response code or a symbol that will be chosen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“It was very important for the industry that there not be on-package labeling, any kind of on-package text requirement for it to say produced by genetic engineering,” said Brasher.

Uniformity

Creating a uniform system was an important issue in developing the bill. Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Director of Public and Governmental Affairs Brett Moline referenced the issues faced with organic labeling 15 years ago, noting that it was important to avoid the same inconsistencies with GMO labeling.

“Every state was doing their own thing. For example, somebody who went to Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming for farmers’ markets would have to have three different labels,” said Moline.

The GMO labeling bill preempts state laws that many were concerned about, said Chase.

Brasher continued, “States can pass their own laws, but they have to be identical to the federal standards.”

Next steps

The next step for the GMO labeling bill will be to transition to rulemaking by USDA to determine how to implement the regulations.

“It moves on to the process of USDA rule making. That process is expected to take two years,” said Chase.

Brasher noted that the rulemaking process has already begun. However, challenges in court can be expected.

“They have a working group that is already preparing for the implementation of that rule,” said Brasher. “That rule is likely to be challenged in court, but it’s very important in terms of setting the specifics of how this disclosure standard will work.”

Producer impacts

Mandatory disclosure may lead to consumer bias against genetic modification, resulting in companies moving away from the technology, explained Brasher.

“This agreement really lays out the future for ag biotech because there’s been so much concern for so long among farmers, food companies and biotech companies that if GMO labeling were required, that it would stigmatize the technology and companies would move away from it,” said Brasher.

Moline warned producers that this bias, along with the cost of labeling products may impact the profit of food companies and then impact prices paid to producers.

“It all trickles down. If the costs up the chain goes up, it comes back to the producer being paid less for their product,” said Moline.

Moline noted that the changes in the market may be more profitable for small segments of the agricultural industry, including organic producers.

“Some segments of the industry might come up, like the organic, but it’s a small segment of the population of production,” continued Moline.

Future implications

Future impacts on the agricultural industry remain uncertain, said Moline.

“We’ll have to see how this next presidential election comes out, as that could greatly impact it. What other countries and nations do, that could impact it some,” he said. “Right now, it’s kind of a wait-and-see attitude.”

He noted that the immediate impact of the labeling being put into place will most likely be negative for the agricultural industry as stigmatism encourages food companies to move away from transgenic technology.

“The overall ramifications to production agriculture are probably going to be negative until we get more research money to improve our crop genetics the old fashioned way, so to speak,” continued Moline.

According to Brasher, food companies will continue to move toward using new techniques such as RNA interference that are not covered by the bill.

“We’re going to see even more companies moving toward that,” concluded Brasher.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.