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The Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom (WAIC) Bookmark Program continues to be a powerful way for students across the state to share an impactful agriculture and natural resource message with their peers through amazing artwork.

WAIC is thrilled to see the participation numbers rise this year. The contest is open to students in grades 2-5 across the state. This year, WAIC received a record number of submissions, with over 3,000 entries and all 23 counties participating.

The 11 finalists were invited to Cheyenne for a day to meet Gov. Mead and enjoy a luncheon celebration, followed by an agricultural canvas painting. We appreciate the opportunity to share photos of the students and their artwork over the next few weeks for all to see the talented work of our youth.

The increase in the Bookmark Program participation is just the first milestone to come for WAIC this year. We are hard at work planning for the Wyoming Stewardship Project. Educators from across the state will join WAIC and the Wyoming Department of Education this summer to continue revising and writing units for classrooms. This project has the opportunity to truly make a shift for our students in their understanding and engagement in the future of our state. The mission is for students to gain an understanding of Wyoming’s vast resources and become informed citizens, capable of serving as stewards for Wyoming’s future.

The Bookmark and Wyoming Stewardship Project are just two examples of the profound work WAIC is committed to. Our progress is Wyoming’s progress and we are truly grateful for all the support across the state. Thank you to all those who are helping us make a difference!

Over the next 10 weeks, photos of students with their bookmarks will be found in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. For more information on WAIC, visit

Wheat harvest is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and prayers. As the big day approaches, farmers contemplate many questions. What is the yield going to be? Is the quality going to be good enough to avoid discounts? Will the price go up or down? At the same time, on the other end of the supply chain, their customers are pondering many of the same questions. 

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) sends a group of farmers selected by state wheat commissions to tour a region of the world and gain a better understanding of what customers want and need. Earlier this month, three U.S. farmers traveled to Mexico, Haiti, Ecuador and Chile, including Rachael Vonderhaar, a wheat farmer from Camden, Ohio and secretary of the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program; Eric Spates, a wheat farmer from Poolesville, Md; and member of the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board; and Ken Tremain, a wheat farmer from LaGrange and member of the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission. Shawn Campbell, deputy director of USW’s West Coast Office, led the team and was joined by overseas staff based in the USW Mexico City and USW Santiago offices.

“I wanted a better understanding of the full supply chain logistics from my farm to Latin America,” said Vonderhaar. “The trip was a big commitment of time and energy away from our farming operation but necessary to understand the buying decisions of millers.”

Spates added, “I hoped to learn about international wheat trade and what USW does, and I was not disappointed.”   

In Mexico, the team found the largest importer of hard red winter (HRW) and soft red winter (SRW) wheat, an advanced milling industry and a well-funded association dedicated to constant improvement of the country’s baking industry. On average the past five years, Mexico has imported 4.4 million metric tons (MMT) of wheat annually, of which 70 percent is U.S. wheat.

However, thanks to competitive pricing and low ocean freight rates, the United States is facing increasing competition from Canada, Europe and the Black Sea region. The customers the team met also expressed concerned about U.S. political rhetoric on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“It is important to keep our legislators aware of our buyers’ needs,” said Tremain. “Trade with our partners is vitally important and necessary for good relationships.”  

The visit to Haiti, the least economically developed country in the Western Hemisphere, was a major learning experience for the team. Haiti imports 134,000 metric tons (MT) annually, 57 percent of which comes from the United States, with the remainder sourced from Russia, Canada and Mexico. Haiti is an underdeveloped market, but with a population of 10 million people, it is growing. The team got a firsthand look at the challenges USW overseas staff face in their efforts to promote U.S. wheat exports there. 

“I was most surprised by the poverty in Haiti,” said Spates. “The conditions are emblematic of the varied and challenging places USW works, and yet, Haiti is a market with great potential to import more U.S. wheat.”

In Ecuador, the team observed the country’s democracy in action as its citizens voted for its next president. Ecuador imports 710,000 MT of wheat annually but only 33 percent comes from the United States, a marked difference compared to neighboring countries.

Ecuador is a former favorite of the now defunct Canadian Wheat Board, which aggressively defended its market share there. Now USW representatives are working diligently to demonstrate the increased value to be found in U.S. wheat. A highlight in Ecuador was the tour of a cookie plant.

“We received many compliments on U.S. wheat quality,” said Vonderhaar. “But the buyers are definitely aware of weather issues that affect quality from year to year and are very clear about their expectations for clean wheat.”

The journey’s final leg was to Chile, a country with a highly developed milling and baking industry constantly working to guarantee they receive the highest quality wheat at the lowest price. Chile imports an average of 845,000 MT annually, of which 45 percent comes from the United States. Major competitors include Canada and a resurgent Argentina, which is rapidly becoming a major exporter again since its government removed wheat export tariffs last year. The team met with several millers in Chile who were excited to show off their mills and quality laboratories.

The team members returned home with a greater appreciation for the nuances of overseas demand and USW’s activities to foster increased demand for their wheat.

“I am impressed with and appreciate the strong personal friendships USW people have built within the region, said Vonderharr. “I want to make sure we are growing wheat that our Latin American millers and bakers demand.”

“USW has a complicated job promoting wheat around the globe as some customers are very receptive to their efforts, and some less so,” said Spates. “Hearing the millers emphasize the need for quality certainly reinforced my commitment to producing high quality wheat.”

“We have a responsibility to share with other farmers what we learned about the kind of quality our buyers expect from the United States,” said Tremain. “USW is vital in the promotion of our product.”

The team will report to the USW Board of Directors later this year. To see pictures from this USW Board Team trip, visit

As I look back on 2016, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside you and serve as your American Farm Bureau president. I am proud of the work our nation’s farmers and ranchers do day-in and day-out. I am equally proud of how our state and national Farm Bureau staff work just as tirelessly to ensure farmers and ranchers can continue to feed and fuel our country and the world for generations to come.

When I addressed you for the first time as your American Farm Bureau president in Orlando last January, I committed to working with you all to solve the problems facing agriculture – and that’s just what we’re doing.

This year, I’ve had the privilege of visiting 33 states – and counting – across our great country to meet with Farm Bureau members face-to-face. Each region, every state and all types of agriculture have unique challenges. I have been heartened by one common thread – a reminder of just how critical the reforms Farm Bureau is fighting for are to rural families and farm businesses.

Looking ahead to 2017, we see a clear need for regulatory and tax reform that frees farmers and ranchers to keep their businesses running and gives them flexibility to invest in their local economies. We need to put a stop to regulatory overreach that threatens to put a chokehold on farmers. We need greater access to markets around the world and a stable, legal workforce to ensure we continue leading the world in agricultural production. But none of these reforms will happen if we don’t unite around the table and speak up. 

As I’ve traveled our great country, I’ve been reminded time and again of how much we can accomplish when we learn from our differences and work together.

America’s farmers and ranchers aren’t defined by our struggles. We’re defined by what we do best. We lead, feed and fuel the world.

We didn’t take up the work of farming and ranching because we expected it to be easy. While agriculture is our business, it is also our calling. We are called to take up this work out of love for our family and our neighbors. It’s a mission we take seriously because we believe we’ve been given a unique task to care for the land and animals entrusted to us by our Creator. We have a responsibility to consumers as we grow the highest quality food, fiber and fuel while protecting our precious natural resources. We must continue to earn consumer trust as we strive for continuous improvement in everything we do.

The great story of American agriculture is one of hard work, ingenuity and passion, and it’s a story best told by the folks who live it. Farmers and ranchers made their voices heard in 2016, but we need to keep telling our stories if we want to be at the heart of shaping the policies that will impact our businesses and way of life. The close of one year ushers in new goals for the next, and I am confident that working together through Farm Bureau offers us that common platform for progress. During this new year, I will continue to learn about your challenges and your triumphs, and like 2016, I look forward to hearing many of your stories face-to-face.

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Ga., is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Some 44 percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater, the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rock and sand, for its drinking water supply – be it from either a public source or private well. In rural areas, the number is about 96 percent. That fact alone justifies the need for National Groundwater Awareness Week, to be observed March 5-11.

But groundwater is important to us in many other ways, as well. Consider the following.

Groundwater provides much of the flow of many streams. Often lakes and streams are “windows” to the water table. Groundwater adds 492 billion gallons per day to U.S. surface water bodies. In large part, the flow in a stream represents water that has flowed from the ground into the stream channel.

Scientists estimate U.S. groundwater reserves to be at least 33,000 trillion gallons – equal to the amount discharged into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River in the past 200 years.

The United States uses 79.6 billion gallons per day of fresh groundwater for public supply, private supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power and other purposes.

Groundwater is tapped through wells placed in water-bearing soils and rocks beneath the surface of the Earth. There are nearly 15.9 million of these wells serving households, cities, business and agriculture every day. Wells are constructed by the 8,100 contracting firms employing nearly 45,000 people dedicated to providing and protecting our nation’s groundwater supplies.

Irrigation accounts for the largest use of groundwater in the United States, about 67.2 percent of all the groundwater pumped each day. Some 53.5 billion gallons of groundwater are used daily for agricultural irrigation from more than 407,913 wells. Irrigation is a major reason for the abundance of fresh produce and grains that we all enjoy.

One ton of groundwater used by industry generates an estimated $14,000 worth of output.

These facts help us connect with the important role we each play as stewards or protectors of groundwater. Man can adversely affect the resource. Fortunately, there are simple steps that will help protect groundwater and the wells systems that distribute it.

Always use licensed or certified water well drillers and pump installers when a well is constructed or serviced or when the pump is installed or serviced.

Keep hazardous materials away from any well. Never dump such materials, motor oil or anything else that could impact water quality, onto the land surface, into a hole or pit or into a surface water supply.

These tips and more are available from sources such as a state groundwater or water well association, National Ground Water Association (NGWA) or from your county agricultural Extension agent or state government agency with responsibility for groundwater. A convenient source for a broader understanding of our groundwater protector role can be found at, a web service of NGWA.

National Groundwater Awareness Week is not a celebration such as the Fourth of July has become. Instead, we should use the week to reflect more deeply on groundwater’s value and its contributions to our lives.

There can be two different points of view when it comes to implementing a weed management program. Some believe action is the foundational key to all success. Others might believe in the adage that success doesn’t happen – it’s planned for. I am not sure I can tell you which philosophy I adhere to the strongest, but my ego keeps trying to assure me I live somewhere in the middle.

The value in the two philosophical approaches, when applied to landscape-scale, is weed management programs may be the perfect example of an antinomy, contradictive statements but both apparently obtained by correct reasoning. So instead of arguing over the two, we may be better served to look at the key elements shared by both planning and action when it comes to weed management.

It won’t take long for even the novice observer to see both share three broad categories – policy, capacity and funding. Each of these has their own set of challenges and barriers. The complexity of each also increases as we try to address them on the county, state and federal management levels. Yet, when a landscape-scale management program finds the balance between the three, typically planning and action are mutually rewarding.

A successful program doesn’t have to be perfect in all three categories. Where funding falls short, there may be ways through policy and capacity to balance the shortcomings. However, if one of the three elements is severely restricted or underutilized, the other two become ineffective. Likewise, none of the three will ever be perfected in a landscape-scale approach.


Capacity is the least concerning of the three in Wyoming. With Weed and Pest Control Districts established in each county, the availability of qualified and experienced help is readily accessible to both private and government land management practitioners. Not only does this resource assist landowners with noxious weed and pest management planning and control, they are also used by state agencies, such as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, for professional assistance in their noxious weed programs. Federal agencies such as Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation also depend on the districts when it comes to implementing noxious weed management. Furthermore, when emergency situations such as West Nile virus and grasshopper outbreaks present themselves, most of the districts have found the capacity to assist or implement large-scale programs to address them.


Funding for noxious weed management in Wyoming may not be as consistent as capacity. However, it has been enhanced due to the capacity of the Weed and Pest Control Districts. Contracting with the districts reduces costs for state programs, such as WYDOT’s right-of-way noxious weed control. This minimizes additional costs and equipment burdens for WYDOT to run the program internally. Additionally, with the availability of established districts, utilization of state and federal grant funds is maximized for on-the-ground treatments without the need to charge program-crippling administrative fees.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a need for improvement in funding. Federal and state funding goes through trends sometimes associated with current events. Grants can be especially unstable from year-to-year, making long-term planning an intimidating endeavor. Recently, many of the state grant programs utilized for weed management and other natural resource projects have been reduced to offset budget shortfalls. To compensate, many Weed and Pest Control District boards have effectively utilized reserve accounts within their budget planning to stabilize long-term objectives and for unforeseen emergencies such as cyclic grasshopper outbreaks.


Policy often feels like the most abundant and burdensome of the three, especially when dealing with the federal lands. Federal regulatory policy, such as National Environmental Policy Act and agency pesticide risk assessments, can be unnecessary, burdensome and slow. However, federal policy can also be constructive such as the National Framework for Early Detection and Rapid Response; 2016-18 National Invasive Species Management Plan; Invasive Plant Management and Greater Sage Grouse Conservation; and Presidential Executive Order 13112 – Safeguarding the Nation from Impacts of Invasive Species update.

However, as Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman said, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

In the case of noxious weed management, too much policy without complementary funding and resources becomes ineffective and pointless. With the support of the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council, both Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) have tried to address this problem with federal legislation aimed at removing federal policy and funding barriers obstructing invasive species management.

As complicated and variable policy, capacity and funding can be on a landscape-scale weed management program, control is not an unachievable goal, but that isn’t to say it’s easy, either. The efforts of the Weed and Pest Control Districts to effectively address these three components is largely why they can routinely provide high quality weed and pest control.

The end result is successful actions and effective planning that is a benefit to the counties and the state.