Members Find Strength in Wyoming Wool Growers Association
This has been a year of transition for the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA). WWGA has undergone some significant changes but is clearly emerging as a stronger and more effective membership association. The focus this year has been to strengthen our grassroots membership through a concerted and determined outreach effort.
Key to this is timely and relevant information.
The sheep industry faces some substantial hurdles that quite literally threaten the future of sheep ranching in Wyoming, and making certain that our members are aware of these problems and the myriad complex issues that surround them helps us be more responsive and allows our members to feel confident that WWGA is functioning appropriately as their collective voice.
Often I am asked, “What is the Wyoming Wool Growers? What do you do?”
My first response is always to reiterate that we are a member organization, which means we were created to ensure that the interests of Wyoming sheep producers are represented and voiced when it comes to issues that impact the industry.
WWGA is more than 100 years old. Understandably, such long-standing organizations can sometimes lose clear sight of the original purpose in forming a membership association, especially among younger producers who may not immediately see the need for such an association.
For WWGA, this year has been about bringing that purpose back to the forefront of our mission and to strengthen the Association though improved membership services. We have focused on creating opportunities for our members to interact among themselves and with Association staff, so they may provide important direction and input on industry issues and Association matters.
Town hall meetings have served as an excellent tool in this regard. We hosted six such meetings throughout the state.
This year, we will also host our first midyear producers meeting. Scheduled for July 30-31 in Casper, the meeting will allow WWGA members to gather together in one place to discuss issues of importance to them and their organization.
In November, we will gather together again with our counterparts from Utah and Idaho for our annual Tri-State Woolgrowers Convention. The larger annual meeting provides an opportunity for Wyoming woolgrowers to hear from other wool producers in the region and to share experiences on the issues they face.
Improving membership benefits
We continually work to identify services that will give members the sense that belonging to the WWGA is worthwhile.
We have created a new weekly newsletter, the WWGA Weekly eUpdate, which is provided exclusively to WWGA members at the end of each week via email. For those not on email, we provide a monthly compilation of the weekly updates to ensure that all members are aware of the work being done by their Association.
Each update contains timely and relevant information on WWGA activities, state and federal legislative and regulatory activities and other bits of news of interest to producers.
However, reaching out to just our members is not enough. We must also reach out to those outside the industry who play key roles in the business of sheep production.
WWGA has regularly provided input on important issues, from commenting on proposed federal regulatory changes, like the Proposed BLM/Forest Service Sage Grouse Nine Point plan, to weighing in on federal legislation, like the Grazing Improvement Act and the Water Rights Protection Act. We work closely with our congressional leaders and our state entities to ensure that they are aware of our interests in the issues they are responsible for.
Voice for the industry
Like all ranching, sheep producers, of course, face issues that affect their business, like soft markets or animal health issues, and weather-related difficulties, like drought. These are the risks of ranching.
But today, our sheep industry faces even greater threats, like a labor shortage and a dysfunctional federal guest worker program, which has already forced one of Wyoming’s largest producers out of the sheep business, and the regional expansion of a misguided Forest Service decision on Bighorn Sheep that has already pushed three Idaho sheep producers out of the industry and one rancher completely out of business.
WWGA proudly stands as a voice for Wyoming’s sheep producers in the effort to counter the chorus of anti-grazing and anti-livestock activists, which work to influence Congress and federal agencies, from the Interior Department to USDA to EPA, to support heavy-handed measures that will serve to eliminate the grazing rights of sheep producers and will diminish one of America’s premier food and fiber industries.
Our voice is also strengthened through our relationship with the American Sheep Industry Association, the national organization for woolgrowers.
Promoting Wyoming wool
One of the initiatives we are most proud of is our American Rancher Collection™ – Wyoming Blanket Series.
This project is designed to showcase Wyoming’s fine wool and the rich history of sheep ranching in the state. This wool blanket is made from the finest merino wool harvested from a sheep herd in Johnson County, was spun in an eco-friendly process by Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo, and woven at the Faribault Mill in Minnesota, using virtually the same production methods in practice since 1865.
The result is a durable, American made, premium wool blanket worthy of being passed on generation after generation.
For more information about WWGA and its activities, visit wyowool.com.The website contains information about Wyoming’s sheep industry. Our News and Events page reflects the issues we are currently working on and the positions that we have taken to date.
In addition, we are also building our Market Place page to help our producers both small and large find or share services that can help them. We are also on Facebook as Wyoming Wool Growers and Twitter as @Wyowool.