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Guest Opinions

Come Chart the Future of Ag With Us

Written by Jason Fearneyhough

By Jason Fearneyhough, Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture

Agriculture is essential. There is really no other way to cut it. It provides us the food we eat, the clothing we wear and maintains the open spaces that we all love to enjoy. It helps conserve water we drink and habitat for wildlife while developing energy sources for the country. Agriculture is the driving force behind the future of the United States and the world.

With that being said, the opportunity for agriculture in this country is immense. As the population grows around the world, the need for food and fiber grows with it. The demand for agricultural products on the local, national and international level provides a previously unmatched potential for producers to make a living in the agriculture industry.

While the outlook of agriculture is bright and full of possibilities, we still face many of the same challenges in the short term, like environmental issues, consistent profitability now, high cost of entry into agriculture, media pressure and the intergenerational transfer of land. These challenges have been around for a long time. While there are no easy answers, producers around the country continue to work and innovate to solve these challenges.
Last year we took a great step toward addressing these issues during a three-day conference geared toward charting the future of agriculture called AgriFuture. Producers, industry representatives, governmental entities and young people all came together to learn, brainstorm, innovate and discuss the issues facing agriculture right now and worked together to move toward possible solutions.

This year, to continue the good work from last year’s conference, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Rural Development Council and other cooperating agencies will bring producers, leaders, students and others together for AgriFuture 2011. This three-day conference, with the help of generous sponsors like the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Wyoming Community Network, will pick up where last year left off and continue to discuss, educate, brainstorm and innovate to help agriculture reach its potential.

The conference will showcase innovative speakers who are moving the agriculture industry toward the opportunity we all see in the future. On Oct. 14 Lowell Catlett will be the keynote speaker for the conference and will address how we can ensure a bright future for American ag. Other speakers include: Robert Tse of USDA Rural Development will cover how U.S. agriculture will meet the future needs of local and global production; Don Collins of the Western Research Institute will speak about energy in agriculture; Kevin Edberg, Executive Director of Cooperative Development Services in St. Paul, Minn. will discuss cooperatives; and there will also be discussions surrounding what students can do in the workforce with an agriculture degree and a brief media training with an agriculture focus.

These speakers are just the tip of the iceberg for what this conference will hold for participants. We have invited folks from all over the western United States to come and participate in the conference and share their ideas. The wide variety of experiences, locations and backgrounds will make the breakout sessions on Oct. 13 and 14 an incredible chance for networking, interactivity, discussions and innovations that will help propel agriculture to the heights we all know it can reach in the United States.

Join us in Laramie on Oct. 12-14 as we come together to chart our course into the future of agriculture. This is an exciting time for agriculture in the state, region, nation and world and we look forward to seeing you all there.

More information, including the registration brochure and online registration, is available at agriculture.wy.gov/directors-office/agrifuture or facebook.com/AgriFuture.