Agribusiness Division discussed againWritten by Christy Hemken
Last November the Board discussed the move of the Wyoming Business Council’s (WBC) Agribusiness Division from the WBC back under the authority of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA). In that meeting it was decided that WDA Director John Etchepare and WBC CEO Bob Jensen would meet to work out details of the proposal, after which a decision would be made at a future meeting.
In the Board’s recent meeting, involved parties were once again present to discuss the move, but a decision is not expected until the end of May.
“We’ve come a long way, and made a lot of headway and I think we’ve opened some good communication,” said Etchepare at the meeting. “I think in the not-too-distant future we can come to a good resolution of where we need to be.”
Jensen agreed, saying, “We’ve had some good meetings and real progress in identifying the ways that we can work more closely together to meet additional needs of the agribusiness community.”
He said one of those additional needs is the lack of an advocate for agribusinesses in navigating the maze of federal and state regulation. “Our shop and the ag shop don’t have anyone to guide folks through that, so we’ve agreed to look at our existing staff and find some ways to redirect resources toward that kind of a position.”
“The benefit of having these conversations is the better understanding of what each of us does,” noted Jensen. “The worst thing that could happen is we would harm existing programs. Instead of compromise I think we need to synergize, and we’re on a good path to do that.”
Present at the meeting was WBC board member and farmer/rancher Matt Mead of Cheyenne. “One of the reasons I was attracted to the Business Council was the agribusiness aspect,” he said.
“My great-grandfather would say that if you hang onto a cow’s tail long enough it’ll eventually pull you out of a hole, meaning the cow business will take care of you,” he said. “That’s a great way to look at grit and determination, but in today’s world it’s not a business model or a business plan.”
Mead cited the Endangered Species Act and meatpacker consolidation as reasons that pure grit is no longer enough. “We have to function as a business,” he said.
“Although I can’t represent the consensus of the entire ag community, I’ll be an advocate for agriculture because it’s in my interest,” explained Mead. “I want my kids to know where food comes from, and to not forget the value of agriculture.”
“A country that cannot fuel itself is one thing. A country that cannot feed itself is another thing entirely,” he stated. “I will do my best to advocate for ag issues, and whatever we do with the Division, I think it’s right to do what’s best for the citizens of the ag community.”