Past, present & future: Wyoming ag leaders look at 2012, 2013
As the year comes to a close, agriculture has seen a number of setbacks and advancements this year, according to Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton and Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank.
“The number one event was the drought in 2012,” says Magagna. “No doubt about that.”
Hamilton agreed, saying that not only were all producers talking about the drought, everyone was concerned with the impacts to their operations, as well as the future of rangelands.
As a positive note for 2012, Magagna mentions, “The wolf delisting, if we can make it stick, is a big topic for 2012.”
The year also brought some short-term victories in litigation related to sage grouse that are important.
For conservation districts, 2012 was an important year.
“The district involvement in the Resource Management Plan process and the Forest Planning process was a big priority for local districts this year,” Frank explains.
She added that involvement in local federal lands planning will continue to be important through 2013, and with a bill coming up in the Legislature to strengthen statutory language for conservation districts expertise, Frank hopes further involvement of districts will be supported.
The bill, said Frank, is very similar to one passed last year giving county commissioners special expertise and is one that the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts strongly supports.
Legislation in 2013
Among other legislative priorities for the 2013 legislative session, Magagna says, “For the Wyoming Stock Growers, our biggest focus is going to be on several pieces of property rights legislation.”
The bills include seismic bonding legislation, as well as a continuation on the wind energy collector system moratorium.
Hamilton notes that Farm Bureau also supports opportunities to protect landowners.
“I’ve also heard some discussion about trespass laws, and certainly we are going to strengthen them where we can to give our members more protection,” adds Hamilton.
An additional bill that is still in draft phases responding to a reversal of long standing law on liability of landowners for injury to trespassers is being pursued by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
“If language adopted in the Restatement of Torts was adopted by Wyoming Courts, it would make landowners liable for injury to trespassers on their land,” Magagna explained. “In a proactive approach, we will promote legislation that would preempt this outcome.”
Frank additionally looked at instream flow legislation as important.
Hamilton marks the potential bill to introduce a statewide beef checkoff as one that Wyoming Farm Bureau members oppose, though he hasn’t seen any legislation yet.
A new year
Looking forward into 2013, Hamilton jokes, “The stock market will hit 15,000, it will rain ever other day in June and the price of cows will go up.”
“In all seriousness, I don’t have any real idea – it depends on a lot of factors,” Hamilton says. “I know everyone is going to be looking at the snow this winter and hoping we don’t have a repeat of the drought.”
Frank and Magagna agreed that drought is on the top of the list of concerns for 2013.
“If this drought doesn’t break, looking at the potential to continue to do conservation work with the industry, as well as potential fire impacts, will be important,” Frank says.
Magagna adds that, if the drought continues across the West, it will likely have a greater impact in its second year.
“Seeing the farm bill through in some form or fashion so we can continue to help producers with drought mitigation and fire rehabilitation will also be important,” comments Frank.
With fire impacts as a top focus, Frank also adds that forest health is a top priority.
“Forest health is going to be big one going forward,” she notes, “and it is time to start getting more aggressive on the subject. Hopefully, more people will be inclined to manage the forests instead letting fires burn.”
As related to the Farm Bill, Frank notes that there are many things that are still unclear, and disagreements on the depth of cuts continue in Congress, but passage of a bill in Congress remains a top priority.
All three also mark sage grouse as having continuing importance.
“I think there is going to be a lot of continued discussion in the ag community about the impact of sage grouse on the various agriculture producers in the state,” Hamilton notes.
“Sage grouse continues to be on the forefront,” Frank adds, “as does the work being done to negate the need for listing.”
Water quality will also continue to be a focus of conservation districts, as the districts move to make progress in getting streams off the 303(d) list.
Of other things coming forward, Hamilton also says, “We may see some interesting things in our state budget.”
“It will be interesting because we aren’t seeing the kind of money coming into the state that we were,” Hamilton continues. “We are going to be looking at efforts to raise fuel taxes and other things.”
On a national scale, Magagna also marks budget issues and the national debt as being top priority.
“We are all going to be affected by what Congress does in several areas, certainly in terms of the deficit and national debt,” he explains. “I think every business and every individual is going to be affected.”
“On a positive note, I think there is every reason to believe that cattle prices are going to remain high or go significantly higher due to strong global demand and reduced herd sizes,” comments Magagna. “It can help people get through tough times if they can get a strong price.”