November 26, 2018
Wyoming Farm Bureau completed its 99th annual meeting in early November. It’s these state-level Farm Bureau meetings where farmer-members use their grassroots power to set policy for the organization, and the group discusses a range of issues, from food labeling to land management. At the same meeting, leadership for the organization was elected.
Todd Fornstrom, Laramie County, was elected to his third term as president of the organization. Fornstrom farms with his family near Pine Bluffs. The Fornstroms’ diversified farm operation includes irrigated corn, wheat, alfalfa, dry beans, and a cattle and sheep feedlot. The family runs a trucking business and a custom harvest operation. Fornstrom is also in a partnership and runs Premium Hay Products, an alfalfa pellet mill.
Fornstrom notes that in his role as president he has found that the position has “enabled me to meet a lot of people and build relationships — and it is a complete blast.” He adds that he’s proud to be serving the organization in its centennial year representing the state’s farmers and ranchers.
Also elected to his third term in the organization is Cole Coxbill, Goshen County. He will serve as the organization’s vice president. Coxbill’s family runs a trucking business, a commercial spraying business and raises cattle. Coxbill got his start in leadership for the organization through the Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer & Rancher Committee, and he has served on the board of directors for the Goshen County Farm Bureau.
Mike Whaley, Big Horn County, was elected to his first term as director at large. He is president of Big Horn County Farm Bureau and serves as the state chair of the Farm Bureau’s State Governmental Affairs Committee. He ranches with his two daughters.
In addition to the three statewide elections, five district directors and the Young Farmer & Rancher state chair serve on the state board.
The Young Farmer & Rancher Committee elected Toni Swartz, Campbell County, to her first term as the state committee chair. This position has a seat on the Farm Bureau board of directors.
Rounding out the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation board of directors are the district directors: David Garber, Northeast District; Kevin Baars, Southeast District; Tim Pexton, Central District; Thad Dockery, Northwest District; and Justin Ellis, Southwest District.
Policy priorities set
State farm bureau organizations set policy agendas and goals that are also communicated to the national level. For the Wyoming Farm Bureau, food issues and labeling, regulatory overreach, taxes and voting procedures topped the list of key issues dealt with by the organization this year. These policy priorities are developed at a grass roots level that Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau executive vice president, explains involves a lot of discussion on each proposed resolution at the county, district and state levels:
Labeling. A hot topic is rising concern about lab-grown protein. Hamilton says, “Farm Bureau members are concerned about lab-grown protein products being incorrectly labeled as meat. Our members support policy to ensure that plant-based and/or lab-grown protein cannot be labeled as meat or a meat product.”
In related labeling policy, the group approved supporting regulation that any liquid not derived from a lactating animal cannot be labeled as milk or a milk product. Hamilton notes that consumers need accurate information for food decision-making. “Falsely labeling products is misleading and confusing for the consumer and damaging to the farmer and rancher.”
Country-of-origin labeling remains a hot topic for the group. Several policies dealing with the desire to institute COOL on beef products were affirmed. Hamilton explains that through these reaffirmations, “our members are seeking to find a way to more closely follow those products that already have COOL in place. There are products that have been able to implement COOL, and we want to get that accomplished for beef and pork.”
Land use. Private property and regulations were another key topic. The group approved a policy stating the Bureau of Land Management shall not apply viewshed regulations to prevent development on private property to prevent development, whether surface or subsurface. Hamilton says this comes into play when private property has mineral development with federal minerals. “This also comes into play if the private property is developing their mineral rights, but at some point in the horizontal drilling, it may touch the federal minerals; and this is the nexus the BLM uses to regulate the viewshed because of an archeologically significant find.”
The group also continues to resist efforts to turn federal lands into single- or limited-use management through wilderness area designations. Policy was reaffirmed opposing the removal of the multiple-use mandated for public lands by special designation.
“U.S. Forest Service statistics show over 30% of the forest service’s land in Wyoming has been placed into wilderness protection by Congress. This is the highest percentage of forest service lands in wilderness of any state in the union,” Hamilton says.
Taxes. Farm Bureau members voiced opposition to granting municipalities the authority to implement a sales tax. “What goes on inside a municipality would affect those outside of the municipality who cannot vote for the tax increase,” Hamilton says. “This type of tax would essentially silence the voice of people affected by those actions.”
Voting. Maintaining the integrity of voting procedures was also an important discussion. Brett Moline, Wyoming Farm Bureau director of public and governmental affairs, says members want to keep the current system of polling places rather than switching to mail-in ballots. “They also voiced concern with the switch over voting that occurred in the last election, and adopted policy to restrict future switch over voting at the polls, recognizing what can be done before Election Day if the voter chooses.”
Regulatory overreach. Last March, farmers and ranchers were protected from overreaching regulation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. That law has reporting requirements for air emissions, but those from animal waste on a farm are not applicable under this act. The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know report requirement exempted reporting such releases if the farm had fewer animals than a large concentrated animal feeding operation. Voting delegates approved policy supporting agriculture’s exemption from CERCLA and EPCRK.
Learn more about the group’s work at wyfb.org.
Source: Wyoming Farm Bureau
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