Wyoming Farm Bureau sets policy for coming year; elects leaders – Nov. 21, 2017

November 21, 2017–Rural telecommunications, taxes, multiple-use of federal lands and the Worker Protection Standard were among the many topics included in policies adopted at the 98th annual meeting of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB).  Held Nov. 16-18, 2017 in Cheyenne, Wyo., the meeting is an important step in the grassroots policy development process of Farm Bureau.

“The Farm Bureau grassroots policy development process ensures that our policy begins at the local level,” WyFB Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton explained. “Much discussion takes place on each proposed resolution at the county, district and state levels as our members guide the work of our organization.”

Farm Bureau members weighed in on current discussions about phone service deregulation. Voting delegates passed policy asking for rural phone service to remain fully regulated and that phone companies be required to provide reliable service to rural Wyoming areas.

“Rural residents in far reaches of Wyoming are always at the end of the line on telecommunication service,” Hamilton stated. “Farm Bureau members are concerned without adequate regulation those residents will lose their telecommunications services.”

Protecting private property rights are at the forefront of the Federation’s work. Continued apprehension about government bodies utilizing drones over private property without due notification was addressed with a reaffirmation of existing policy expressing that concern.

“Collection of information on private property without notification is a trespass and Farm Bureau members have always felt that information is certainly important and valuable to the property owner,” Hamilton explained.

Regarding taxes, Farm Bureau members discussed the gross receipts tax proposal and came out in strong opposition. “Farm Bureau members are certainly aware of the discussion by the legislature to develop new taxes,” Hamilton stated.

“Agriculture traditionally has a high cost of production process,” he explained. “Any tax that doesn’t take the high cost of production into consideration, like a gross receipts tax, would unfairly burden those businesses.”

“Basically it would be like an income tax without you ever having any consideration for the cost of your production,” Hamilton continued.

Multiple-use of federal lands is important to Farm Bureau members. Farm Bureau members continue to resist efforts to turn federal lands into single or limited use management by putting them in wilderness areas.  Policy was adopted opposing the removal of the multiple use mandate for public lands by special designation.  The policy also called for areas currently designated as Wilderness Study Areas to be released to multiple-use if Congress doesn’t take action by 2020.

“U.S. Forest Service statistics show 30 percent 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 stated.  “The kicker in the Wilderness Study Areas process is that until Congress authorizes or releases those areas the agencies have to manage them as wilderness making them de facto wilderness.”

Concern about over-regulation that has nothing to do with the safety or protection of people led to voting delegates approving policy to ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revisit the Worker Protection Standard. “Members expressed concern about the over-regulation and asked for the rules to be re-written to reflect a common sense approach for worker protection and safety,” Hamilton said.

“When you have a process related violation that has nothing to do with the safety or protection of people with areas of pesticide use it appears to only be an opportunity to fine people rather than work to protect people,” Hamilton said. “This request is to have the EPA re-draft the regulations so they actually protect workers or their families while not burdening the landowners with unnecessary paperwork requirements.”

“These policies will be added to our policy book to help guide the federation in the work we do to protect private property rights,” Hamilton concluded.

Leaders elected

Todd Fornstrom, of Laramie County, was elected to his second term as President of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB). Todd and his family farm in Laramie County.  He and his wife, Laura, have four children.  Fornstrom has served in many different leadership positions within the organization; including Wyoming Farm Bureau Vice President; Laramie County Farm Bureau President; a member of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee; and state chair of the WyFB General Issues Committee.

Fornstrom works with his family on the Fornstrom Farm near Pine Bluffs. The diversified farm consists of irrigated corn, wheat, alfalfa, dry beans and a cattle and sheep feedlot.  They also run a trucking business, custom harvest and Todd is in a partnership and runs Premium Hay Products, an alfalfa pellet mill.

Voting delegates elected Cole Coxbill, of Goshen County, to his second term as WyFB Vice President. Coxbill and his wife, Sammie, have three kids.  They run a trucking business, commercial spraying business and raise cattle.  Coxbill began his leadership in Farm Bureau through the Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee.

Byron Yeik, of Veteran, was elected to his second term as the Director-At-Large.   Byron and his wife, Debb, run a diversified family farm/feedlot in Goshen County raising cattle, corn and alfalfa.

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 Stacy Berger to her second term as the state committee chair. This position has a seat on the WyFB Board of Directors.  From Albany County, Stacy and her husband Kyle have four kids and work on her family’s ranch.

The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general agriculture organization. Policy development is grassroots beginning at the local level where members discuss issues impacting them.  Resolutions that pass locally proceed to the district and then the state.  Those resolutions with national impact proceed to the national convention.  The primary goals of the organization are to protect private property rights and help members achieve an equitable return on their investment.  On the web, www.wyfb.org.