Wyoming Farm Bureau sets policy for coming year – Nov. 19, 2012

Laramie— Policies dealing with conservation easement funding, trespass issues, eminent domain, and wildlife damages were among the many policies adopted at the 93rd annual meeting of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB).  Held Nov. 15-17, 2012 in Laramie, Wyo., the meeting is an important step in the grassroots policy development process of Farm Bureau.

“Farm Bureau policy is founded on the protection of private property rights, constitutional government and individual freedoms,” WyFB President Perry Livingston said.  “The policy discussions focused on many different issues relating to our founding principles.”

Regarding conservation easements, members approved policy opposing the government’s use of taxpayer money to fund conservation easements.  “The concern is with the large amount of money from the federal government being funneled into the purchase of conservation easements,” Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton said.  “Our members have recognized the impact it is going to have on local communities when land use/development is restricted.”

Also regarding conservation easements, policy was approved asking for a revision to the federal tax code so conservation easements with a limited time (less than 99 years) be eligible for tax incentives.  “This further reiterates the concern our members have with conservation easements being held in perpetuity,” Hamilton explained.

Dissatisfaction with the federally mandated changes made to the school lunch program generated new policy.  “It re-ignited the discussion about local control of their school districts and how our members think the school lunch menu needs to be based on common sense and not political agendas,” Hamilton said.

Members asked that the school lunch program be entirely controlled by the local school board.  Additionally, policy was passed mandating all public school lunches should provide a balanced nutritional diet daily with selections from all basic food groups and ensuring meat is used as the protein source.

Farm Bureau members expressed opposition to any fee increases in the Beef Check-Off.  “Our members seem to be resistant to any possible increase in their cost of doing business and this policy perhaps reflects that resistance,” Hamilton said.

Showing support for the coal industry, policy was passed supporting domestic coal production.  The policy opposes current environmental and production governmental policies which are crippling domestic energy production and jobs.

“Our members recognize and are concerned about what the impact of regulations will be to other resource users here in Wyoming,” Hamilton explained.

Policy relating to trespass laws was reaffirmed and strengthened.  The trespass policy calls for a strengthening of trespass laws including removing the obligation of the landowner to post “no trespass” signs.

“This is a long standing desire by our members to try and protect their private property from folks who would try to treat private property as public lands,” He said. 

“In some ways, it is similar to the concern our members have of the misuse of eminent domain,” He continued.

An emphasis on the need to strengthen eminent domain as well as strengthen the protection for private property owners led to several new policies regarding eminent domain.  Farm Bureau members approved policy supporting an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution that would limit the use of eminent domain within the state for state and county government projects. 

Additional policy regarding eminent domain was passed asking for statute changes to the definition of “fair market value” and supporting legislation requiring for-profit carriers to pay all costs.

“Our members continually look at our eminent domain policy and ask for greater protection,” Hamilton continued.  “In fact, they would like to see eminent domain limited in scope significantly.”

The federal government owns approximately one third of the land mass in the United States.  Policy was reaffirmed favoring a “No Net Gain” concept in federal lands.

“We continue to be concerned that the federal government cannot meet its own obligations so they shouldn’t be taking private lands out of production,” Hamilton said.  “Instead, they should be going the other way with land ownership.”

The impact of this year’s drought on land throughout Wyoming brought up a lot of discussion about the impact wildlife are having on landowners.  Farm Bureau members approved policy asking the Game and Fish Department to manage wildlife populations at a level which considers the habitat and forage reserve for livestock in cooperation with private landowners.

“This drought has probably exacerbated the impact wildlife are having on landowners,” Hamilton explained.  “The impact is large especially on irrigated agriculture where the animals are coming in from the dry conditions on their non-irrigated habitat.  In some cases, the wildlife damages to the land are very significant.”

Farm Bureau members defined the American bison as a domestic fenced in animal, not a wild free roaming species and encourages good animal husbandry to improve bison production.

“Because bison don’t respect property boundaries and fences, there is a concern that private landowners adjacent to areas where bison may be brought in will be impacted,” Hamilton said.  “Requiring fence-in status for bison would take the burden off of the adjacent landowner.”

New policy passed supporting a Food Freedom Act.  The policy would provide for the sale and consumption of homemade foods and farm raised foods and encourage the expansion and accessibility of ranch, farm and home based sales to an informed-end consumer.

“In the discussions we’ve been having in our organization, the members seem to want to move towards less regulation and allow folks to have more opportunities and more choices,” Hamilton said.

“Invaluable discussion was exchanged on these resolutions to determine what is in the best interest of all of agriculture and Farm Bureau,” Livingston concluded.  “The resolutions passed at the state level guide the work of our organization for the coming year.”

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

 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.

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