Wyoming Farm Bureau sets policy for coming year – Nov. 20, 2014

SHERIDAN— Trespass and illegal data collection and transportation were among the many policies adopted at the 95th annual meeting of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB).  Held Nov. 13-15, 2014 in Sheridan, Wyo., the meeting is an important step in the grassroots policy development process of Farm Bureau.

Farm Bureau members approved policy calling for any information collected by a party while trespassing on private property to be expunged and not used in any manner with the exception of being used for trespasser prosecution.

“Trespassing on private lands is illegal,” Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton said.  “Our members are reaffirming our efforts to support property rights by working so that people don’t trespass on private lands to get information that can be used in any fashion.  Landowner permission is required to enter or cross private lands.”

Regarding transportation, policy passed supporting an agricultural exemption to Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) requirements for non-commercial vehicles transporting agricultural equipment and products.   “This has been a big concern for farmers and ranchers,” Hamilton explained.  “We hope the legislative body can address this issue in the upcoming session with the proposed legislation from the Joint Transportation Committee.”

“This change would allow agricultural operators, during some of those critical times of year, to get access to individuals who can help transport their goods to market without the requirement that they have the same testing and standards as someone who drives 365 days a year,” He continued.  “Many times we have found people who have driven trucks for a good part of their life, but because of being partially retired they don’t keep up on the nuances of the over-the-road trucking regulations.  Agriculture producers aren’t going to put someone in a truck that doesn’t have the necessary skills to drive safely.”

Concern with federal action to lock up land use brought forth policy calling for reform of the 1906 Antiquities Act.  The policy asks that any future monument designations require approval by a 2/3 majority of each house of Congress.  “Even though Wyoming hasn’t been directly impacted by a designation of further national monuments it shows our members are concerned by arbitrary federal action to lock up land for special purposes,” Hamilton stated.

In national issues, two new immigration policies were approved calling for increased support of border control to help curb illegal immigration.

In addition to formulating new policy, members reaffirmed several policies dealing with trespass laws, the need to amend the Clean Water Act, and support of less government regulations.

“The Farm Bureau grassroots policy development process ensures that our policy begins at the local level,” Hamilton explained.  “By the time a resolution enters the policy book it has been reviewed by members at three different levels; county, district and state.”

“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 said.

Legislative Focus for 2015

According to Hamilton, looking forward to the 2015 legislative session trespass, telecommunications and transportation are three of the key areas on which the organization will focus.

There are three separate trespass issues before the Wyoming Legislature.  One issue is when someone illegally trespasses to gather data which they then provide to another party.  The second issue is the difficulty in prosecuting people who trespass on private land and ignore private property boundaries.   The third issue deals with the Restatement of Torts where if someone trespasses the property owners do not have the same duty of care as they would if it was someone invited on to the property.

“In past legislative sessions, there have been bills to address these issues, but they always seem to get short-circuited,” Hamilton explained.  “These trespass issues are of great interest to landowners and agriculture producers around Wyoming.” 

Regarding telecommunications, Farm Bureau policy calls for the continuation of the Wyoming Universal Service Fund (USF) and that no subscriber be required to pay more than 130 percent of the statewide average price for a landline.  “We hope to keep in the USF so our members out in the far reaches of the state won’t have their telephone bills go up astronomically,” said Brett Moline, WyFB Director of Public and Government Affairs.  “This is an issue we have been watching closely for several years and will continue to work to make sure affordable, modern telecommunications is available in rural Wyoming areas.” 

Support of the Joint Transportation Committee’s proposed legislation regarding an agriculture exemption to CDL requirements will be another key issue for the coming session.  “We hope to emulate what has happened in other states where Wyoming farmers and ranchers would be able to haul their own produce in their own truck without the severe limitations of the same requirements of commercial drivers,” Moline stated.  “Because they are not transporting commercially, the stringency of the requirements makes it difficult to hire short term drivers.” 

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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