As 2023 closes and 2024 begins, we need to take some time to look back on 2023 to see how things appear in our rear-view mirror.  Obviously, there are a number of issues on the world stage that impact agriculture.   Markets don’t like uncertainty, and the ultimate uncertainty is military conflicts.  Russia and Ukraine continue to disrupt events on the world stage which unfortunately appears to be turning into one of those long-term conflicts that will affect markets for a long time.  The Middle East, the globes perpetual conflict area, heated up suddenly so now those nations that didn’t take sides in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict were provided another conflict to take sides.  Of the latter, it was surprising the way many Americans chose sides.  One nation in the Middle East has a working democracy while the rest consists of various authoritarian systems where there is very little or no rule of law but there is an overabundance of rule by gun.   Yet some of our fellow Americans have exercised their constitutionally protected rights to support less than democratic groups.  Not surprisingly, many supporting these groups are also coming from our college campuses.  

On the national front, impacts from unsound financial policies are being felt by the average American citizen, while the administrative branch is busy pushing the envelope on what is allowed by laws. Laws passed previously like the Clean Water Act and WOTUS, conservation as a use under FLPMA, and of course the whole panoply of actions to implement the 30 X 30 plan whether it’s through federal land management or listing of endangered species.

On the state level, property taxes and how best to assess values resulted in an ill-conceived proposal to amend our constitution. The proposed amendment would create another tier for property tax that will carve off groups who don’t have the political force to forestall a tax increase in order to give another group a tax decrease.   With less than two percent of the population farming or ranching, we in agriculture should rightfully be concerned about how this plays out next November.

Meanwhile some of the changes the legislature made when times were tough like funding the State Engineer’s office out of Water Development have not been changed back to funding from the General Fund as it had been since – like – forever.

And yet with all these problems, I can’t help but reflect on just how lucky we are to live in the United States.  In one of my favorite songs, it has lyrics that say, “Do you remember, when You walked among men; Well Jesus You know if You’re looking below; It’s worse now than then.”

I’m not sure if I agree with those lyrics.  If we were to compare how things are today to when Jesus was born, I have to think that we cannot help but count our numerous blessings.  The Roman republic was a memory and most of those alive back then would not have even been aware of the democracy experiments of some of the Greek city states.   Indeed, just like many of the world’s citizens today, rulers back then used the sword to enforce their desires.  Genocide was a common practice rulers used against not only their enemies, but their citizens.  Starvation was a constant companion in many people’s lives and things like a warm house was only the purview of the very rich or the rulers.   Lives were short, food was short, and work was hard.  If you couldn’t pay off your debts, chances were good you would end up a slave for someone.   Justice was arbitrary at best and sentences were harsh.

So, while we have challenges, we should never forget how centuries ago we were shown a way that recognizes human dignity and asks us to treat one another better.  This lesson was provided during a time when rulers ruled through the sword and people’s lives were a disposable commodity.  Don’t let our modern-day problems distract us from the real reason for the season.  Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President