With the 92nd Annual Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation meeting in my rear view mirror, I would like to take some time to thank those dedicated members who spent their time to come represent their fellow food producers to vote and discuss policies that will direct our organization over the coming years.  We were also fortunate enough to hear from both our U.S. Senators and the Governor. 

Wyoming is fortunate to have political leaders who are willing to come visit with agricultural leaders from throughout the State.  It shows their understanding of how important agriculture is to our State and the nation.  To say that Wyoming is unique in that aspect may be something of an understatement.

If there had been any doubts, Dr. Gary Sides' presentation at the Foundation's Symposium on the importance of agriculture and technology would have convinced them.  We appreciate the turn out for this forum both from Farm Bureau members as well as community leaders in Cheyenne.  We had a lot of positive feedback from folks about the symposium and hopefully we will be able to equal or top our efforts next year.

Both Senators discussed the situation in Washington D.C. and the impacts the regulatory process is having on our industry.  Most of us are naturally concerned about the trend in federal spending which has been occurring.  A recent report from the economic division of the American Farm Bureau Federation illustrated that general government net financial liabilities as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product puts the United States almost exactly in the same position that Portugal is currently in and the report notes that we can see Italy from where we are standing.  Perhaps the fact that the U.S. isn't in the same position as Portugal is more a testimony to the fiscal condition of most countries in the world.

Harriet Hageman's discussion on conservation easements hit quite a chord with our members.  The recognition by folks about the future impacts on an operation which has a permanent conservation easement (well maybe not permanent, but for 999 years) 10 years down the road was very evident.  The information presented about how many of these conservation easements are “flipped” to a government agency after a short while was very disconcerting to say the least.  In light of the huge federal investment for purchase of conservation easements this message was particularly timely. 

In a state where close to 50% of the surface estate is owned by the federal government, we all should be concerned about the federal dollars coming in to purchase conservation easements.  If we aren't, I'm sure our children will be.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President