Gather up our issues
I believe it was Ann Landers (for the younger generation, you’ll have to Google that name) that said if we were to take all of our troubles and put them in a pile in the middle of a table along with other people’s troubles, we would eventually gather up our own problems and leave other people’s problems to them.The Wyoming Farm Bureau hosted the American Farm Bureau’s Legal Information and Networking Committee and Environmental Issues Conference here in Laramie where we heard from state Farm Bureaus all over the nation about problems and issues with which they are dealing.
We in the West were able to talk to our non-western counterparts about our issues on federal lands and split estates. Wyoming has shared our experience with some of the upper Mid-Western states on wolves and getting to a delisted grizzly bear is something few other states have to deal with. These are frustrating issues for us, but when I hear my counterparts talking about some of the issues they have to deal with in their states, I can’t help but be glad that we don’t have some of those issues. Most of the other states have to deal with a significant urban population driving their policies.
Urban politicians in California, or Illinois or New York all have a tremendous ability to affect agriculture in their states. Having a large urban population which can drive policy makes it difficult to pass beneficial policies to help agriculture. What seems to be self-evident to a farmer or rancher is almost a foreign concept for an urban policy maker in some of these states.
The special interest groups who utilize the ignorance of many of these urban folks to get them to send their dollars also helps to drive this debate. In order to get people to give money you have to reduce a problem down to a sound bite that ignores 95 percent of the issue. Once you get the money then you can hire the lobbyist, or lawyer, depending on the group, to encourage politicians to enact policies that harm farmers.
A recent lawsuit in North Carolina against the hog producers have apparently led to 20 hog farmers going out of the hog business. Algae blooms in the Great Lakes are leading to regulators who want to be seen doing something, even if it is wrong. Pesticide usage is always controversial and in states with large urban populations, the use of these agronomic products is scrutinized much closer than in non-urban settings.
Of course, the rural population has to deal with impacts by protected species in these states just like we do here in Wyoming. The unfairness of this is perhaps the biggest issue that bothers folks. We’ve dealt with it here in Wyoming when folks who live in urban centers talking about how nice it is to have wolves roam in Wyoming, while not having to deal with any of the consequences. Agricultural folks in other states have the same problems too, whether it’s from an endangered or threatened species or a migratory bird. When they descend on your ranch and cause problems, it’s exasperating to hear someone from an urban setting telling you how you need to accommodate these animals, while they jump in their cars and head back to the city to avoid the wild animals.
At the end of the day though, I’ll gather up our set of problems here in Wyoming and leave others to deal with San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta or New York.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President