Legal efforts necessary to protect agriculture – December 2017/January 2018
Our 98th Annual Meeting was held in Cheyenne where county voting delegates adopted several policies, debated several more and adopted the work of the board’s by-law committee. Ellen Steen, chief counsel for the American Farm Bureau, talked about how their efforts help support a well-rounded effort on the national level that works to protect agriculture.Legal efforts are something that are important in today’s litigious world and we are lucky to have a legal program at AFBF. These programs are not cheap which is why most agricultural producers are not prone to seek the legal avenue. However, I think most in agriculture are aware that others look to the judicial branch first when they have something they don’t like and if we are going to protect our way of life, we also have to work in that arena.
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Foundation, in addition to putting on educational programs, has also supported legal efforts. The Foundation has been lucky enough to get a custom hand-made knife donated by Natrona County Farm and Ranch Bureau President Don Pavack for several years which we raffle off at the end of our annual meeting. Other members donate directly to the Foundation which helps support these legal efforts. Past efforts helped defray some of the legal costs associated with several ranchers in the western part of Wyoming’s trespass lawsuit against Western Watershed Project’s blatant disregard for private property. The Foundation also helped fund two amicus briefs through the Budd-Falen law firm on behalf of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners (PETPO) which is challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s ability to regulate the Utah prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act. The Foundation has also worked with the Wyoming Wolf Coalition in the multiple legal efforts on delisting wolves in Wyoming.
In addition to AFBF’s and Wyoming Farm Bureau’s legal efforts, we’ve also had the good fortune to be represented by two strong legal advocacy law firms: Mountain States Legal Foundation and Pacific Legal Foundation. Both firms have stepped up to the plate on several legal challenges. Pacific Legal has represented WyFB on sage-grouse litigation and wolverine listing challenges. Mountain States represented WyFB and Farm Bureau members in Fremont County on a challenge to EPA’s efforts to include non-native citizens under tribal control in the Riverton area. These were just in the last five or so years. Over the years there have been many other cases where they have represented agriculture and private property rights.
Yet even with these efforts and for everyone we are able to become involved with, the factory fund raisers in much of the environmental community can outspend resource users like agriculture a hundred, if not a thousand fold. We can only wonder what we could do with the million dollar budgets our opponents bring to the legal arena.
Fortunately we do have help from AFBF and those other public interest law firms which sometimes helps roll back some of the legal onslaught by the anti-agriculture crowd.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President