Supporting Wyoming's Natural Resource Economy
The Joint Agriculture Committee held three meetings over the interim and produced 7 bills for the budget session. These bills generally deal with supporting our third largest industry, as well as how to better manage the natural resources our state depends on for our economy.
The number one priority of the committee was examining how state government supports our farmers and ranchers. The short answer is – we don’t, at least not when it comes to adding value to agriculture products in the state or diversifying our ag industry. While we have agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the Livestock Board, they by and large perform regulatory functions. This is in stark contrast to the agencies like the Tourism Board and Energy Authority, which actively build our two largest industries.
That being said, we do have some excellent programs which support our natural resource-based economy. The Department of Agriculture has done an excellent job making balanced budget cuts over the years. Many other agencies will push cuts out to the citizens they are supposed to be serving in order to protect their employees and maximize the pressure on elected officials to return the lost funding. The Department of Agriculture has been much better about making sure they participate in these cuts.
Programs such as Weed and Pest and Predator Control remain strong, and the committee spent some time focusing on building upon these strengths. Two bills consolidate these important functions within the Department of Agriculture. Another gives the Wyoming Business Council a new tool called Industrial Revenue Bonds that - at no cost the taxpayer - can be used to improve our ability to process agricultural commodities in the state. Not only will this new capability create jobs in Wyoming, it will also give our farmers and ranchers more options to market their products.
The committee also sponsored bills that will help increase capacity within the state to help the federal government get closer to complying with federal law regarding their management of wild horses. One bill would also help calculate the damage to private and state lands due to federal failure to reach appropriate management levels. Finally, there is a bill that will better define how the state manages vacant grazing leases.
As you can see, we have quite a bit going on this Budget Session regarding agriculture policy. Check out the bills themselves here: https://wyoleg.gov/Legislation/committeeBills/2022