Wyoming Farm Bureau sets policy for coming year
Rural telecommunications, taxes, multiple-use of federal lands and the Worker Protection Standard were among the many topics included in policies adopted at the 98th annual meeting of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation. Held Nov. 16-18, 2017 in Cheyenne, Wyo., the meeting is an important step in the grassroots policy development process of Farm Bureau.
“The Farm Bureau grassroots policy development process ensures that our policy begins at the local level,” WyFB Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton said. “Much discussion takes place on each proposed resolution at the county, district and state levels as our members guide the work of our organization.”
WyFB members weighed in on current discussions about phone service deregulation. Voting delegates passed policy asking for rural phone service to remain fully regulated and that phone companies be required to provide reliable service to rural Wyoming areas.
“Rural residents in far reaches of Wyoming are always at the end of the line on telecommunication service,” Hamilton said. “Farm Bureau members are concerned without adequate regulation those residents will lose their telecommunications services.”
Protecting private property rights are at the forefront of the federation’s work. Continued apprehension about government bodies utilizing drones over private property without due notification was addressed with a reaffirmation of existing policy expressing that concern.
“Collection of information on private property without notification is a trespass and Farm Bureau members have always felt that information is certainly important and valuable to the property owner,” Hamilton said.
Regarding taxes, Farm Bureau members discussed the gross receipts tax proposal and came out in strong opposition. “Farm Bureau members are certainly aware of the discussion by the legislature to develop new taxes,” Hamilton said.
“Agriculture traditionally has a high cost of production process,” he said. “Any tax that doesn’t take the high cost of production into consideration, like a gross receipts tax, would unfairly burden those businesses.”
“Basically it would be like an income tax without you ever having any consideration for the cost of your production,” Hamilton said.
Multiple-use of federal lands is important to Farm Bureau members and they continue to resist efforts to turn federal lands into single or limited use management by putting them in wilderness areas. Policy was adopted opposing the removal of the multiple use mandate for public lands by special designation. The policy also called for areas currently designated as Wilderness Study Areas to be released to multiple-use if Congress doesn’t take action by 2020.
“U.S. Forest Service statistics show 30 percent of the Forest Service’s land in Wyoming has been placed into wilderness protection by Congress. This is the highest percentage of Forest Service lands in wilderness of any state in the Union,” Hamilton said. “The kicker in the Wilderness Study Areas process is that until Congress authorizes or releases those areas the agencies have to manage them as wilderness making them de facto wilderness.”
Concern about over-regulation that has nothing to do with the safety or protection of people led to voting delegates approving policy to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to revisit the Worker Protection Standard. “Members expressed concern about the over-regulation and asked for the rules to be re-written to reflect a common sense approach for worker protection and safety,” Hamilton said.
“When you have a process-related violation that has nothing to do with the safety or protection of people with areas of pesticide use it appears to only be an opportunity to fine people rather than work to protect people,” Hamilton said. “This request is to have the EPA re-draft the regulations so they actually protect workers or their families while not burdening the landowners with unnecessary paperwork requirements.”
“These policies will be added to our policy book to help guide the federation in the work we do to protect private property rights,” Hamilton said.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.