Issue Position: Agriculture
Ranching is my lifeblood. I learned the business on our family ranch at Kaycee alongside my mom and dad. Ranching is more than just putting food on the table for millions of Americans; it is a way of life in Wyoming that protects open spaces and our cowboy heritage. At the Merlin Ranch we raise Black Angus cattle (dad runs Herefords), ran sheep, and have raised market hogs for 4-H kids in Johnson County. I am proud of the products we have raised at the Merlin Ranch and at my dad's place in Mayoworth.
I started practicing Holistic Management in 1984 when I first learned about it. It was a funny thing to hear the hubbub when we began to run our ranch in a way that put weight on our calves and lambs, and ensured an abundance of wildlife. Ranchers everywhere know that they are dependent upon on the land for their livelihood so they must be good stewards. I try to practice what I preach each day.
I am a member of the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative, the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and R-CALF. These groups are important advocates for agriculture but just like my neighbors, they don't all agree.
Fundamentally, we all know Wyoming's agriculture needs new markets and better ways of getting our products to them. We need opportunity and fairness.
I am a proponent of the free market and of consumer choice. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is imperative. If you can put a "Made in the U.S.A." label on a t-shirt, why not on a t-bone steak? Consumers deserve to know where their food is grown - heaven knows too many have forgotten and that is a problem for us. I also support the interstate shipment of meats. If a leg of lamb is grown in Wyoming, processed and inspected in Wyoming, the federal government should not prohibit it from being sold to a consumer in another state. Government encumbrances drag down opportunity and in a free market it is wrong.
I am a supporter of free trade but it must be fair trade. We cannot jeopardize the livelihood of Wyoming's ag folks by negotiating trade agreements that put agricultural producers at a comparative disadvantage. For example, the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) had the support of Wyoming's cattle producers but not Wyoming's sugar beet growers. Trade agreements should not pit agricultural interests against each other. Nor should markets be manipulated with short sighted and budget busting subsidies with a real risk of unintended consequence like those of the biofuels initiative.
I believe Wyoming's agriculture has a bright future but it will depend on free, open, unsubsidized, and fair markets and an ability to get our products to market.