The crisis caused by the novel coronavirus has substantially impacted our state, nation and world. This has impacted most, if not all, facets of daily life in our state. Wyoming agriculture has not …
The crisis caused by the novel coronavirus has substantially impacted our state, nation and world. This has impacted most, if not all, facets of daily life in our state. Wyoming agriculture has not been spared from these dynamics.
In fact, this crisis has been compounded for our ag producers by an extremely fragile and inflexible meat packing industry. The incompetence of large international meat processing monopolies in responding to this crisis has left ranchers scrambling to find a place to sell their livestock as consumers find themselves with limited choices on the shelf. Even as farmers and ranchers go to work much as they did before the crisis, the uncertainty associated with working in production agriculture has only increased as the year goes on.
Thankfully, financial help is available from both the federal and state governments. As ranchers ourselves, we understand the hesitance in asking for assistance — especially from the government. However, it is important to consider that the market disruptions we are currently experiencing are due to a situation beyond anybody’s control. Most importantly, it is important to claim these funds before they go back to Washington, D.C. By applying for these payments, you are keeping some of your hard-earned tax money in your community and in the private sector — not under government control.
Our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have done an excellent job getting over $50 million out to Wyoming producers so far over the summer. If you are an ag producer and haven’t called your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, we highly advise you do so now. This federal program is currently slated to run until Aug. 28. If you don’t know how to contact your local FSA office, call the state office at 307-261-5231 or visit www.farmers.gov/cfap.
While the federal program has done excellent work, it has a few gaps. Due to limitations in assistance for some agricultural commodities in the federal program, the State of Wyoming is ready to help cover the difference.
Unlike the federal program, which differentiates between agriculture and other types of business, the state-led programs will be available to ag producers just as they are available to every other business in the state. After you contact your local FSA office, please consider contacting the Wyoming Business Council for additional assistance.
The Wyoming Business Council has two programs which came online Aug. 4. The Relief Fund is for businesses which have lost revenue due to any public health orders. For agriculture, a simple demonstration of the decrease in gross revenue from previous years is sufficient for this calculation. The Mitigation Fund is available for COVID-related expenses. An agricultural example would be increased feed, storage, labor or transportation expenses due to supply chain disruptions. See www.wyobizrelief.org or call 1-877-257-7844 with any questions or to apply for a grant.
We commend Gov. Mark Gordon’s leadership in pacing the expenditure of these funds. This decision is necessary to ensure there are funds available for industries such as agriculture, which will realize losses later in the year. We will continue working with the governor’s office to support our third largest industry during this challenging time, to include increasing in-state meat processing capacity.
In the meantime, we encourage our fellow producers to stay the course. Take courage from those who came before us — those who carved civilization out of the harsh wilderness with little more than a clear mind and strong back.
By making tough decisions, sacrifices and necessary changes today we can ensure a better tomorrow for future generations of Wyoming farmers and ranchers.
(State Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, and state Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, serve as co-chairmen of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Agriculture Committee.)