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Dennis Sun: Congress Has Agriculture In Its Sights For Estate Tax Issues

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Since the last week in July, the U.S. Senate has focused on getting an infrastructure bill written and, ultimately, passed. There are other bills waiting for more discussion, but not much interest is generated – except for two bills that affect agriculture.

One of these bills would raise the inheritance tax, and the other would lower the estate tax exemption. Both of these bills pose a threat to those in a family business, especially an agricultural family business. By Aug. 4, the entirety of Republican Senate members had given floor speeches, released press releases and delivered a letter to President Biden on the Democrat’s spending, as well as their stance on raising capital gains taxes and eliminating the stepped-up basis for inherited assets – all actions that stand to hurt family businesses.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Democratic Senators are saying 98 percent of family farms and ranches would not be affected by the plans to raise taxes on people making more than $400,000 a year. Secretary Vilsack also said farmers, ranchers and other family-owned businesses would not be affected by proposed increases in capital gains or the elimination of stepped-up basis, as long as heirs continue to operate the farm or ranch.

We are told the tax hikes would only affect families who end up selling the farm or ranch. Republican Senators have asked Secretary Vilsack for proof of his statements, but he has not answered their request.

The Democrats are in a hurry this week to pass the infrastructure bill before the Senate takes its traditional August recess.

Behind this bill, the Democrats have a larger bill they want passed soon. This bill contains social issues Republicans have cut from the infrastructure bill, such as immigration reform. The bill could also include tax hikes and reforms, including eliminating the stepped-up basis for capital gains taxes. There is no telling what else would be thrown into the bill.

Democrats hope to pass this bill through reconciliation, which they can do if every Democrat Senator votes “yes” and the vice president votes to break the tie. The only thing saving agriculture is some Democratic Senators from agricultural and rural states may vote against the bill or have amendments in the bill passed to exempt farms and ranches, but not other family businesses as I see it.

The president’s tax plan would tax unrealized capital gains at death at 43.4 percent, up from 23.8 percent after including the Medicare surtax. The plan would exempt $1 million in assets for an individual and $2 million for a couple. This action would repeal the stepped-up basis carryover heirs receive from their estates.

As one could guess, Republicans are fighting the president’s plan and the bills I mentioned.

A Texas A&M Agricultural and Food Policy Center study released in July stated just two of 94 representative farmers are affected by current tax policy which exempts $11.7 million in assets for individual heirs in an estate, or $23.4 million per couple. Under the planned bill to eliminate stepped-up basis, 92 percent of the 94 representative farms would carry tax liability averaging $726,104 per farm.

On another bill that would roll back estate tax exemptions to $3.5 million for an individual or $7 million per couple, combined with dropping the stepped-up basis, the tax liability is roughly $2.17 million per farm. This is why the fight is on.

The difference between a taxidermist and high taxes is that a taxidermist takes only your skin, not your family farm, ranch or other family business.

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is a weekly ag newspaper serving Wyoming and the surrounding states. To subscribe online or the print edition, please visit wylr.net or call              1-800-967-1647

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Dennis Sun: How About A Loud Cheer For Wyoming’s Most Effective ‘Quiet Man’

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

One of Wyoming’s best friends, Retired U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, passed away last week due to a bike accident. It was a tragic loss for his family, friends and the state of Wyoming.

We will remember him for his accomplishments as a mayor, state legislator and a U.S. senator for 23 years. He had great assistance for these accomplishments – his gracious wife Diana was always with him every step of the way.  

What we will really remember Sen. Enzi for is the way he accomplished everything. His way of negotiating was not the way Washington, D.C. works today. We hear tributes from the last couple of days describing him as soft spoken and quiet – that he was – but, his enthusiasm and knowledge of the issues he worked on was above board and infectious.

When Sen. Enzi retired, he was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Being an accountant and a small business owner, he knew how to manage money. Debt and deficit were not the results he worked for.

Sen. Enzi was noted for his “80-20 rule,” which focused on the 80 percent the two political parties can agree on rather than focusing on the 20 percent they can’t agree on. The senator thought trying to change the 20 percent was just wasting time and energy, and he was right.

I always enjoyed visits to his Washington, D.C. office. He would explain the issues so they were easy to understand and explain how to come up with a solution. Sen. Enzi understood Wyoming and its issues – from energy to agriculture, rural to urban. He cared for Wyoming and its people. 

I was grateful that Sen. Enzi, Diana and their staff always made time to attend the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame Picnic at the Wyoming State Fair. It meant a lot to us at the Roundup and the other sponsors to see both him and Diana at the event. What a great time this was to visit and catch up. 

It was with great pleasure that we saw Sen. Enzi inducted into the Wyoming Ag Hall of Fame in 2007. Wyoming agriculture nominated him and he was awarded for all of his work to ensure the state’s agriculture and our family’s way of life had a future. We were thankful then, and we are thankful now to have had him representing us in the U.S. Senate. 

We’re sure Sen. Enzi did not approve of the current administration’s deficit spending on a number of issues, as this just wasn’t his way. We all recognize at some point, someone has to pay back what we borrowed. The senator said years back if everyone gave a dime back to the government, it would be free of debt in a year or so. That would be obsolete today, wouldn’t it?

Somehow this country needs to get back to the money management philosophy of Sen. Enzi. Money needs to have a value and if given out for free, it turns out to have no value to people. Some people will just stop earning a living as they realize more money will be given to them. 

The Good Lord took a good one from Wyoming this past week but He must have been looking for someone who cares about people. Well, He got one, along with a good money manager. He just needs to give him time to go fly fishing. 

Our thoughts and prayers go to Diana and family.

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is a weekly agriculture newspaper serving Wyoming and the surrounding states. To subscribe online or the print edition, visit wylr.net or call 1-800-967-1647.

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Dennis Sun: New Senate Measure Pits Beef Raisers Against Other Beef Raisers

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By Dennis Sun, guest columnist

For those involved in agriculture, we always get suspicious when someone from Washington, D.C. says they want to do something to save America’s family farms and ranches. 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) are saying just this as they have brought similar bills before the U.S. House and Senate. Sen. Booker said this legislation would “transform a broken system and create a level playing field” for independent family farms. 

The Farm System Reform Act does have both good parts and bad parts. There are some national farm organizations that like the idea, but cattle organizations around the country are appalled by what’s in the bill.

Like any other bill submitted to Congress, the important parts are always in the details and where the funding is to be spent, as well as the amount of funding in the bill.

Sen. Booker has resubmitted this bill he introduced in 2019. I don’t know what happened in 2019, but it evidently was defeated or killed. The Senator must figure his chances are better this time.

The Farm System Reform Act of 2019 would strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers by restoring mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef and pork and expand to dairy products. It would also prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from labeling foreign imported meat products as “Product of USA.” 

This bill would create market transparency and protect farmers and ranchers from predatory purchasing practices and protect livestock and poultry farmers from retaliation. It would prohibit the use of unfair tournament or ranking systems for paying contract growers.

Most family farmers and ranchers would welcome the above parts of the bill. In reality, I think if USDA would just enforce the current Packers and Stockyards Act, this would go a long ways in helping family farmers and ranchers.

Then, we come to some parts of the act I think we need to take a long look at. Sen. Booker is a vegan and while that’s his choice and right, he also has the backing of some radical animal rights groups who want livestock producers to disappear and will go to any lengths to make it happen.

The parts of the bill that could or will harm livestock producers are to place an immediate moratorium on new and expanding large Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) over 1,000 head and phase out the largest CAFOs as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency by 2040. The act would also provide a voluntary buyout for farmers who want to transition out of operating a CAFO. 

We’re all for breaking up the concentration of the meatpackers, but will eliminating the large cattle feeders hurt all in the cattle business? I think it will. 

We have to consider if there will be an adequate number of new, smaller feeders to replace large feeders as well as their efficiency in feeding cattle. Sen. Booker seems to want no cattle feeding and to only utilize grass-fed cattle. This is not going to fly, especially in the export business. Some say it is a direct attack on cattle production. Consumers want beef from grain-fed cattle and so do others in countries that import American beef.

The most terrible part of the bill is it will have beef producers pitted against other beef producers over supporting the act, and it has already started. Beef producers divided are just what the sponsors of the act want to get rid of meat products.

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Dennis Sun: County Fairs Are The Best Time Of Year For Ag Folks

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By Dennis Sun, columnist

In Wyoming and across the region, it’s the start of county fair season. I like to think of this as a time of celebration for agriculture. 

This celebration is taking place in the show barns, show rings and the 4-H and FFA livestock auctions. It is serious business and the level of anxiety is a result of many months of hard work preparing for the county fairs. While not all of the competition consists of livestock, the livestock shows attract the most attention. 

It is important to remember this is a business for youth involved in these livestock shows. They need to acquire new animals for the next summer’s county fairs, buy feed and supplies and save some for college. In truth, it is a business that prepares these young people for the sometimes harsh world of being a grownup. They learn work ethic as a way to succeed at their goals.

County fairs are also a social time for all. The youth, while busy with animals, do have some down time to enjoy friends and meet new ones. The parents have been planning and making sure everything is perfect to have time to visit. Grandparents have the most fun of all – they come to watch, visit with others and to brag on their perfect grandkids. It is a family ritual that happens every summer.

County fairs are an introduction to life – they show hard work and a good attitude usually pay off. While in a show ring, youth exhibitors and their animal have to work as one. The youth also realize that no matter how much training and time spent, an animal is still an animal and one has to be prepared for the unexpected. That is life as grownups know it.

The youth also realize the judge in the show ring has a job to do and as everyone and their animals walks into the show ring, they all have an equal chance to do well, but the judge is human and they have their likes and dislikes. They are not robots, but at that moment, they are running the show and deserve respect. While most youth don’t realize it, most judges have been in their shoes during their youth. 

Showing livestock at county fairs is an opportunity for youth, and some day they will look back at the experience and realize what it taught them about life and business, and they will figure out the fun and games were not the most important part.  

In my youth, I was a member of FFA, but never showed any livestock, so I’m not a creditable source on this subject. But I do realize, and have for a long time, what I missed. Before I became associated with the Roundup, I didn’t have a clue of the importance of showing livestock or the opportunities involved. 

 I encourage everyone to read the Code of the West – this is what showing livestock teaches youth. 

We at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup wish all youth showing livestock success at the county and state fairs.

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Dennis Sun: Corn Rules The Ag Roost – All Six Varieties, Worldwide

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Those raising or feeding cattle or sheep in the High Plains or Rocky Mountain regions have to understand what happens in a corn field in Iowa or Brazil will affect their business.

Staying current on the news and prices should be a weekly concern.

Currently, worldwide corn prices are high due to China buying all the soybeans and corn lately. In the last year, corn prices have gone from $4.50 or $5 to a high of around $7.50 a bushel, recently dropping to around $6.94 a bushel this past week. During the last year, corn prices have dropped lower, but have recovered quickly.

Realizing we are dealing in commodities, we know supply and demand runs the show, but is this always the case? There are currently a large number of cattle on feed, and due to drought conditions, those numbers are going to grow. With high corn prices, some want heavier cattle to feed and finish out quickly, and there are some who still like the light calves to grow on grass or winter wheat for a cheaper gain.

Although, even with high corn prices, the price of feeder lambs is going up. Some feeders are buying all the lambs they can find. We realize there is a shortage of lamb products in the meat case and the foodservice industry doesn’t seem to be affected by the price of corn. At the moment, corn affects beef, but not so much lamb. I know there is someone out there who has an answer for this, but to this bunkhouse economist, it doesn’t make sense.

This past planting season was good for most farmers in the Corn Belt, thanks to good weather for planting and good soil moisture for growing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2021 estimate assumes planted acreage of 91.1 million acres. This is near an all-time record if those figures hold.

The ending stocks of corn are around 1,300 million bushels, which is around the average over the last 12 years. Brazil is coming out of a drought, and Argentina has placed restrictions on corn exports in fear of raising the price of fattening their own cattle – helping U.S. corn prices. Some smaller countries around the world, such as Ukraine, have really ramped up their corn production this spring.

Historically, feeder cattle prices have been determined by several factors, with corn price and fed cattle price having the greatest impact. Corn prices typically have a downward relationship to both fed and feeder cattle prices. This most likely holds true today, but there are so many other factors to include, making a decision is just more sophisticated these days.

I recently learned there are six different varieties of corn – sweet corn, popcorn, flour corn, dent corn, flint corn and pod corn. Sweet corn is a naturally sweet variety, which is harvested in the early stages, while popcorn is characterized by a hard outer shell and minimal soft starch content, but dent corn accounts for the majority of U.S. production. Flint corn is primarily found in America, Argentina and Canada, while pod corn is mainly ornamental. Genetically modified varieties are found in America, Argentina and Canada.

There we have it – more than anyone ever wanted to know about corn. What we all know is corn is very important to everyone’s food supply worldwide.

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Dennis Sun: When Meatpackers Play Fair, Hell Will Have Frozen Over

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

For some time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating the large meatpackers for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons for the investigation was unfair practices by the meatpackers.

I always figured the meatpackers used these unfair practices because they could – knowing they could get away with it – and this has harmed all on the lower chain of the meat supply.

As we have heard from Sen. Cynthia Lummis and Rep. Liz Cheney during interviews at the Roundup, the DOJ announced the reasons behind the investigation at the beginning, but has been silent until the investigation is finished to provide results. This is just the way this process works, and it takes time.

Before the DOJ investigation was announced, national livestock organizations kept asking for information and more investigations, especially the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. But, not hearing anything, we all hoped something was happening.

Then this spring, consumers realized beef prices were on the rise and some were hearing about a meat shortage again. This got the attention of members of Congress and they started to get vocal about it. Between the organizations, consumers and Congress, there was a lot of talk going on and finally some action.

Everyone realized the high price of beef only helped the meatpackers. We also realized there was an abundance of live cattle waiting to be processed and wondered why more cattle were not processed every week.

The packers were making a profit of $900 to $1,200 per head, but ranchers and feeders were getting low prices. Was this something more than supply and demand, and did this action place our food supply at risk?

As we know, the national livestock organizations got together and wrote some common goals. This united front pleased Congress and everyone involved. The Senate and House Agriculture Committees, along with the White House, started doing something.

About 100 years ago, Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect the poultry raisers, hog farmers and cattle ranchers from unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive practices in the meat markets. Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin work on three proposed rules to support enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

First, USDA wants to clarify and strengthen enforcement of unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences and unjust prejudices.

Second, USDA will propose a new poultry grower tournament system rule, with the current inactive proposal to be withdrawn.

Remember, some poultry processors have assessed large fines. And third, USDA will re-propose a rule to clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate harm to competition in order to bring an action under section 202(a) and 202(b) of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

These rules hopefully will strengthen the sustainability of ranchers, farmers and growers. USDA will spend $4 billion to support the new proposed rules and guarantee the need for greater transparency and competition in the livestock markets and the meat processing sector, including unfair treatment of some farmers, ranchers and small processors.

Some in Congress have introduced bills to help the process such as Sen. Tester (D-MT). This bill would create a team of investigators within the packers and stockyard division of the USDA that will have the power of subpoena, allowing them to obtain information to keep meatpackers accountable.

We will know hell has frozen over when we see the meatpackers accountable, but we have faith it will happen.

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Dennis Sun: When It Comes To Fake Meat, It’s All About Money

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

We live in a capitalist’s country, so generating dollars is what our lives are all about. We promote and sell our products with pride and honesty. We hope our products will be of value to our customers, and in turn, they will help promote our story and livelihood.

As we know, those in agriculture are known for their hard work, honesty and their distaste of dishonesty. Such is the case of alternative meat products.

These alternative meat products have many names, such as plant-based meat and other names which include “meat” on the label. These plant-based products not only have meat on the label, but are also labeled as eggs, milk, shrimp, veggie burgers and tuna.

Some of the wealthiest people in America are investors in these products – even some of the biggest meatpackers – so they must feel there is a future for these products. The concerning issue is, along with telling the positive story of their alternative products, they tell an inaccurate story of the products they want to substitute.

I think they have really pulled the wool over the consumers’ eyes and wrongly hurt the meat industry. I have never heard of anyone who has tried to sell an alternative Ford pickup or any other product like that.

I can see why they are picking on milk and meat – the demand for both is huge. Milk has really been hurt by all of the alternative products out there. I don’t know why they call it the milk case anymore with all of the fake milk products. These fake products shouldn’t be in the milk case.

I don’t have a problem with these companies promoting their products, but they are spreading misinformation on meat and milk to get the consumer to buy their alternative products. These companies claim their products are healthier and rather than saying they taste better, they say they taste just like the real meat product.

I can’t imagine all of the additives they mix into their products to achieve the desired sensory characteristics of meat. Their labels may list over 20 ingredients for flavoring, coloring and binding. They also have insect imitations of meat products.

The part that really disturbs me is when the alternative meat companies say their products are more environmentally safe, don’t harm our planet and help with climate change. Nothing could be further from the truth. These claims put a guilt trip on consumers not to use real meat and milk, and it is working. Some consumers have really bought into what they are saying and it is just wrong.

I really don’t think those who own these alternative meat companies are all too concerned about the environment, but rather are concerned about making money for themselves. Some have done quite well. We have to give them credit, though, as this is working with some consumers.

This is one of the big reasons livestock producers and agricultural organizations need to get the word out on the truths of raising livestock and the positive aspects of eating real meat for both the environment and our bodies. It is again the reason we need a strong Beef Checkoff to set the record straight.

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Dennis Sun: An Invite To Summer Stock Growers Event

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Everyone says we live in an information age these days.

We at the Roundup take the information we provide our readers very seriously in terms of content and accuracy of the articles – it is the quality of the product readers have paid for and expect every week.

I use this space mostly to inform and throw in my opinion to get the readership to thinking and, of course, readers may agree or disagree with me and this is their right. It makes me feel better when they agree, though.

For us in agriculture, in my opinion, the best source for information is meeting at conventions – either statewide or national. The reason I’m saying this is the information one gets at these conventions is tailored towards specific needs in agriculture.

By attending conventions, one can receive information from someone who knows the issue and more important, they can question them about that issue.          Besides speakers, trade shows are a great way to gain information one may want. While most booths will have something to sell, there is great information at every booth.

The third way to get information at these conventions is visiting with everyone in the business to get a sense on how they have handled a situation or issue.

A great place to gain information and learn what’s new on ag issues is at the upcoming Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) summer convention, June 2-4 at the Holiday Inn in Sheridan. The theme for the 2021 Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention & Trade Show is “Positioning Wyoming’s Beef Industry for Success.”

Wednesday’s schedule is meetings of Wyoming CattleWomen, WSGA Young Producers Assembly and Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, with tours of King’s Saddlery and the University of Wyoming (UW) Research Station, all followed by an evening reception.

Thursday starts off with annual reports of various organizations, followed by a panel of the Young Producers Assembly. Next is a panel from UW Extension Service, followed by Kristie Mazko of UW with a talk titled “Sustainable Ranch Management Assessment Tool.”

The rest of the day is WSGA committee meetings, which are a great place to give input on the various issues. At noon, they will honor the Wyoming Beef Council’s 50th birthday. That evening at the banquet will feature Gov. Mark Gordon and First Lady Jennie Gordon.

Friday will start with the prayer breakfast, followed by Sen. Cynthia Lummis speaking from Washington, D.C. The general session continues with Kevin Ochsner providing a talk titled “Ride the Horse in the Direction He is Moving.” Next are speakers from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association titled “The Story We Must Tell” and “D.C. – Challenge and Opportunity,” followed by a panel on identifying where energy and agriculture coincide.

Rep. Liz Cheney will speak in person, followed by the UW College of Ag and Natural Resources Dean Barbara Rasco and Pepper Jo Six sharing about the new UW Ranch Management & Ag Leadership Program. Galen Chase of Chase Brothers will give a talk called “Land & Ranch Brokerage,” followed by Justin Hossfeld of Bayer Animal Health on the value of forage. The speaker at the awards luncheon will be retired Sen. Mike Enzi with award presentations to follow.

It’s time to let the grass grow and come to Sheridan for fun, good conversations and great information. You don’t have to be a member of WSGA to attend.

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Dennis Sun: The Good And Not So Good Times – This Is Normal In The World Of Livestock

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Being in the business of commodities is not for the weak at heart. Even growing up in the livestock business does not prepare one for all the good and not so good times.

Those in the beef and lamb business are hanging on and hoping for a time of stability, if there is such a thing. Despite the pandemic and all of the uncertainty, consumer demand has never wavered and this is the best positive we’ve got. The consumer demand, both in America and through exports, is really saving us.

We realize there are some strong negatives out there, but we’ll also take advantage of the good out there.

With the strong demand, it is almost like beef and lamb have been rediscovered. Maybe the meat shortages during the pandemic and the farm or ranch-to-plate businesses that have started up around the country makes it seem so. Regardless, it’s working.

One of the better results caused by the pandemic is consumers have learned about the different cuts of meat and how to cook them properly. It is interesting to watch people at the meat counter these days – they know what cut of meat they want. The meat counter is not so confusing these days.

These same people learned what to cook with their meat and found new spices and additives to use. Paying more for Prime cuts was okay, and consumers grew comfortable with their home cooking, whereas they used to just cook hamburger at home.

The pandemic brought on other changes. City landfills have never been busier, with people cleaning out their homes and garages.

The real estate business is booming with low interest rates and people wanting to move out of cities or move to other states more favorable to their values.

People have been improving their lawns with landscaping and outdoor living improvements. Small tractor sales – the equipment under 40 horsepower – have really spiked.

States with open spaces, recreation, national parks and dude ranches will be busy this summer as people just want to get away to a safe place. These same people needed to buy new clothes that fit after sitting around the house for a year, as the only clothes they bought during the pandemic were pajamas and sweats.

Recreational vehicles and camp trailers have never been in higher demand, both to lease and purchase. The bad part is this means more traffic during summer construction season.

Somehow, we have to get past all of the shortages, from packinghouse capacity to loss of car manufacturing because we need to increase the demand for leather products for things like car seats.

There is a labor shortage as people can sit home and make more money on unemployment than a working wage. The lumber shortage and sky-high prices are a result of a shortage of truck drivers. This lack of truck drivers, along with the shortage of dock workers to unload ships, affects all household products.

Commodities are like the weather – they always seem to balance out over time. Having said this, I guess our time is coming.

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Dennis Sun: I Choose Not To Allow Sage Grouse Hunting On My Lands

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The endangered species issue has always been an important topic, especially for the western states. What compounds the issue is when it’s made political and the politics take the place of science – it comes down to science by votes.

Recently, around 80 environmental organizations asked Congress to stop approving budget riders which they say hinders adding protections for sage grouse in the 11 western states they live in.

Most of the western states that have sage grouse feel there are enough protections for the species with the individual states’ management plans – which have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But, with the Biden administration and the Democratic Congress, environmental organizations feel they have a chance to get these budget riders stopped, so they can get more protection added to the birds.

These organizations would really like to see the sage grouse listed and protected, but the truth is, at this time it just isn’t warranted and the science doesn’t show it is warranted. It is just a way to gain control of public lands and some control of private lands. Sage grouse numbers cycle up and down, and there are a lot of indicators out there to keep them from falling off the cliff.

Reading through news articles in the Oil City News, I see having a hunting season for sage grouse has come up as an issue again. While the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) supports hunting, there are a number of people out there who don’t.

I think there are some good arguments for both sides, but the science is behind the WGFD and the emotional side is behind no hunting. Sage grouse numbers are lower in some areas now, so people are raising concerns.

We’ve all heard arguments from the pro-hunting side saying, “We’ll never get the hunters back if we stop hunting and the numbers killed don’t affect the total number of sage grouse.”

From a landowner’s point of view, I’m not for hunting sage grouse and don’t allow it on my private lands – this is my right. The reason behind this decision is I woke up one morning and realized my land was in a sage grouse core area, and the decision was made without much input from me.

I realize I could have been more involved, but that’s behind us now. While it did stop some energy development, I choose not to fight it and looked for opportunities from the decision, as the decision was made and there wasn’t much I could do about it. I also realized Wyoming has done a great job with their sage grouse management plan and have been looked on as the leader in the western states for management of the bird. 

I became involved in a Sage Grouse Initiative Program and later enrolled in a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances. This program protects me if the sage grouse is listed.  

I see this past week, the Department of the Interior said they are moving to reopen, and potentially revise, sweeping Greater sage grouse conservation plans covering millions of acres across the West.

If the bird is listed or more regulations forced on us, I’m the guy who is going to take the hit as a landowner. To me, the loss of any sage grouse is bad, whether it is caused by hunting, weather or predators. I don’t like to roll the dice on the future of my ranch.

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