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Dennis Sun

Dennis Sun: This Are Odd Times, The Demand For Beef Is Up, And The Supply Is Down

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As we get closer to the Fourth of July, those in agriculture are watching calf and yearling cattle, lamb, hay, and grain prices.

Those in the livestock or farming business, and their bankers, are trying to figure out if the cost of raising these cattle and lambs is starting to outgrow the prices we hope to receive this fall. We all start shaking the dice this time of the year. 

Cows and bulls at the local auctions keep going up, but are they meeting the price of inputs? Inputs such as inflation-driven fuels, fertilizer, pickups and every day needs are rising. Will the prices for lambs, calves and yearlings overcome the high prices of inputs?

As we complain, we do have to realize, in our region, we can raise calves and lambs cheaper than other areas in the country. Our land taxes and the costs of ranching are cheaper here. 

We don’t need to fertilize our summer grazing lands like they do in the eastern and southern parts of the U.S. With their smaller herds, the cost of raising an animal goes up quite a bit.

I always thought prices at this time of the year gave a pretty good indication of prices this fall. In the last few years, especially with calves and yearlings, the prices started on a downward slide. But this year, it could be going in the opposite direction. 

The reason I’m saying this is, demand for beef is growing and cattle numbers are declining. Both are expected to continue these patterns for the year. With the demand for hamburger growing, the U.S. is importing a lot of cattle as the packers need the lean beef to go with the extra fat our fat cattle are producing right now.

With high inflation and the threat of a recession a factor, these unknowns could really hurt us. Unknowns are hard to plan around. The biggest unknown out there is what the White House is going to do next. 

They need to stop blaming others for our problems and find practical solutions to get America out of this mess. We sure don’t need a national handout now. While $2,000 was nice to receive, we are paying for it now.

A big positive now is the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 was signed into law on June 16. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition estimates 22 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2021 were not delivered because of unreasonable shipping practices. This law will address challenges at the ports, including aging infrastructure and shipping issues leading to excessive detention, demurrage fees and declined or canceled shipments.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom says of the timeliness of the bill, “In these times of rising input costs, it has never been more important to maximize the value of our agricultural products, and the best way to do that now is to ensure access to the international marketplace. This legislation takes important steps forward in improving the shipping services available to U.S. exporters.”

In times like this, we’ll take any positives.

     The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit wylr.net or call 800-967-1647.

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Dennis Sun: Beef, It’s Looking Up All Around The World

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

For those involved in the beef industry, the last few days have been somewhat positive. These days we’ll take any positives and sit up a little taller in the saddle.

Of course, the big news is the rain most of us have received lately in our region, and our favorite weatherman, Don Day, says more is on the way. We’ll take it. 

As of May 31, the Casper area has received seven inches of precipitation for the year. Over Memorial Day weekend, I’ve been holding rain dances, weather permitting.

While the cost of inputs and inflation are really hurting us, lamb and beef demand is high and predicted to go higher. Hopefully this will mean more dollars to the feeders and producers.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) held their spring conference last week, the first in-person conference since 2019. Those attending were from the U.S., Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean countries and Europe.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said, “To date, demand for U.S. red meat has been as strong as I’ve seen in all my years in the meat business, and remarkably resilient. But the question in my mind is, at what point do these inflationary pressures start to constrict disposable income for the global consumer? At what point will we see a crack in demand?”

The good news is he thinks the new foodservice and retail trends which exploded during the pandemic are likely here to stay. One speaker, author and consultant, Peter Zeinan, projected food insecurity will rise around the globe and said conditions are ripe for regional famines.

He continued to say, “While American farmers and ranchers face sharply higher input costs, their production and supply chain challenges are not as drastic as in many other regions of the world.”

So, despite significant obstacles, he emphasized U.S. agriculture is well positioned for robust growth over the next 10 to 12 years.

I was reading an article from Progressive Farmer, DTN saying the three bullish factors continuing to bode well for the feeder cattle market are beef cow slaughter, supply/demand mechanics and U.S. beef exports. A large minus for feeder cattle are the high grain prices.

As the article read, we have to realize 2021 was a record year for beef cow slaughter. Out of the 52-week calendar year, there were 18 weeks in 2021 when beef cow slaughter exceeded 70,000 head, which is incredibly unusual. 

But in 2022, there has only been one week when beef cow slaughter hasn’t exceeded 70,000 head. This was partially brought on by the drought. Fewer beef cows means demand for these cattle should strengthen, which should send prices higher too.

This past week at cattle auctions, cows were bringing upper $80 and bulls around $115 per hundred weight. These are prices we haven’t seen for some time.

The U.S. beef exports in 2021 were great and so far in 2022, exports have risen by over seven percent. This year-over-year growth in beef exports is a strong supportive factor in our U.S. beef cattle market.

In these times, it is great to read on positive overtones, and it is a great time to head to Cheyenne June 8-11 for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association 150th Anniversary Celebration and summer convention. 

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Dennis Sun: Stockgrowers Association Needs Support Of All Wyomingites

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

This month, as we start to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and look forward to the big celebration and convention June 8-11, we need to take some time to realize the positive impacts WSGA has provided Wyoming ranchers throughout the years.

If you are not a member of WSGA, hunt up a member and visit about what WSGA has accomplished in the past and their future plans. I can guarantee you, at some time in the past, the association has helped you indirectly or directly.

If you are a business in agriculture or in the livestock industry, it has also helped you or your business.

One has to recognize the support currently provided by its 1,200 members or the businesses supporting WSGA through sponsorship or being in the tradeshows at the convention. The WSGA is a major player supporting the livestock businesses in the state.

For livestock producers, there are a number of ways to be a member, with the largest category being the producer membership, which has four levels depending on the number of cattle you have. There is also the subsidiary membership for employees or family members of producer members.

Also, there is the retired rancher membership for those who are not a producer but still want to be involved in the association and have influence in WSGA issues.

The Guardian of the Grasslands membership is for those producers who wish to contribute a higher level of commitment dollars to the organization.

Producer members can belong to the WSGA Cattlemen’s Club by donating the proceeds from the sale of one healthy calf, steer or heifer annually. This support really helps the WSGA.

Young producers can join the Wyoming Young Producers Assembly – a great place to learn more about ranching and livestock issues. It is an opportunity for these producers to get involved with those of similar interests.

Businesses with involvement in agriculture and livestock products may join as an associate member with four levels of options. For those who want to help support the interests of the livestock industry, they may join as a supporting member – it is a non-voting membership.

Show up to Cheyenne for the convention, get registered and have some fun while meeting others with the same interests. You will take home a wealth of information to help you in the livestock business.

As a past president of WSGA, I know the respect and support the association has on a county, state and national level. One hundred fifty years of being in the business of supporting and assisting those in the livestock business is something to be proud of.

There are those who say, “I’m just not a joiner,” but if you are in the livestock business, you need to support an ag organization you feel will help you the most. Look them over and support someone. You are cheating your families and business by not belonging. The biggest part these associations provide is information, and information is dollars these days, just as it was 150 years ago.

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is a weekly agricultural newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit wylr.net or call 800-967-1647.

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Dennis Sun: Wyoming Stock Growers Celebrating 150 Years

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) has been in business for 150 years serving its members and other stock growers on a state and national level. Its longevity is unmatched here in the state. 

While earlier organizations were started, it wasn’t until 1872 cattlemen around Cheyenne and the nearby ranges started meeting to visit about their issues, theft being one of the main reasons. Out of these meetings, WSGA was formed and the rest is history. From its beginning, it quickly grew into the go-to organization to assist cattlemen with their issues. WSGA is believed to be the second oldest state livestock organization in the U.S.

In 1872, Wyoming was not a business-friendly state. The government in Washington D.C. wanted people to settle out West and develop communities. The Civil War was over, and the government wanted people to develop discoveries of gold in California, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming to help pay for the war. The transcontinental railroad had been completed and the southern areas of the state were being settled, but in areas north of the railroad and especially north of the Laramie Range, it was somewhat lawless. Building up a ranch was a hard business, but it didn’t stop people. 

The range was open and everyone’s cattle were kept to a certain area, but with no fences – cattle were mixed all the time. Large roundups were common, covering hundreds of miles as most ranchers were just getting started with smaller herds. Isolation was a way of life. Communities were far between, so ranchers had to protect themselves. WSGA was established to protect ranchers from rustlers. 

If you were an officer or member of WSGA, just getting to Cheyenne for meetings took time. Getting to a railroad to travel to Cheyenne was a trip itself. The determination and loyalty to the WSGA organization is still entrenched in its members today. Officers realize the need to be organized, just as much as they did in 1872. The commitment today of staff, members and officers is just as strong as 150 years ago.

Along with Yellowstone Park celebrating their 150th anniversary, this year is the 150th year the Sun family has been ranching. My great-grandfather Tom Sun Sr. staked his first deeded lands at Devils Gate in 1872. He had been in the area for some years as a scout for the railroad at Fort Steele, mined for gold around the South Pass and Seminole Mountains area and outfitted for wealthy Europeans in central Wyoming. He developed the ranch while outfitting and mining gold. When he first started ranching, unfriendly Native Americans were one of his biggest problems. 

Remember, Custer’s Last Stand didn’t happen until June of 1876. Going through diaries, I read of huge grasshopper plagues happening at the time. Sun Sr. helped map out a proposed railroad line from Fort Steele north to the Sweetwater River to mine for soda. He went to Oregon a couple times to trail cattle and horses back to the ranch. It would be interesting to know when he first joined WSGA, I think it was around the 1890s. 

There is no doubt in my mind WSGA will last another 150 years.  

Thomas Jefferson once said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” 

I agree, but I think we also learn from history to form the future. 

I hope to see WSGA members and nonmembers in Cheyenne, June 8-11 for the big WSGA 150th Anniversary Celebration. It’s going to be a good time.

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit www.wylr.net or call 800-967-1647

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Dennis Sun: Thank A Farmer Or Rancher, They Are Not Causing High Food Prices

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In agriculture, one of the major tasks in spring is spreading fertilizer on hay or crop fields. This year, with inflation going through the roof and the looming drought, hard decisions are being made daily.

In our area, native hay and alfalfa are big crops with both farmers and ranchers. With over two years of drought, hay and alfalfa reserves are practically nonexistent, or the cost of $250 to $300 a ton makes it out of reach for many to buy. Remember these crops, along with all other crops, are commodities, and the prices asked are based on supply and demand.

Along with other crops, the need to fertilize is important to achieve higher yields, so plants are not so costly to raise and harvest. If not under a constant supply of water this summer, producers would be wasting fertilizer. Producers aren’t going to get much of a crop if the drought continues on through the summer.

As you can guess, I’m not writing this column for those in ag, but to help consumers understand why prices at the grocery store are so high. Please don’t blame the farmers and ranchers for the high prices, most causes are out of their control.

Don’t forget, we’re in a global market. We all realize the costs of the Russian invasion on Ukrainian corn, wheat and barley. The Ukraine farmers have no idea if they are going to be able to raise a crop this summer and if they are able to export the crop.

Ukrainian farmers are big players in the global markets of grain and can make a difference. We also realize Russia will not be able to export their grain crops this summer either. Other countries to watch are India, Brazil, Australia and, of course, China.

Our president was in Iowa recently raising the limit of ethanol in gasoline, which in turn will raise the price of corn, so corn products will cost more at the grocery store and in the feedlots for livestock producers. With the lower number of cattle and hogs, coupled with higher corn prices, the cost of meat will certainly rise.

Farmers in the Corn Belt are planting less corn, because corn needs more fertilizer than other crops. Instead, they are planting more soybeans. It will be interesting to see how the prediction plays out. As with fertilizer prices, other rising costs for farmers and ranchers are mainly caused by inflation.

Inflation, by definition, is the measure of rising prices of goods and services in an economy. It is caused by rising production costs or rapid demand increases. Rising food price increases are justified by both forces of inflation. Higher raw material prices and shortages, increased transportation costs, labor shortages and import delays all increase production costs for farmers and ranchers.

Combined with rising global demand, there are subsequent rises in commodity prices. Forecasters say there is strong fundamental support for higher input prices.

It is like we are in a perfect storm, you may dodge one part, but another part will get you. You can’t control it, but you feel it.

This may be a tough summer for farmers and ranchers, but they have made it through all the other tough years and will do so again. Think of them as you shop for groceries.

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit wylr.net or call 800-967-1647.

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Dennis Sun: The More You Study Meat Markets The More Confusing It All Looks

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

If you are a livestock producer, understanding the current and future meat markets, both in the U.S. and abroad, can cause you to beat your head on a rock frequently. It’s not our fault, it just takes almost a daily experience to keep in touch with what is going on in the global meat world. I think the current and future meat market resembles the oil and gas business somewhat, where supply and consumer demand rules.

The U.S. meat business involves pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, beef and lately the alternative meat products. Finding the right markets and guessing consumers’ demands takes work and a good set of dice in the global markets. They all depend on grain – a different world altogether.

The ruthless pandemic caused the consumer to cook at home, learn about the different cuts of meats and how to cook them for dinner. One positive result was lamb meat markets, which are now a hot commodity and good for those lamb producers.

As with all meats, prices have risen at the meat counter. These prices didn’t bother the consumers much at first, as they couldn’t eat out at restaurants.  But lately, with the higher price of beef, the demand for poultry has come on strong. People haven’t abandoned beef, but the high cost of ribeyes and other primal cuts has caught consumers’ attention.

Beef Magazine said declining beef and pork production may offset increased broiler production and lead to a decrease in total meat production in 2022. This decline is showing up in other countries such as China. In the last few years, we have seen high numbers of cattle and hogs.

Recently, both beef and pork prices have been rising due to lower numbers. This year the U.S. Hogs and Pigs report revealed the March 1 report for market and breeding hogs are down from last year.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center reported beef production is forecast to drop by 2.2 percent. Beef consumption is also down. Dropping beef cattle inventories will result in reduced cattle slaughter this year, and U.S. beef exports are supposed to drop from a record 2021. But the good news is, cattle prices under the lower numbers are supposed to rise.

The big unknowns out there for all the meat markets is grain prices and how long the drought will hang on. Drought will have the greatest impact on beef inventory, mainly because of pasture and hay production.

Then we have to look at alternative proteins, which we all dislike to speak of. These alternative proteins have caught the attention of the younger millennials and Generation Z consumers looking for “healthy” proteins. Many of these young adults want “healthy” foods and have fallen for the false advertising of those investing in these products, such as Bill Gates.

If they would take the time to read the list of ingredients and quit listening to these billionaires and animal rights activists selling their snake oil, we would all be better off. They are all trying to get the dismal stock prices of alternative proteins to increase. Beyond Meats, one of the most popular brands, had a cost per share of $158 a year ago and now is $47. So, you can see why they are promoting their product at this time.

America has the best and healthiest meats in the world, why would anyone look elsewhere for a better protein for themselves and their families?

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Dennis Sun: Out Here In The West, We Cannot Underestimate Importance Of Private Lands

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Private lands are the most important part of the Western states. In some areas of the West, we are seeing an erosion of the rights of those private landowners. We see increased trespassing and federal legislation, regulations and policies infringing on private property rights such as endangered species, federal water claims, expansion of predatory species, excess populations of wildlife and generally less respect of those private lands.

In the last few years, we have seen many people move to our Western area looking to buy private land as their rights have eroded where they have lived. This large influx of people realize what we have in the West and wish to enjoy it also. They recognize the beauty of the land, the independence it allows and they want a place to watch and hunt wildlife.

In Wyoming, people know they can apply and will most likely receive a hunting license after their residence is proven.

These landowner hunting licenses are currently being discussed at Wyoming Wildlife Task Force meetings. Gov. Mark  Gordon initiated the task force last year to review and update the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) policies for the future years. The members of the task force are a good group of people with interests in wildlife, hunting and ranching, who are giving up a good deal of their time away from their businesses and private lives as they realize the importance of their task.

Earlier this week I attended the task force meeting in Casper as they discussed landowner licenses and the recommendations of the landowner licenses sub-committee. Hearing the discussion, I soon realized how complicated the issue of landowner licenses was. I was happy to hear the task force mentioned they wanted to start the discussion on the original intent of the WGFD Commissioners, when they developed the landowners license program to compensate landowners for the wildlife habitat they provided.

I think the original intent of this program has been lost and the program has been abused. I don’t apply any more as I don’t hunt, but would like a license to donate to a non-profit and get the tax write off or to sell to a qualified hunter.

Not far from the ranch, there is a development of small acre cabin lots where some owners have landowner licenses. Their small acreage usually has no wildlife on it, so they have to hunt elsewhere. I’ve found them trespassing on my land to hunt, as I provide adequate wildlife habitat on the ranch.

The sub-committee’s recommendations were numerous and it is a good start. They want to increase the minimum acreage required to either 320 or 1,281 acres to apply. They wanted to cap the number of licenses in certain areas, which will not fly out in the hills. They also want to make it so landowners could give a long-time ranch employee their landowner license. They recommended to have a separate minimum acreage requirement (160 acres) be applied to cultivated lands.

Working farms and ranches should have the priority in receiving landowner licenses. The initial intent was to compensate ranchers and farmers, not small recreational acreages people have bought, some just for the hunting licenses. They have no livestock and don’t use the resources other than for recreation or a cabin site. I also think the landowner compensation should be raised where it will be meaningful to the rancher and farmer. Some act like it is terrible to give ranchers and farmers anything, but alright to give a hunter whatever they want.

Ranchers and farmers are wildlife’s best friends, they need to be treated as such.

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Dennis Sun: If You Have A Few Days To Spare This Year, Go Visit Our National Treasure

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

March 1 marked the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Yellowstone National Park (YNP). It was the first national park in the U.S. and some say, in the world. Although the Yellowstone and Jack- son Hole areas had earlier been explored by John Colter in 1808 and by Jim Bridger looking for beaver in the 1820s, their descriptions were generally not believed. Let’s face it, if you hadn’t seen Yellowstone in those days with all of its wonders, it would be a little hard to believe.

In 1871, Ferdinand Hayden, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, led an expedition into Yellowstone at the urgings of Nathaniel P. Langford, who had participated in the 1870 expedition into Yellowstone led by Henry Washburn and Jay Cooke, the owner of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Cooke had an interest in getting a railroad into the Montana Territory and on to the Pacific Ocean.

Congress approved $40,000 for the expedition into the Yellowstone region and free transportation was furnished by the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. Those who were involved in the expedition were an agricultural statistician, entomologist, topographers, botanists, a meteorologist, a zoologist, photographer William Henry Jackson and artist Thomas Moran.

Six months after they returned to Washington with all of the visual proof, Congress passed a law and President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill into law, but there was no money appropriated for Yellowstone at the time. The U.S. Army was the first to manage the park and the biggest issue was keeping hunters under control.

The first managers had their hands full as they had to map the boundaries and begin an inventory of just what Yellowstone consisted of. And I would guess they were only able to be in the park during the summer. I think it would have been interesting times to be in Yellowstone without the tourists, but the accommodations had to be pretty rustic and there still was a danger of Native American attacks.

YNP is bigger in size than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, covering almost 3,500 square miles; and forms a rectangle with an irregular eastern side which is 63 miles in length from north to south and 54 miles wide from east to west.

The park contains the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states and is home to over 285 species of birds and over 1,350 species of flowering plants. YNP has the largest herd of bison in the world roaming freely and is the largest public bison herd in the U.S. The latest estimate of bison in the park is around 4,800 head.

The history of YNP is fascinating, it’s something over-looked by those visiting the park. The first presence of humans in the park were found around Gardiner and dated back to at least 11,000 years ago. The oldest public building in the park is the Lake Yellowstone Hotel which dates back to 1891 and is still a great place to stay today. The oldest public log cabin building is the Old Faithful Inn, built in 1904.

In 2021, 4.86 million visitors experienced the wonders of YNP, up around one million from 2020. You could almost say people are loving the park to death and those numbers of tourists will need to be managed to provide a good experience.

If you get a couple of free days this year, YNP is waiting for you and your family to experience, an experience your family will never forget.

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Dennis Sun: Hats Off To Legislators, We Appreciate Their Work

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By the time you read this column, the Wyoming Legislative Budget Session will be over. While this was a budget session, numerous other bills were filed as always.

For a time last summer, we all heard the budget was going to be really tight. Gov. Gordon had trimmed down the state’s budget, then trimmed some more to get to a lean and mean position. Then, energy prices started rising, plus COVID-19 funds and other dollars passed by Congress really helped with the state outlook. I now wonder how the state will look down the road with $130 per barrel of oil?

This time of the year, it’s easy to focus on our own interests and lose sight on the big picture. The lobbyists and legislatures help to see the whole view and what is best for the state. They all may not agree, but the majority of votes rule the day.

We understand world and national events have dominated the news in past weeks, but the issues during the state legislature are going to affect us for years to come, too. For a lot of us who have witnessed the legislature in past years, we know there are long days with hard work being accomplished. I don’t know how they do their job legislating and keep their constituents “in the know” during the session. And for those on the Appropriations Committee or in a leadership role, their time and workload were harder.

Those in agriculture also are proud and thankful for the excellent work of agriculture organization’s lobbyists who work so hard for agriculture. They work well together for the best of agriculture and natural resources.

There were not many high-profile agriculture bills filed during this session. There were some bills dealing with trespassing, water, conservation easements, predator control, taxes and redistricting which held our interest.

I was especially proud of the ag interests in the Appropriations Committee, it will be interesting to see if they all stay in the budget bill. The dollars earmarked for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture were for Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom, predator management and weed and pest control. There were also dollars for State Parks and Cultural Resources for the Centennial Farm and Ranch Program. We’re excited for dollars slated for the University of Wyoming for the rodeo team, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for endowed professorships and for capital construction, which is really needed on and off campus.

Despite what appropriations and bills pass or don’t pass, which party they belong to or where their interests lie, we need to thank all the legislatures, lobbyists and everyone who works within the session, as we’re indebted to them for their time and hard work. From the Governor and First Lady Gordon and down through state government ranks, thanks for your hard work and support for agriculture year-round. We will not always agree with our legislatures, but we need to respect their hard work

There is a reason agriculture stays strong in Wyoming, and it’s the people involved.

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Dennis Sun: The World Has Changed With The War In Ukraine

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In the last couple of weeks, the events of war between Russia and Ukraine have changed the world with violence we haven’t seen since 1945. This violence caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine will go down in history, yet to be defined as it hasn’t fully played out.

History repeats itself, and it certainly has in this case, in the fight over oil and the pipelines to transport it. Since 2014, every time world oil prices reached a high point, Russia has invaded or taken over a country or the strategic area of one. In essence, Russia has used profits from energy to finance their efforts to take back countries formally a part of Russia before its collapse.

While Russia is a large country with huge energy reserves and resources, under a corrupt government at the top, its economy has never been free to flourish. In comparison, the state of Texas has a larger economy than Russia, and California has an economy around twice the size of Russia. You can see why Russia needs high oil prices and a delivery system to export its oil, it is the easiest money for them to finance illegal takeovers of countries.

While some European countries have let Russia place a stranglehold on them by importing their oil and natural gas, they are now realizing their mistake as the threat of Russia is at their doorstep. Now, America needs to stop importing Russian oil. In reality, Russia is using American dollars to finance the invasion of Ukraine.

In 2020, America was the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas condensate, with Russia as number two. But America is also the number one user of oil and natural gas in the world. In the last year, U.S. oil and gas production and exploration has dropped, as the current administration has placed restrictions on development in the name of climate change as the reason.

In the last couple of weeks, our current administration has said climate change is a bigger issue to Americans than the invasion in Ukraine. This progressive stance is wrong and could hurt America for a long time. It will not be quick, but America needs to start producing oil and natural gas and mining coal to help solve the shortages in America and around the world. Having secure supplies from close allies highlights why the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion was so important.

The sanctions placed on Russia are working, but may not be enough. We have to dry up the markets for Russian energy, and we need to do it as a united country, not as one political party against another. Do we think a family huddled together in a bomb shelter in Ukraine cares about Republicans or Democrats and their differences? They just need help from America and others.

This week we are seeing a break in political bickering and Congressional members are joining together to solve the energy issues, but it needs to have leadership from the top.

Whatever happens with the Ukraine invasion, Americans and other free-world countries need to have secure energy sources. America can help, but we need leaders with realistic goals to stop Russia and keep a safe world for all people.

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Dennis Sun: Laws That Deal With Rights Of Private Land Owners Needs To Be Updated

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The right to own a home, business or land in America is a right we all take very personally and seriously. Even though we are taught to respect this right, at times there are some who disrespect the laws of private property. In a western state, with large portions of public lands intermingled with private lands, the disrespect is more frequent.

The laws dealing with trespassing on private lands in Wyoming are really antiquated as they haven’t changed much since the state was formed on July 10, 1890. The laws concerning trespassing while hunting have changed, but not the laws of trespassing on private lands. 

The laws regarding trespassing in Wyoming and other western states are few and general. But remember, it doesn’t matter if you are 60 miles from any town or in the middle of town, the same law applies to all.

Wyoming law states, “Criminal trespass is simply the entry or remaining upon the land or premises belonging to any other person who is to leave or stay away from the property by the owner of the property, a person in legal control of the property, by a peace officer or as an agent for either the owner or legal occupant.”

Another form of notification is through the posting of any sign reasonably likely to come to the attention of a potential intruder. Wyoming has no specific requirements for the type of sign on posting locations.

Unlawful entry into an occupied structure, which is essentially a specific charge of trespassing with the intent to commit battery, is a felony, otherwise trespassing is a misdemeanor.  

With intermingled lands, trespassing on private lands has been an issue of late. I’ve had seismic companies, pipeline surveyors, rock hunters and outdoor enthusiasts trespass on my private lands, and they knew they were on private lands. People with ATVs are the worst. They think the world is theirs to go where they want. To get out of charges, all they have to do is lie their way out of it. 

There are still those who respect private lands and watch out for where they are. I’m thankful for those individuals and I make sure to treat them with respect. The culture of trespassing seems to be growing. They would sure have trouble being in Texas, where one just does not trespass. People there really respect private lands.

The trespassing laws for hunting are different. It is the hunter’s responsibility to know where they are. The private landowner doesn’t have to prove where the trespasser is. 

With all the GPS technology these days, not knowing where one is located is not an issue. It sure makes it simpler for all. 

Respect for each other’s property would go a long way towards solving the trespassing issue. You can tell all you need to know about a society from how it treats animals and private lands. 

Respect would help make it so we wouldn’t need new laws.

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Dennis Sun: Cheyenne, We Have A Problem . . . With Elk

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

For a number of years, ranchers around the state have recognized elk populations have grown – or as some would say, exploded. For some areas, population growth started back in the 1980s. Throughout the years, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has raised population objectives of hunt areas to fall in line with population counts.

The standard solution of “we need more hunting licenses and more access on private lands” is not working. If I have a huge spillover – and I do – of elk numbers throughout the year, I want to be compensated for forage loss due to elk, or like most ranchers, get rid of huge numbers of elk. Let me ranch, that’s the business I’m in.

This is really an issue along the Laramie Range. A couple weeks ago, three ranchers from north of Cheyenne to Wheatland testified at the Governor’s Wildlife Task Force meeting. The next day, they were joined by landowners from other areas with excess populations testifying before the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting.

The ranchers gave great testimony on the impacts of huge herds of elk on their private lands and recommendations on how to solve the issues. They expressed, currently, issuing more hunting licenses will not solve the issue, and they don’t want all the hunters on their lands. They do allow outfitters and responsible hunters on their private lands, which is their choice. These huge numbers of elk are grazing private forage, damaging fences and costing ranchers dollars with all their impacts.

The ranchers agreed depredation is most likely the only way to control numbers. They say it was used years ago and worked great to control elk numbers, and it can work now. The only difference today, is meat should be saved for food banks and other responsible initiatives, such as First Lady Gordon’s Food Initiative.

For all of these years of kicking the can down the road, we are now faced with some hard decisions. We have to recognize the positive impacts ranchers’ private lands have made on wildlife habitats and provide reasonable compensation to private landowners until they get rid of the large numbers of elk.

The wildlife belongs to the state and the private lands to the owners who take pride in these lands. They shouldn’t have to cut numbers of livestock because of elk and the damage they do.

While we know there will be pushback by some hunters, I feel this is the time for change. We applaud Gov. Gordon and the WGFD Commission for initiating the Wildlife Task Force and the WFGD Commission for developing another task force to develop solutions to huge numbers of elk and the damage they do on private lands.

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) has agreed to take a leadership role on this issue and is encouraging other private landowners who are impacted by large numbers of wildlife, especially elk, to send in their examples of those impacts and your contact information.  They will hold them and present them to both the Wildlife Task Force and the WGFD Commissioners. Please send them to WSGA, PO Box 206, Cheyenne, WY 82601, or visit wysga.org. It doesn’t matter if you are a member or not. If you are not a member, think about joining, they have been helping ranchers for 150 years.

Remember, private lands, whether a ranch or an urban backyard, are the same, except the rancher’s backyard is bigger.

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Dennis Sun: In The Depths Of Winter, Most Ag Folks Are Thinking About Summer

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As I wrote this column early last week, I looked out the window and realized it was snowing. Well, no big deal – it is only the first of February, but here I was thinking about next summer. I realized I was thinking like a farmer.        

Farmers, like most of agriculture, are always planning – especially during the winter. They are always looking to lower input costs, shop around for markets, good buys and a good auction to attend. In big farming regions, there are many land and farm equipment auctions just as we have bull sales January through April.  

Farmers across the nation are feeling the effects of inflation just as hard as livestock producers. They have more markets to monitor and the weather can make them or break them. The current volatility on commodities is really hurting, even though grain prices and other crops are high at this time. 

Last week, soybeans started February at $15 per bushel, while wheat topped $8 and corn was around $6.34 per bushel. The ethanol market has been growing as people started driving last summer, but now ethanol’s production has met demand, so this should keep corn stable, unless South American countries like Brazil, have dry weather. 

Similar to meat prices, grain prices depend heavily on good export markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed $172.2 billion came from farm receipts over the last fiscal year ending in September. For the current fiscal year, USDA expects dollars of farm receipts to rise to $175.5 billion. The USDA figures for every one dollar spent in exports, 20 cents come from farm receipts. This is great revenue for agriculture.

Farming, like other businesses in America, depend on stability in the markets to be sustainable. Market prices making drastic changes – new lows and new highs – are hard to manage as a business. Oil prices at $100 per barrel, fertilizer at $1,200 per ton or higher and average farmland at $9,000 per acre makes it tough to make a profit, even with high crops for grains.

Currently, the 600-pound gorilla out there is the potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The Ukraine is a large grower and exporter of grains. With weather similar to our Corn Belt, farming is big business. 

Russia has considered the Ukraine as a part of Russia since the 12th century and since the downfall of Russia in the 20th century, they really want it back under Russian control. 

Some say Russia doesn’t have to attack or invade Ukraine, they just need to place a blockade on its southern border and the strategic ports on the Black Sea to control Ukraine. The farmers don’t want an invasion which will tear up fields and postpone harvesting their crops.

American farmers today are waiting for investors to start buying commodities again. Investors are not buying into oil much these days and this worries farmers. But big money and foreign owners are buying crop lands as more historic farm families go out of business. 

Net farm income is projected to fall 19 percent this year to a still strong $99 billion and, at this level, farm income would be the second highest since the record $123.7 billion in 2013. But it all depends on markets and inputs.

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Dennis Sun: It’s Time To Get Out My Crystal Ball And Start Guessing

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Often during this time of the year, livestock producers and others in agriculture are looking for their crystal ball to tell what the markets and weather will be this spring. For me, once I’ve found the crystal ball, I start looking for the silver bullet that will make everything good.

Then, as soon as I come to my senses, I start looking for good solid information out there to plan for the rest of the winter and upcoming spring.

The big question for now is, “Do I have enough hay to last until green grass?”

Recent hay price studies show the average cost of hay can range from four to 15 cents per pound of dry matter (grass), which is usually more than double the cost for the same amount of nutrients from existing pasture grass.

Then the next question is, “What kind and how much protein will I also need?”

The problem is really a balancing act to get livestock through the winter. Good information, along with a little luck, will help producers through the last winter months.

We’re all looking at sheep producers and their record prices for lamb, saying, “Good for you, way to go, it’s your turn.”

What happened for the sheep producers with the high demand for their lamb products only shows that consumers are smart. Along with the Lamb Checkoff and other forward-thinking lamb groups, lamb producers were ready to take advantage of current market opportunities. Times have been hard for sheep producers as they have faced – and continue to face – some hard issues, especially trade issues. But, the price outlook is good.

Beef producers in the Intermountain West are at the mercy of the weather. Up until recently, it has been an open winter with not too many cold snaps for most of the area.

Demand for beef, both at the meat counter and exports to other countries, is strong. We can only hope meatpackers can keep a strong labor force to provide for the demand. Similar to sheep producers, beef producers need mandatory price and market transparency reporting which are essential to fair markets.

Because of the current low prices beef producers are getting in the hills and the high profits meatpackers are getting, there is a lot of finger-pointing going on. I hope with the numbers of cattle going down and demand staying strong, producer prices will become stronger.

A report by the North American Meat Institute told members of a U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee last week that data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed in 2021 beef packers’ share of the consumer dollar was 22.2 percent, lower than the beef producer share. I find this hard to believe.

Our current administration can’t just blame meat and oil prices on inflation – they have to look at their own policies as well.

I sure hope there will not be a war in the Ukraine, as it is a major oil and grain exporter. Ukraine is a major global grain producer, providing some 16 percent of the world’s corn exports and 12 percent of the world’s wheat exports.

Under our current administration’s oil policies, the U.S. now purchases around the same amount of oil from Russia as is purchased from Saudi Arabia. In truth, we are paying for the Russian buildup next to Ukraine. That’s not the way it should be, is it?

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Dennis Sun: Agriculture Is Changing And Everything Is Political In Our Daily Lives

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

One can’t say agriculture never changes or never changes rapidly. Just take a moment to think about all the changes we’ve encountered lately. I’ve heard some say those in production agriculture are against change or change slowly.

At times, I resemble this, but usually I’m ready to try something new. I’ve come to a point in my life where I just want to be comfortable, while realizing the joy of trying new things.

I’m always learning something new on the computer. This is a necessity in the publishing business. I never thought I would own a computer, iPad, tablet and smart cell phone at the same time, all while disliking driving newer cars, which are like driving computers down the road – it is just so distracting.

Once you get it in your mind that change is good, it just makes for an easier world. For someone whose first phone in the house had a long and a short ring for a phone number, I now thank God for smart phones.

Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, and change is predicted to come faster. The rules for living are changing and our businesses are changing. Agriculture is caught up in those changes – conservation, transparency and sustainability now have meanings we’re not sure we recognize.

The government is now managed by a president who issues executive orders while Congress blames one another for the wrongs of the country. The daily news is someone’s opinion, which masks the true news. From a pandemic to religion to throughout our daily lives, everything is political. This is the change I don’t like.

But, with change comes opportunities. A futurist and Former Naval Intelligence Officer, Jack Uldrich, said, “Today is the slowest rate of change we will experience. Our world is not slowing down, the pandemic unexpectedly accelerated the future by five to 10 years.”

People now think everything we do affects climate change, but I feel climate change is misunderstood. Climate change will have regenerative agriculture as a solution, which means farmers and ranchers will get paid to sequester carbon and adapt conservation practices.

Some of the biggest changes will be blockchain as a currency and electric vehicles for transportation, maybe even for plowing fields. The rural areas will have to ramp up infrastructure to meet the demands of electric vehicles. Broadband will be in every rural household, which is a great happening.

The one thing about change is that we can’t stop it. I look back and realize what our daily lives were like before cell phones and look at us now, we’ve all learned to use them. Information is power in the business world, as information is constant, 24 hours per day. We have to adjust to change to stay in business and keep our families together.

The one practice that will always stay the same for agriculture is we have to keep telling our story to consumers. They need to trust the food we produce is safe, nutritious and doesn’t harm the environment. In fact, it complements our environment.

We have to tell the consumers why we manage our animals and crops the way we do and how it helps everyone. Agriculture is misunderstood by some, but change will help us explain why we do what we do.

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Dennis Sun: Livestock Producers Need To Keep An Eye On Restaurant Trends

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Those in the business of beef, pork or lamb are usually watching the trends of the nation’s restaurants as close as they watch meat exports. When one part of the meat chain is not doing so well, the need for change is there. The bad part is, change is harder for some parts of the food supply chain.

The restaurant side is more fortunate than other parts, as in my view, they can change management practices easier than others. While it is usually nothing more than just changing pricing, management practices usually follow.

I found it interesting reading an article on the 2022 restaurant trends, as the meat industry depends on these restaurants. The pandemic had a big effect on restaurants, and now they are trying to recover.

To provide more insight into the current and future restaurant trends, Popmenue conducted a nationwide survey of 415 U.S. restaurant owners/operators in October 2021 and compiled the findings in a new report filled with must-know trends and real-life examples. Bear in mind, this survey was taken before the latest COVID-19 surge we are now experiencing.

Most restaurant owners/operators in the survey are feeling either very optimistic – 30 percent – or cautiously optimistic – 60 percent – about their outlook for 2022, as they are implementing strategies that will change experiences for both diners and staff.

The findings, as reported in BEEF Magazine, say that like other industries, labor is a major issue for the restaurant industry. Seventy-one percent of restaurants estimate they lose $5,000 or more per month due to the labor force deficit and 37 percent claim they lose $10,000 or more per month.

But 28 percent surveyed anticipate opening a new restaurant in 2022, so this shows many are moving forward. Eighty-two percent plan to increase wages and benefits along with offering signing and retention bonuses.

As you probably guessed, nine in 10 restaurants plan to increase menu prices as they learn to deal with supply shortages and costs. Restaurants also plan to keep increasing technology usage. Fifty-one percent plan to automate online operations over the next 12 months, while 41 percent plan to automate more on-premise operations.

Around half of all restaurant owners/operators surveyed will place greater emphasis on comfort and healthy food, which means more beef and lamb I hope. They also plan to offer more alcohol to-go and 29 percent will offer outdoor dining year-round. Outside dining will not fly in our region. Around 40 percent will increase investments in marketing and loyalty programs and offer more customized ordering experiences.

I’m not sure I want to sit down in a restaurant and order through a computer, but in some restaurants that will be normal, especially in more informal places.

It looks like restaurants, especially in the major urban cities, are having to change to stay competitive. Hopefully our western region will be slower in implementing some of these new changes, as we change less, and I like it that way. I’m not ready to deal with a robot over how I want my steak cooked, but as long as the drinks are stiff, I can change, too. 

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Dennis Sun: Lots Going On In Biden’s DC – We Need To Be Watchful

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As the new year rolls in, we all wonder what 2022 will have in store for agriculture. I want to stay positive and don’t wish for another year like the last two, but hope for the best.

There was a quickly called meeting by the White House with meat producers this past Monday afternoon. The president wants to spend around $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan to expand meatpacking capacity for independent meat processors through a number of initiatives. They also visited on ways to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act. The Biden administration realizes meat producers and feeders are unfairly being held to low profits. 

Visiting with some in Washington, D.C. who attended the meeting, there were some reservations on the outcome of the meeting. As I understand, the meeting was announced the day before on Sunday. During the meeting, it was not explained if the administration was talking about new money or old money already earmarked. 

The good part of all this attention the meatpackers are getting is it will make for more awareness to consumers and others of the times in the cattle cycle when producers are not making a profit. 

The not so good issues I and others feel we need to pay attention to is the potential for increased government intervention in our meat businesses. There is no doubt the beef industry needs stronger enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, more price transparency and to do away with the processing label on all packages of beef at the meat counter. 

The processing label has nothing to do with a country of origin label, it is simply a label telling the consumer what country the package of meat was processed in. This label has really misled consumers. In times like this, when beef prices are at a record high at the meat counter, I’m not sure the consumer is looking at labels, but just the price of the package of beef.

Executive Vice President of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Terry Frankhauser said, “These companies (packinghouses) are the ones that feed the world, and we need them because we know we can’t harvest these animals in tiny animal packinghouses. I don’t know if government intervention fully is the right answer here. It is when laws are being broken, we need to think of the carrot, not the stick.” 

Frankhauser said other issues should also be addressed such as modernizing rules and regulations and figuring out how to deal with employee shortage impacting all aspects of the beef industry.

The Biden administration’s action plan to invest $1 billion to expand competition in the U.S. meat processing industry and strengthen enforcement of antitrust regulations has drawn mixed reaction from cattle producers and feeders as it is still unclear what the administration wants to do with regard to the Packers and Stockyards Act.

We realize the Biden administration’s main goal is to stop inflation, which is currently the highest in 40 years. Meat prices have been the largest contributor to grocery inflation. 

We also have to be careful when this cattle cycle flip flops and there are fewer cattle and higher prices for the producers. We see signs that this part of the cycle has started. Remember in past years when prices were similar to now and everybody was looking for a way out?

“Lean Beef” was being developed, and as soon as higher cattle prices came, everybody forgot about lean beef and enjoyed the high prices.  

Whatever happens and despite prices, we need to stay on course and find answers to the current issues.

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Dennis Sun: So What Does 2022 Mean To The Ag Community? We Are Cautious

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Happy New Year! When I say that to friends this year, I really mean it. What I’m saying is I’m through with the year 2021, which to most of us wasn’t that great of a year.

I am realizing normal isn’t normal any more, and most likely will not be for a few years. But, there are some positives for the new year, and hopefully this means less negative experiences. 

We are all concerned about current drought conditions and just how long it hangs on, hopefully ending sometime next spring. Just remember, a drought always ends.

I hope inflation has cooled down, as this makes inputs and everything else more expensive. I hope for the election to consist of more conservative Congressional candidates to stop the president’s run-away spending.

We have to realize whatever this administration does – we call it making mistakes – their actions are 100 percent intentional. We don’t yet know what the 30×30 program is all about, as the administration has stayed quiet about it since the blow-back they first received when it was announced, but it can’t be good. 

We have to stay aware of meat alternatives and fight to have products labeled correctly, which should turn consumers away from fake meats. 

I can see another good year for those who raise sheep, despite predator issues. Here’s to hoping wool and lamb prices stay good. That is one industry which benefited from the pandemic, as consumers realized lamb makes for a good meal and the meat is easy to cook.

The beef industry hasn’t been too good for producers in the last year, but prices have been up in the last months of 2021.

The market has been good for not only calves and yearlings, but prices for canner and cutter cows and bulls, also. The predictions for better days in 2022 are forecasted, and we hope they hold true. With the expected rise on a strong beef export market, along with lower cattle numbers, producers should gain some ground. Slaughter numbers are up to around 676,000 each week in the past few weeks.

As I’ve written before in this column, beef byproducts were a strong positive, especially in the second half of 2021. A recent article from BEEF Magazine stated during the week of Dec. 3, the steer byproduct value was $14.61 per live hundredweight (cwt), up 72 percent to $6.11 per cwt, from the same week in 2020 and 42 percent at $4.32 per cwt,  above the 2015-19 average.

At $14.46 per live cwt, the early December cow byproduct value was up 46 percent to $4.54 per cwt compared to a year earlier, and 60 percent higher to $5.44 per cwt, the five-year average. The last time drop values reached similar levels was in 2014.

Interestingly, the cow byproduct value averaged greater on a dollar per live or dressed weight base than the steer byproduct value in 2021. This has occasionally happened in the past, but not in such a prolonged period and to this degree. This does not mean steer byproducts were worth less, rather cow byproducts were worth more.

The year-over-year strength of tripe is up 473 percent, livers are up 267 percent, tongues are up 143 percent, oxtails are up 112 percent and edible tallow is up 108 percent. 

While those are great increases, consumers think retail beef prices are high, but retail beef prices are actually lower than they would be without byproduct sales. This is because the processing costs of the entire animal to wholesalers are spread across both muscle cuts and byproducts.

So, there is a big positive note going into the new year. Have a great New Year. 

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Dennis Sun: Here In Wyoming, We Celebrate With A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

From all of us at the Roundup to our readers, we wish you and your families a Merry Christmas. Remember, the spirit of Christmas has not changed throughout the years and we need to keep the candle going. 

These days we’re not sure what normal is, but we do know the Spirit of Christmas is normal as it comes from the heart. The gifts our families provide us, which comes from the heart, are the best. Merry Christmas. 

A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer

By S. Omar Barker

I ain’t much good at prayin’ and You may not know me, Lord —

For I ain’t much seen in churches, where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me out here on the lonely plains,

A-lookin’ after cattle, feelin’ thankful when it rains.

Admirin’ Thy great handiwork.

The miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit, in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night, and know we’ve got a Friend.

So here’s ol’ Christmas comin’ on, remindin’ us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain’t a preacher, Lord, but if You’ll hear my prayer,
I’ll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere.

Don’t let no hearts be bitter, Lord.
Don’t let no child be cold.
Make easy the beds for them that’s sick and them that’s weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride, no matter what we’re after,
And sorter keep us on Your side, in tears as well as laughter.

I’ve seen ol’ cows a-starvin’ – and it ain’t no happy sight;
Please don’t leave no one hungry, Lord, on Thy Good Christmas Night –
No man, no child, no woman and no critter on four feet
I’ll do my doggone best to help you find ’em chuck to eat.

I’m just a sinful cowpoke, Lord – ain’t got no business prayin’
But still I hope you’ll ketch a word or two, of what I’m sayin’:
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord –

I reckon You’ll agree –

There ain’t no Merry Christmas for nobody that ain’t free!
So one thing more I ask You, Lord: just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom for the future Sons of Man!

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Dennis Sun: A Cow Provides A Whole Lot More Than Just Steak And Hamburger

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Lately, there have been more than enough reasons to complain about the meat processors or packinghouses. They are making a ton of money with the high demand of meat at the retail sector, and the producers out in the hills are not receiving their share. But, we need to give the meat processors credit for making some products out of the whole carcass into value-added byproducts.

At processing plants, after high-demand cuts of meat are removed from the carcass – roughly half the carcass – the upcycle process begins. The process begins by removing other cuts or parts of the animal which mainstream U.S. consumers don’t want.

These would be the parts of the animal that if it were butchered at home, as a kid, you just knew you didn’t want to eat. These cuts, which we now know as variety meats, make up a large part of U.S. meat exports. In turn, variety meats help make our meat industry sustainable.

These byproducts include the heart, tongue, liver and tripe, which do sell in the U.S., but other parts less popular in the U.S. include head meat, cheek meat, tongue root trim, oxlips, honeycomb tripe, omasum, small intestines or marrow gut, oxtails sweetbreads, kidneys, bile and gallstones. Well, there goes dinner – that’s quite a list.

The rest of the carcass – the bones, fat and scraps – are left for the rendering plant. The big processors have their own rendering plants, and smaller plants typically contract out to other rendering plants. The idea of rendering is to separate protein from fat. The blood and protein will be turned into fertilizer and aquaculture feed. Fat becomes tallow, which will be used in numerous products such as biofuel, tires and shampoo. No wonder I’m losing my hair.

These products have a place in the world and make the processed animal worth more, and hopefully some of the value will trickle back to the producer.

We don’t hear much about rendering as it has been known as “the silent industry” or the not-so-glamorous industry. The truth is, rendering was the original “recycling plant” a long, long time ago when nothing on an animal butchered was wasted.

Now, rendering is a critical industry as their sustainability focuses on reaching net zero. Net zero, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines it, is consuming only as much energy as is produced. The rendering industry today sequesters five times as many greenhouse gases as it produces. Rendering will only survive in countries like the U.S., which only eat around 50 percent of the animal processed.

In the U.S., renderers collect around 56 billion pounds of raw materials each year and turn them into 22 billion pounds of animal fats, oils and proteins each year.

Grocery stores generate 1.92 billion pounds of scraps, fat, bone and used cooking oil annually. Renderers collect 4.4 billion pounds of used cooking oil per year in the U.S. and Canada. If all renderable products were sent to landfills instead of being processed, all available space would be gone in four years.

Almost four billion gallons of water, which would be wasted, is instead reclaimed during rendering, cleaned and returned to rivers and streams. Rendering reduces animal agriculture’s carbon footprint by sequestering five times more greenhouse gases than produced. The important fact of rendering is the industry accounts for $10 billion in annual economic activity across the U.S., including rural America.

Those are facts the meat industry can be proud of.

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Dennis Sun: ‘Fake Food’ Needs To Be Labeled Properly So Consumers Are Not Fooled

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By. Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Report

For the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of discussion showing up on alternate sources of protein. “Here we go again” is a phrase heard time and time again from those in the meat business, as they see the threat against true beef, pork and lamb meat products rise up again. Even those in the poultry and goat business are concerned.

One of the reasons for discussion on this topic is news out of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) saying they are investing $10 million over a five-year span to fund Tufts University to develop alternative proteins. These proteins would be grown in a petri dish or bioreactors in a lab. The USDA, as expected, has been receiving numerous comments from feeders and producers, especially those in the beef business.

The focus for the last two months has been a 60-day comment period, which closed on Dec. 2, for a proposed rule on the labeling of these fake products. Let’s face the facts here: This movement is based on money, but the reasons given to the public to manufacture fake products are untrue and misleading. The same goes for plant-based products meant to replace meat.

The movement behind fake meats is being pushed by some of America’s wealthiest people involved in the climate change issue. They are using climate change, sustainability, nutrition and health to promote meat imitation products.

In America, people can buy any type of food they wish. Myself being in the beef business, I’m going to support beef. Those of us who support beef support proper labeling of real meat products and imitation meat products.

Proper labeling of all products lets the consumer know exactly what is in the package. Then, consumers can make up their minds on which product they want for dinner – real meat, something grown in a lab or something derived from plants, which has numerous additives to make it taste like the real meat ranchers produce.

If people want to eat “glorified dog food,” it’s their choice, but they should know and understand what is in the product. There are numerous products out there which have “artificial” on the label, why not these artificial meats?

A recent survey revealed when consumers are purchasing protein, 74 percent wanted labels showing if it was real meat or not. Consumers shouldn’t be confused when buying protein for the evening meal which is real meat, cell-cultured or plant-based. Consumers also want to know what is on the school lunch tray. There should be guidelines, as there are for cattle producers on the correct use of antibiotics, with these cultured meat products.

Those in the meat business, including everyone from producers to processors, can stand behind their inspected products and guarantee the consumer safe, tasteful and nutritious protein. Hopefully the 26 percent surveyed with no concerns over labeling will learn to read and realize just what they are eating.

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Dennis Sun: Activists At Global Summit Place Big Blame On Cattle For Global Warming

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

I was reading press releases, blogs and personal opinions from those in U.S. agriculture who attended the recent United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. These ag attendees were shocked at the large majority against the use of cattle for human consumption.

The activists claim animal agriculture will be responsible for 50 percent of global emissions by 2030. Methane is the big issue of concern, and environmentalists see cattle as the leading cause. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack said research and facts in USDA’s new programs in animal production should be a part of the climate discussion. 

“There are those who seek to restrict or reduce animal protein production,” he states. “The Biden administration will be proactive in aggressively countering those attacks. We have got to be aggressive in that space, we can’t ignore it.”

For agriculture, USDA is pursuing multiple workstreams to reduce methane emissions from the agricultural sector.

This includes the adoption of alternative manure management systems and other methane-reducing practices, the expansion of on-farm generation and use of renewable energy, the development of a climate-smart agricultural commodities partnership initiative and increased investments in agricultural methane quantification and related innovations, as stated in the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan. 

We hope they realize cattle grazing out on the range can help solve climate change issues.

Environmental and animal activists from around the world also mounted a campaign for a Plant Based Treaty, calling on governments to put food systems at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis.

The Plant Based Treaty seeks to halt the expansion of animal agriculture and deforestation, incentivize a shift to a plant-based food system by redirecting subsidies, taxes and public information campaigns, along with reforestation and rewilding of land.

“We don’t buy into that,” says Vilsack. “We are providing resources to finance demonstration projects to make that case even stronger.” 

There are a number of potential programs developed to do just that.

This is one side of the Biden administration we hope will stay favorable to cattle. The other side is very disturbing to say the least.

This past week, the Public Lands Council came out with a Public Policy Update which explained the progressive side of the Biden administration’s plans to enact policies which will make ranching and farming harder, especially in the West. Basically, the administration is giving the extreme environmentalists everything they want.

First, the Environmental Protection Agency announced this month their intent to repeal the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. In addition to the repeal, the proposal considers the regionalization of the Waters of the U.S. rule, as well as climate change implications.

Other policies, laws or regulations being reviewed are the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), the definition of critical habitat under the ESA, changes to the Mexican gray wolf policies and revisions on land use plans regarding Greater sage grouse conservation.

Any of these changes could really restrict ranching in the West. We’ll have to put up a strong effort to keep the changes compatible to ranching.

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Dennis Sun: Dealing With Climate Change Rules Is One More Issue For Ag Folks

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Reporter

The United Nations Climate 2021 Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, hosted a different crowd this past week. This week is not making the headlines as much as the week before, when some of the world leaders were in attendance.

This is the week where there will not be a lot of photo opportunities flashed around the world, except for those politicians looking to show the folks back home they are doing something besides buying expensive single malt scotch whiskey to bring home.

We have to remember not all of the countries are or have been at the conference. Russia, China, Brazil, and to my knowledge North Korea, are missing from the conference and it has been proven they are the world leaders in pollution.

We hear Pat and Sharon O’Toole from Savery attended the meeting in Scotland. Leave it to Wyoming to show up those countries. Hopefully we will learn more about their trip in the near future.

There is no doubt our climate is changing: it always has since the day God rested. The big question is, is the change normal, or is there a human cause or are both right? The worst part of it all is the issue has been made political, so that would mean at different times, no one is right.

 The last year or so, the weather has been more severe on all conditions, but some say even this is normal. I have flowers blooming outside my window at the office and green grass at the ranch, where even the greasewood leaves are half an inch long. The lawn grass is still growing, where usually the only thing coming up this time of the year is a gopher.

I’ve never seen these happenings before, except for the last couple of years. I was listening to a podcast lately, which said we have weather conditions like this or worse every 127 years, and it has been proven that during these times, a war is started somewhere. We sure hope this prediction is wrong.

Now, climate change is a part of every tax, funding and political legislation debated in Washington, D.C. these days. We worry about how agriculture will fare, as we seem to be easy to pick on. Every solution will require funding, and ultimately, it will be paid by someone’s taxes. That is how Washington works these days.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is requesting information from the public and those in agriculture on the development of its new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Program (CSAF), with the goal to encourage adoption of climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices by growers and promote markets domestically and abroad for climate-smart commodities. Does this mean more fake meat products – which are not going over well with consumers lately? What are the risks associated with climate-smart practices?

 Agriculture has commented on these practices, and the best comment is the government should offer a voluntary, incentive-based approach to encourage actions. Other comments are funding and opportunities should be available to all, research should strategically align with outcomes desired, uniform carbon intensity is needed for biofuels’ contribution and last, incorporating financial risks should be examined.

  We sure don’t need agriculture chasing money out there for a cause that is being disputed as real or not. Remember, 20 years ago they said a lot of our country would be under water by now and that hasn’t happened so far.

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Dennis Sun: What’s It Going To Take To Fix The Supply Chain Issue?

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Report

Those who have been watching the news lately will soon notice one of the biggest stories is the massive supply chain issue. This all comes through as we notice empty shelves in some stores. Our concerns rise as we are helpless to do much about the issue. Many people point fingers at what they think is the reason for shortages, and they are all correct. 

We soon realize it is a COVID-19, transportation, labor, resource, warehouse and political problem. It is rumored these problems are not to go away for some time, maybe into 2023.

The normal cycle time for a retailer or brand to ship products by sea is around 40 days. Products loaded on a boat in China spends about 30 to 40 days at sea, then waits to dock for one to two days, is unloaded onto trucks, taken to warehouses and finally distributed across the nation. But, these days, the cycle is up to 80 days or longer. I’ve heard if a crew member on a ship comes up with COVID-19, the port will not allow them to unload, so the ship will return to China loaded. 

During the last year, a number of truckers retired – both corporate and self-owned. This has really hurt the trucking industry. For the docks in California, only newer trucks can operate because of emissions standards, and we’ve heard no one is buying new trucks because of potential standards to take place in a few years. 

The California Legislature passed a bill, which is hung up in court right now, and bans independent owner-operators of trucks in-state and those coming into the state. Hopefully the courts will do away with this ban.

Shipping companies are also looking for other ports to dock where a union presence is not too large, but they would have to go through the Panama Canal to reach those in the southeastern U.S. Plus, warehouse space is tight in these alternative docks.

Because of organized labor unions at the Los Angeles and Long Beach docks in California, there are around 70 ships waiting to get unloaded. This number has eased up as they were forced to operate 24/7. The unions refused to expand their work hours and work on weekends. Getting unions to operate 24/7 should have been dealt with months ago. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, has not been working on the issue as hard as he should have been.

All of these issues have created higher costs for the consumer. Cargo costs to ship a big container have increased from around $1,500 in 2017 to about $25,000 today – an increase of 1,000 percent. Just the container ships alone docking in Los Angeles or New Jersey account for around 10 percent of all global trade.

While we feel the impact here in the U.S., this issue is worldwide. Every country feels it. This issue is fixable, but it is going to take time to get there. Some of the regulations and restrictions need to be loosened and politics should stand back. People need to get back to work, and some need to stop pointing the finger at each other and just fix the problem. 

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Dennis Sun: Uh-Oh, The Big Taste Test Between REAL Meat And Imitators

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Earlier this fall, a study came out on the nutrition and taste of plant-based burger brands, and from a beef producer’s side, it was good news. A burger from beef is still the best.

The study was conducted by an American food product consultancy, Chew from Boston, which is run by a chef and staffed by food scientists from various entities. The group’s “Plant-based Burger Report Card” compared nine of the top-selling analog patties in the U.S., plus a burger by Bubba Foods made from animal-derived ground beef. 

The report card was compiled through a combination of blind taste testing and an analysis of each product’s listed ingredients and nutrition facts. Each burger was objectively graded “A through F” for its performance in three categories: deliciousness which includes raw appearance, cook performance, cooked smell, cooked appearance, flavor, presence and texture; nutrition which includes protein content, protein quality, sodium content, fat comparison and presence of allergens; and sustainability which includes ingredients, packaging and processing.

As one can see, the report card covered just about everything going into a burger. I’m not sure where my hamburgers would rate, but they would rate high based on ingredients.

The good news is Bubba Foods’ animal beef burger rated the highest for deliciousness and nutritional value. The bad news is it rated low for sustainability. 

I think cattle producers are getting a bad rap for sustainability, as there is information to back up the fact that beef production can be sustainable. Because of processing, packaging and transportation of beef, which may impact sustainability, the report had an F for Bubba Foods’ burger.

Among the plant-based burgers, the Impossible Burger ranked high in deliciousness, alongside Bubba Foods’ beef burger. The report said, “It’s by far the closest to traditional beef, but it still has a way to go. Where it fell short was the cooked smell, flavor and off-notes, which were more reminiscent of liver than whole muscle beef.” Well, for those who like liver, that was a slam.

Another important part of the report is the Impossible Burger scored lower on nutrition and sustainability due to its use of soy protein – a common allergen, as well as being associated with deforestation. The deforestation would not apply to American farmers. The report said it downgraded the Impossible Burger’s sustainability ranking due to its use of genetically modified soy-yeast, though this is likely a controversial decision. 

The Beyond Burger scored higher because it uses no genetically modified ingredients, but was rated lower on nutrition and taste. The report said, “The strong smell you get from Beyond Burgers tends to smell less like meat, more in line with pet food, having some super-strong top notes of kerosene and gas. The Beyond Burger suffers from major processing consistency issues, where you will get massive variation from batch-to-batch of their product. The color is also a detractor, as it comes across as super-processed.”

Financially, some of these fake beef products are not doing well – even their stock is tanking. But, more companies are getting involved in fake meat products. Even McDonald’s came out with a plant-based burger product, called McPlant, in Europe recently. 

We know consumers will always favor beef and lamb burgers over the plant-based burgers. Beef and lamb producers just have to stay on top of the issue and stand up for real meat burgers. The competition is well funded, but, remember, our burgers don’t smell like dog food. 

Our dogs are insulted.

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Dennis Sun: Ranchers And Farmers Keep Getting The Short Of The Stick

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

This is usually the time of the year where livestock producers and farmers sell their products and bring in most of the year’s revenue, and as many know, supply and demand rule the prices farmers and ranchers receive.

This year, ag producers are getting hit hard by rising costs brought on by bad policies from Washington, D.C. Besides the ballot box, the next best avenue to combat bad policies from Washington, D.C. is to have ag producers tell their story supported by strong lobbying. The hang up is lobbying requires dollars, and when dollars are short, ag producers need to be selective on where those dollars go.

We all donate to charities and non-profits – it’s what we do in Wyoming and the surrounding region, as we take pride in giving.

We are at a time where policies in Washington, D.C. already are or will hurt agriculture and energy, especially in the West. These bad policies are affecting not only western America’s way of life, but every business’ profits. Remember, out of these profits come the donations to churches and non-profits.

I feel in times like these, when we are sitting down with family or business associates to decide where we want our yearly donations to go, we should remember those groups and organizations which help us stay in business either by lobbying, keeping us in the know or facilitating ways for us to interact with policymakers.

These groups would be the national and state livestock and crop organizations who are lobbying on our behalf in Washington, D.C. or our state capitals. These organizations rely on our membership and support to keep their doors open and to keep staff in our nation’s and states’ capitals to tell our story, as well as assist legislators and government officials with legislation and policies.

We need these people assisting us now more than ever as public lands, environmental and natural resource and livestock issues are all changing for the worst. If our agriculture and energy businesses are not able to function and make a profit, it is going to make it a lot harder for people to donate to any non-profit or cause.

In looking around in our region, ag- or energy-related businesses suffering from these bad policies are usually the ones, who in the past, have supported our communities the most. They are now at risk. From hospitals and colleges to community facilities, these businesses, owners and employees always stepped up and helped when needed.

These organizations who represent us in agriculture, energy, public lands and other related businesses are staffed by very competent people. It takes dollars for them to assist us by helping those in Congress, national and state officials and legislators who make policies that support us.

We have to stop bad policies, such as high taxes to pay for unneeded social programs, restrictions on drilling and other energy issues, more regulations of our waters and limiting the uses of our public lands.

People in power need to realize our churches, non-profits and other causes always do well when the business climate is good. The good business climate also provides good jobs, which helps to provide support for those in need.

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Dennis Sun: Be Careful, This Administration Gives . . . And It Takes

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was asking for comments on their latest announcement of a $3 billion investment in agriculture, school nutrition and animal health, along with a new climate partnership initiative and opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices.

In the introduction, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “American agriculture currently faces unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts.” 

Well, he is correct on this statement, and a number of ag producers would place the current administration as one of those challenges. But, we need to hear the secretary out and hopefully find some opportunities in the initiative.

This $3 billion in investments will fund a number of programs, including preventing the spread of African swine fever, assisting producers facing drought and market disruptions and helping school nutrition programs. A total of $500 million will be spent to support drought recovery and to encourage the adoption of water-smart management practices.

This assistance will target the challenges of the current drought and will also enable USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation agency to deliver much needed relief and design drought efforts in response to the magnitude of this crisis.

Up to $500 million will be earmarked to prevent the spread of African swine fever by developing a robust expansion and coordination of monitoring, surveillance, prevention, quarantine and eradication activities through USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. I hope there are also comments on strengthening foot and mouth disease prevention along the Mexican border.

In addition, the investment includes $500 million to provide relief from agricultural market disruption, such as increased transportation challenges, availability and cost of certain materials and other near-term obstacles related to the marketing and distribution of certain commodities.

The biggest program is to spend up to $1.5 billion to provide assistance to help schools respond to supply chain disruptions. The initiative builds on the range of work USDA has been doing to identify ongoing issues school districts face during this difficult time and provide the resources, tools and flexibility they need to serve students healthy and nutritious meals.

The announcement also said USDA is committed to partnering with agriculture, forestry and rural communities to develop climate solutions that strengthen rural America.

Secretary Vilsack said, “Through extreme weather, drought and fire, our agriculture producers are on the frontlines of climate change. The new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative will support pilots that create new market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices and position U.S. farmers and ranchers and forest landowners as leaders in addressing climate change.”

All of these initiatives raise some important questions. Will these programs really work? Will it affect climate change – whatever that is these days – or will it turn out to just be another expensive social program? We like what we see with cattle pricing and packer pricing transparency with the mandatory price reporting. What role will Congress play in this initiative and can the administration keep social programs from tagging on to anything new?

With the issues of estate planning, stepped-up land values and larger taxes, to name a few, agriculture is a little skeptical these days. Not knowing what the 30×30 plan is totally about, along with increasing the size of national monuments in Utah last week, has producers a little head-shy and hoping for opportunities.

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Dennis Sun: It’s Fall At Last

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

I’ve been waiting for fall all summer. It is my favorite time of the year and I’m not a hot weather person. This year, we’ve had around six months of summer. They say the weather always balances out and I sure hope it is easy on us in the coming months.

While the calf markets have been going sideways or dropping a little lately, one can find some positives out there and some of those positives are pretty strong. 

To the average rancher or farmer, rising land prices are usually not a good occurrence, but I feel they are a good indicator for the health of the industry. If those who are buying land as an investment think land is a safe buy, this should help at the bank.

The demand for productive agricultural land nationwide has ballooned over the last couple of years. In essence, what landowners have, others want also. The result is real estate values for pastureland, cropland and farmland has increased across the nation. 

According to the National Agricultural Statistical Survey (NASS) Land Values 2021 Summary, farm real estate values – a measurement of the value of all land and buildings on U.S. farms – averaged $3,380 per acre for 2021. This is up $220 per acre or 7.8 percent. 

Rangeland, the largest component from an acreage standpoint of the three, jumped 5.7 percent. The average value of an acre of pastureland is at $1,480 per acre, an increase of $80 per acre. This figure would be straight pastureland without any recreational values. 

Some of the reasons for the rising prices are government programs enacted in response to both the pandemic and the trade war with China, which have benefited farmers and other landowners.

Another positive for cattle producers is the rising value of the cattle by-products. The hide and offal have really jumped in recent months. 

Steer hide and offal values have risen from around $6.93 per hundredweight (cwt) on a live fed steer basis in July 2020 to an Oct. 1, 2021 value of $15.44 per cwt, an increase of close to 120 percent. This increase is led by hide values brought on by demand for leather car seats, for edible and inedible tallow and other by-products like tongues, livers, hearts, cheeks, tripe and meat scrapes. These minor items add another 9.3 percent to the total by-product values and are mostly exported. It all adds up. 

Finally, the smart consumers at grocery stores are realizing fake meat products are not the solution to climate change. Those who view climate change as a major issue may have fallen for the mistaken reasoning that alternative proteins are a solution. Consumers, because of ranchers and farmers telling their story, are recognizing that in order to make real change, beef and lamb producers must be a part of the solution. 

“Every food has an impact, so simply changing from one to another will never be a productive solution,” says Chuck Coffey, a guest columnist in The Oklahoman. And now, the science is disputing the claims of the alternative protein companies as their false marketing doesn’t hold water. 

Have a great fall.

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Dennis Sun: Despite Hype, It Might Be Awhile Before We Are Driving Electric Vehicles Out Here

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Over the last couple of years, some in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere have been preaching to us about the benefits of electric vehicles. It has gotten to the point many are thinking, “Maybe there is something to them.” Then again, after visiting with people who have them and have driven into Wyoming, it becomes a “Well, maybe not.”

Let’s face it, some day we’ll all be driving vehicles that are not powered by an internal combustion engine fueled by diesel or gasoline. We’ve had the big push to run our vehicles fueled by natural gas, but this push didn’t go far.

During the last election, we had a big push from politicians for electronic vehicles from manufacturers. It all sounded good in advertising and sound bites, but these days we’re not hearing a lot.

Reality has told us our region’s infrastructure is just not ready for electronic vehicles, and we had to learn the hard way. It looks like our infrastructure will not be ready for these vehicles for some time.

Those living in a big city or other highly populated areas are going to be OK. But, in reading a story about someone who drove from New York City to Boston – a 200-mile trip – panic set in when their battery dropped below 20 percent charged. The driver said he was “assured this might be one of the country’s easiest electronic vehicles routes, those assurances were misplaced.”

It does take a lot of electricity to charge an electric vehicle’s battery in a decent amount of time.  Standard home outlets generally deliver 120 volts – level one, and electric cooking stoves and clothes dryers take 240 volts – level two. Tesla has a “supercharger” which can fully charge the car in a little over an hour and runs on 480 volts – level three.

They say in a standard neighborhood, with the current electric infrastructure, only a couple of homes would be able to charge cars at the same time with 480 volts. In both Wyoming and throughout the region, a few hotels have electronic vehicle chargers, along with a number of truck stops.

In California, according to a study, roughly 20 percent of current owners have replaced their electronic vehicles with gasoline vehicles. The main reason the drivers made the switch was the inconvenience of charging the car. Of those who switched back, over 70 percent lacked access to level two connections at home and fewer than 70 percent lacked level two connections at work. One person noted, even with faster charging, a Chevy Bolt electronic vehicle he tested still needed nearly six hours of charging to go 300 miles from almost empty.

Looking at the list of electronic vehicles, it looks like the average miles before recharging ranges from 218 miles to 305 miles. This doesn’t cover a lot of distance in our region. 

General Motors has set a target of an all-electric fleet by 2030, while Ford Motors recently unveiled its Lightning F-150 electric pickup and is prioritizing production of electric Mustangs over traditional gas Mustangs. 

The issue is not the cars themselves, but rather, getting the correct amount of electricity to the charging units. This is going to hold up the sales of electronic vehicles, especially in low-population areas. But, also in areas of high-population, it is going to take a lot of new infrastructure to meet the demands of numerous charging units.

If we stay with electronic vehicles, it is going to take some time to get to a majority of them on the road, but in time, we’ll get there. What we don’t know is, at what cost?

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Dennis Sun: Support The Beef Checkoff Program – It Is Good For Wyoming

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As fall shipping is underway, cattle producers will be writing checks to the Beef Checkoff. For every cow sold, the Beef Checkoff will collect $1, and of this dollar, up to half remains in Wyoming for local beef promotion, research and education programming administered by the Wyoming Beef Council. The other half goes to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) for the same reasons. Both entities are made up of cattle producers.

            The Beef Checkoff was created under the 1985 Farm Bill. At the time, consumers were starting to replace beef on the dinner table with chicken and pork. Chicken and pork products were being marketed and beef was not, thus, cattle producers and processors had to come up with a marketing plan to promote beef.

            In today’s world, beef products are no different from any other consumer products. In order to be competitive and sell their product, producers have to make their product visible to consumers, promote the positives of their product and be willing to adapt to consumers’ wants and needs.

            “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” was a Beef Checkoff campaign introduced almost 31 years ago, and today it is still recognized by 88 percent of the public – now that is marketing.

            The Beef Checkoff has strict guidelines and regulations in program management. Each state’s Beef Council, the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board and all of the contractors are audited annually ensuring compliance with the Beef Promotion Act and Order.

All contractors who receive contracts for checkoff work are established, national nonprofit, industry-governed organizations and are under oversight by the CBB, both statewide and nationally. The contractors operate on a cost-recovery basis, meaning they must pay all program costs first and are then only reimbursed after all the above checks have been conducted.  Contractors never receive money up front. CBB’s and the state Beef Council’s own operations are overseen by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which must approve all budgets, board activities and contractor work.

This transparency and oversight adds creditability to the program. Our nation’s cattle producers, beef processors and beef importers all gain from the promotion of the programs. A lot of producers are not happy to have beef importers involved, but this is the way the program was set up, and each part of the industry pays their fair share.

            According to a Wyoming beef producer attitude survey, over 70 percent of Wyoming’s beef producers support the Beef Checkoff. National support is comparable.

            Consumers like the Beef Checkoff, too, as the checkoff provides consumers information on how to select cuts of meat, how to cook beef and explores health benefits of eating beef. Everyone likes ground beef and it is easy to cook in many ways. But, to have the consumer try other cuts of beef and have the confidence to cook different cuts, is the success of the Beef Checkoff.

            Over the years, the Beef Checkoff has been challenged, but their creditability has stood tall. One industry organization is currently challenging the checkoff, and I have never understood their reasoning.

This organization has never shown interest in becoming a contractor to help promote beef, as they should, because their members are beef producers. Is it because they don’t have the money, people and resources to pay up front or can’t stand up to the transparency and oversight required to be a part of the Beef Checkoff? Or, do they dislike organizations, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a prime contractor with the CBB to promote the beef industry and use checkoff funds, and does so with the transparency and oversight required?

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Dennis Sun: You Can’t Fool A Farmer All The Time

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Farmers, like others in the world of agriculture, are always positive. One has to be positive, but realistic in realizing negatives must also be managed.

This past week I was reading two recent farm reports for 2022. The first was the Net Farm Income Forecast and the other was a recent Agriculture Confidence Index Result. 

Both were more positive than the 2021 reports, but the farmers were worried about the cost of farming inputs. Input concerns are across the board in agriculture, especially these days. Another concern is future inflation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Net Farm Income Forecast was quite optimistic. The farm cash receipts are forecast to increase by $64.3 billion to $421.5 billion in 2021. Total crop receipts are forecast to increase by $37.9 billion from 2020 levels to $230.1 billion this year.

As we all realize, this figure reflects the growing demand of corn and soybeans bought by China. The forecast showed when corn and soybeans are combined, the forecast increased by $36.3 billion in 2021, accounting for most of the growth in crop cash receipts. The forecast for animal and animal products is expected to increase by $26.5 billion to $191.5 billion following increases in receipts in hogs, chickens and cattle. The forecast didn’t mention sheep, but with the higher prices of lambs, this forecast should be up, too.

The bad news, as expected, is total production expenses, including operator dwelling expenses, are forecast to increase by $26.1 billion to $383.5 billion. The report said nearly all categories of expenses are forecast to be higher in 2021, with feed, livestock and poultry purchases expected to see the largest dollar increases.

Farm sector equity is expected to increase by 2.9 percent to $2.81 trillion, a decline of 0.7 percent after adjusting for inflation. Let’s face it, inflation and taxes could be huge factors in the near future. Farm sector assets are forecast to increase 2.5 percent following the rise in farm real estate assets, but both are expected to fall when adjusted for inflation.

Farm sector debt is expected to be about the same as in 2020, but inflation will increase debt also. Real estate debt is expected to rise, but non-real estate debt is expected to fall – the first decline since 2012.

The DTN/Progressive Farmer Confidence Index is a survey taken three times each year in early spring before planting, in August ahead of harvesting and in late November, just prior to year-end tax season. In the latest, 500 farmers were surveyed by phone in the first two weeks of August. Index numbers above the baseline of 100 indicate optimism and scores below 100 indicate pessimistic views.

Farmers interviewed in August rated their present situation at 166.3, down 20 points from spring 2021, but up 119.4 from the record low of August 2020. Most farmers predicted their overall income and farm-based income would stay about the same. Forty-six percent of farmers expected input costs would be worse in the coming year with 16 percent projecting lower input costs. Livestock producers turned in an overall index of 124.2. They rated their present condition at 180.9, but their future expectations were only 99.1.

 Both farmers and agribusiness managers were more confident about the present, but lower for the future. I would guess politics has something to do with this.

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Dennis Sun: Ranchers And Farmers Need To Pay Attention To Wildlife Task Force

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Report

Around the first of the year, the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force (WWTF) was initiated by Gov. Mark Gordon. The charge of WWTF is to develop a list of topics to discuss and come up with solutions, changes and recommendations on policies and practices to the Wyoming Legislation, Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the governor to support decisions made on Wyoming’s wildlife resources.

When discussing wildlife issues of Wyoming, there will are different answers from everyone, and answers will be emotional at times.

     The members of WWTF are a diverse group, as they should be. There were five landowners selected, and some members were selected based on their knowledge base, such as legislators. But, agriculture is sitting at the table and the group needs our support and comments on the issues.

As I understand it, most of the feedback has been coming from hunters who are concerned with license allocations, number of in state and out-of-state licenses and the process of drawing a license. The discussion is on the big five species – moose, goat, sheep, grizzly and bison, and there are concerns regarding hunting elk, deer and antelope as well.

 Ranchers and farmers, as landowners, need to be a part of the discussion with their comments. We are all impacted by both wildlife and hunters, and we have an opportunity to help make changes to some of the topics debated by WWTF such as landowner licenses, setting herd objectives and hunting access. 

 I mentioned access, as this was the number one topic under landowners’ section. “Access to and or via privately owned lands” is deemed important to hunters. While the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has a great program to assist hunters with access, providing access to hunters is not important to all landowners.

 Throughout the years, landowners have heard from WGFD on the good job their stewardship does to provide habitat for the state’s wildlife. Landowners appreciate the positive comments, but “atta-boys” don’t pay the bills.

Landowners need incentives that help with cash income and there are ways to accomplish this so it doesn’t cost the state dollars. The landowner license program needs to have more flexibility so the approved landowner has more choices as to what they can do with the licenses. Both income or the ability to choose options would go a long way in improving relations with approved landowners.  

 If a landowner gets two licenses, it would be beneficial to let the landowner sell or donate one or both of those licenses. The landowner could donate the hunting license to a registered 501(c)(3) and take the tax write-off, or they could give it to an employee or a family member whether they are involved in the ranch or farm or not. The landowners could also sell one or both of the licenses to a hunter, either an in state or an out-of-state hunter, for income.

  Ranchers and farmers need to be aware of what WWTF is recommending and send in their comments, because we can be sure the sportsmen are. Whatever happens at the end of this process, these policies will be around a long time, and as landowners, we will have to live with them.

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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.

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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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Dennis Sun: And Now For Some Much-Needed Wyoming Good News

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

I always figured the first of May was a good time to plan for summer months and keep in mind the positives out there. As I write this column, it’s raining out, so I guess our rain dances – weather permitting – are paying off. Most of us are still dealing with the drought, but we know each day passed is one day closer to a good rain.  

Most of the state is trying to get their livestock turned out and hoping the grass will grow. We all get a little anxious this time of the year, and then we realize we don’t usually have grass until a certain time in May anyway, but we’re always hoping.

On the state level, it looks like the books are showing more dollars from tax revenue coming in than they expected, which we’ll gladly take. In a press release, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group had the state General Fund around $45.5 million over what they predicted around the first of the year. 

The group also showed the state Budget Reserve Account had grown by $25.7 million over what they had predicted. I believe the state is projected to receive around $1.2 billion from federal stimulus dollars in October. 

We’re gaining, but we’re going to need some energy dollars to get into the black in the future. But, the state is going in the right direction.

With the number of fat cattle in the system, the packers are not having a problem filling their needs. The cattle feeders are having a tough time keeping current, while the consumer and retail groups are currently paying top prices for beef, as the demand is strong. 

We just need to get the glut out of the feedlots. Last week’s slaughter was estimated at 649,000 head, compared to 438,614 head last year, making the total year-to-date slaughter 3.5 percent higher than this time last year. 

Here at home, the cull bull market has hit $1.25 a pound and cull cows hit around 90 cents last week. We certainly hope these positives will last through the video calf and yearling sales this summer. 

I saw an article in BEEF Daily which talked about new research at the Sioux Falls’ SAB Biotherapeutics labs where a herd of genetically modified cattle are producing human antibodies that can neutralize COVID-19. 

This trial research is being tested as a potential treatment sponsored by the Natural Health Institute. Who knows, these treatments may some day work with other diseases.

This past winter’s meat shortage was an opportunity for some livestock producers to sell their beef and lamb directly to the local consumers. Those consumers had good experiences, not only with the meat product, but with those who raised the animals. 

They ended up with good feelings for the producers and in turn, listened to them as they shared about raising the animals. Those good feelings opened the door when producers explained how they care for the livestock and how important animal welfare is to them. 

Consumers also learned of the producers’ care of the land and what sustainability really was.

This is good, positive marketing.

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Dennis Sun: High Taxes Being Proposed Will Hurt Wyoming Agriculture

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

We are hearing more and more news from Washington D.C. about higher taxes coming our way. For those in agriculture, this is bad news as taxes are always bad for agriculture.

The taxes we are talking about are capital gains taxes, estate taxes and corporate taxes, to name a few. The dollars we pay go straight to Washington D.C. and most do nothing to help our lives.

If one is in manufacturing, and the corporate tax rate goes up, they just pass the costs on to the consumer. In other words, they raise the cost of the product to compensate for the tax.

However, in agriculture, where our products are commodities, the price is dictated by supply and demand. This means when I sell cattle I can’t say, “I want 20 cents per pound more to pay the higher taxes.”

When one sells grain or other crops, adding on extra costs will leave producers with a product no one wants – if products are overpriced, they will not sell.

Higher taxes will just make the farmer or rancher manage for tax write-offs to lower taxes instead of other management decisions to help the farm or ranch grow or, as some say to their accountant, “I want to pay the lowest taxes you can get me and still keep me out of jail.”

To some politicians, taxes are a game. This was explained to me by an article in the Washington Examiner titled, “The real reason Biden and the swamp want higher corporate tax rates.”

The article starts by saying, “Economists will say hiking corporate tax rates doesn’t help the working class or middle class. Budget wonks will say hiking the corporate rate won’t raise very much revenue.”

It continues, “People who understand business and taxation will explain higher corporate tax rates mostly increase economic distortions by pushing corporations to structure their spending more around tax avoidance, effectively letting the tax code and politicians dictate business decisions. Politicians will say this is the point.”

They say, always remember why half of Washington wants higher tax rates and why nearly all of Washington wants a complex tax code full of loopholes, exemptions and exceptions to exemptions – they want to force businesses and earners to seek Washington’s favor. They want people to play the game, and we have to.

High taxes cause everyone to hire someone to look for loopholes and exemptions and this will give special interest lobbyists more work, which will make the politics in Washington, D.C. larger.

Big government needs big politics to survive. Higher taxes cause businesses to focus their management on finding loopholes to pay fewer taxes instead of growing the companies and hiring more people. So we play the games.

Today, we are in a global market and this is especially true for agriculture. As higher taxes cause higher prices for the inputs ranchers and farmers need, American products will not sell well on global markets. Overseas markets will look away.

Big companies in America will look to move their headquarters and manufacturing plants to countries with lower corporate taxes. We have seen them do it before.

The American economy is trying to recover from the pandemic, and higher taxes will only put this recovery at risk.

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Dennis Sun: What A Burger

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Earlier this week, I found an interesting article on ground beef in BEEF Magazine written by Lee Schulz. Schulz had written about the costs, source and current supplies of ground beef.

Many of those in the beef business and ground beef consumers probably take ground beef for granted.

For the consumer, until last June or so when the meat shortage appeared in the grocery stores, ground beef was the go-to meat product.

Ground beef is quick to prepare, cheaper than other cuts and everyone has the confidence to cook it correctly. It is not like a steak or a roast where one has to somewhat prepare it to cook. It is comfort food to most consumers.

The article Schulz wrote in 2020 stated the ingredients for a home prepared, quarterpound cheeseburger totaled $1.84 per cheeseburger.

He said this figure is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service calculations using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The article says ground beef was the largest cost at $1.03, the cheddar cheese was 34 cents, the bun was 18 cents, lettuce was six cents and the tomato was 23 cents. Beef prices rose in 2020 because of the pandemic, to eight percent higher than in 2019, which was an eight cent per burger hike.

In 2020, U.S. ground beef consumption was estimated at just over 27 pounds per person, which is more than 46 percent of the total U.S. retail beef consumption.

We all know ground beef comes from the trimmings of the beef carcass. Generally one gets 50 percent lean trimmings from a fat steer or heifer and 90 percent lean trimmings from cull cows and bulls.

The trimmings from cull cows and bulls are important to beef producers, as they dictate the price the producer gets for these animals, and it is an important part of the producer’s yearly income.

As this income is important for cow/calf producers, it is equally important to those in the dairy business. Trimmings drive the market for those cull cattle.

The huge demand for ground beef is also what drives beef imports. Lean beef from other countries is mixed with U.S. tallow for ground beef.

While U.S. beef producers dislike beef imports, it does drive up the market for the U.S. beef to allow, but it is a better deal for meatpackers.

Some are predicting a rally for beef this spring. Meatpackers are making profits on the boxed beef sector and they are finding beef products are moving at a good rate.

This tells us the meatpackers will need cattle and will likely pay more if these boxed beef prices keep trending higher – and it looks like they will. As it looks now, the owners of finished cattle will be pushing the packers for even more dollars.

Cattle producers will then wonder how long this rally will last. They hope it will last long enough to reach summer video sale season, when the calves and yearlings sell. We can only hope as restaurant and foodservice opens up more that people will want a good ol’ steak or cheeseburger to eat.

But remember, ground beef is like beer – people love it during the good times and also during the bad times. 

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Dennis Sun: A Service Needed

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Living in a life of agriculture or in a rural setting has aspects many cherish. The isolation or small-town atmosphere is just what some people want.

We know this by the number of people moving into the region and the number of families moving back to the region, as well as the money they spend to do so.

While one might enjoy the opportunities small town or rural settings provide, they also recognize the challenges that go with it.  It is easier to accept these challenges by growing up with them, rather than facing them when moving into a new setting.

One of the challenges recognized in rural settings is medical care, or more importantly, ambulance or medical transportation services. In past years, a person could pay for a membership to one of the Life Flight services of large hospitals in the region. The cost was affordable and provided great peace of mind.

I thought it was great. We signed up as a ranch and gave the service the coordinates for all the ranches. We did need to use it a couple of times, which made us appreciate the service all the more.

If one had to use the Life Flight service, but wasn’t a member, the cost of the service could reach $50,000 or more. In 2019, the Wyoming Legislature passed a bill which included language seeking to allow Medicaid to cover the Life Flight services, but was later rejected by Medicaid.    

There was another bill this session, which is at this time still alive, but is being amended to work. As I understand it, the issues lie in determining if it is a membership or a medical transportation insurance.

The Senate is trying to make the bill work, but there are some legalities to deal with and the state of Wyoming has limitations on their ability to regulate air ambulance services, as they are federally licensed air carriers under the federal Airline Deregulation Act.

The legislature is in a hard spot to find a way to make this work for the people without being taken to court.

Currently, some insurance companies do include Life Flight insurance.

But, in some instances, after someone has used the service and if the insurance company deems the medical condition to not require air transport, insurance may not pay some, or all, of the bill.

One could be stuck with a $50,000 bill.

There is private ambulatory insurance available, providing complete coverage worldwide for either fixed wing, helicopter and ground ambulance transportation for both family and single coverage. Those over 50 years of age can get lifetime coverage. On top of complete coverage, it provides vehicle return or return transportation and escort transportation.

At some point, this issue is going to get worked out for the betterment of rural residents. We need to stay in touch with state legislators, thank them for their past work and hopefully, for their work towards a solution in the future.

In past years, those who worked or lived in rural areas have been taken advantage of by some services. It is time to get it worked out – lives depend on it.  

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Dennis Sun: Non-Resident Hunters Are Good For Wyoming

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

One of the bills discussed for a short time during this legislative session in Cheyenne was Senate File (SF) 103, which would have raised the number of resident limited quota hunting tags and also raised the price of all hunting tags in the state. 

It wouldn’t have raised the total number of those limited quota tags, but would have taken half of the non-resident tags and allocated them to resident hunters.

These limited quota tags are for Bighorn sheep, bison, moose, mountain goat, elk, deer and antelope. Currently there is an 80-20 percent split between resident and non-resident hunting tags for antelope, deer, moose and mountain goat. Elk is at an 84-16 percent split.

If the bill were to pass, it would have raised resident hunters to 90 percent and lowered non-residents to 10 percent of the limited draw. Elk, deer and antelope tags are currently regulated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the rest of the tags are in state statute.

The good news is SF 103 failed in the Senate Travel, Recreational and Wildlife Committee, just as it had in four previous tries in recent years, thanks to five senators with good common-sense this year.

As a landowner, I was against the bill. I felt it hurt myself and other landowners who cater to and welcome non-resident hunters. Non-resident hunters are added income for landowners, and in the past number of years, many have realized this.

Non-resident hunters may employ a licensed guide, which could be the landowner, so they are assured their property will be taken care of and those hunting without permission are dealt with correctly. 

A non-resident hunter comes to the state knowing they will be spending money – both hunting and in the local community – and are glad to do so.

In my case, I really respect the non-resident hunter. They are always grateful for a place to hunt on private lands and they respect the quality hunt they paid for.

While I do lease my private lands to a licensed outfitter, I also save some private lands for resident hunters and limit the number to provide a quality hunt. But most every year, I find the resident hunter has crossed the boundary and is where they shouldn’t be.

I find the non-resident hunter always recognizes my private lands as a privilege to hunt on and always respects my private land rights.

Don’t get me wrong, there are good resident hunters. But, I always remember the disrespectful one percent who think it is their right to hunt anywhere they want. 

Some think owning a side by side or ATV gives them the right to hunt anywhere they can go and they really create a problem on the resource. Again, it is the one percent we remember over the winter.

Another reason I was happy to see this bill fail is there are a few issues in the bill need more discussion with more landowners, hunters, outfitters and Wyoming Game and Fish personnel. 

Gov. Gordon established the Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioners Task Force to discuss issues such as this bill contained. A task force has been formed with private landowners involved – let them do their job.

This task force has a lot of issues to review and change, such a landowner’s coupon issues, cost of hunting licenses and various other issues related to hunting. 

We thank the governor and commissioners for their work in establishing this task force, as we hope there will be good opportunities for everyone. Landowners do take care of a lot of wildlife. 

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Dennis Sun: Dire Thoughts About That Recent ‘Billion Dollar’ Storm

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As I write this column, the March snowstorm is hopefully on its last leg. Some are calling it a “million dollar storm,” and it could be with the year-long drought some of us are experiencing. Maybe to keep in tune with all the spending in Washington, D.C., it was a billion dollar storm.

Whatever we call it, the moisture was well needed. We realize it was hard on livestock and those taking care of them, but it may have saved us for the coming year. We hear there are other storms following. We really don’t need another storm of this magnitude – whatever happened to a three-day rain?

Storms this time of the year, besides helping the soil moisture, spur activity in the cattle and sheep markets – especially in the Great Plains area. Stockers are headed for the weekly sale barns looking for summer cattle.

The last few days have produced a wide range of weather conditions across cattle country, and in some parts of the cattle and sheep country it is still terribly dry. It will be interesting to see what happens weather-wise between now and the middle of June.

According to Darrell Peel of Oklahoma State University in this week’s Drovers news, data from the middle two weeks of February as the result of the big storm in Texas and surrounding states, showed steer and heifer slaughter dropped over seven percent year-over-year before coming back. Steer carcass weights dropped sharply in February, declining by 20 pounds – from 919 pounds to 899 pounds – in the last two weeks of the month.

Twenty pounds per carcass may not sound like a lot, but in the U.S., we are killing around 650,000 head of cattle weekly.

Peel said, “The last week in February marks the first time in 71 weeks – since October 2019 – weekly steer carcass weights were lower than the previous year. Heifer carcass weights dropped 6.1 percent from 850 to 834 pounds in the same period.”

Beef production has since come back to average numbers before the storm in February.

Before the March storm last week, cattle volume in wheat country was high as cattle were moved off wheat fields in the Southern Plains. In the Northern Plains and southwestern part of the country, volume was traditionally low with ranchers and stockers watching the drought. It could pick up now for those looking to buy yearlings.

There are a few reasons yearling prices may be rising, demand is strong in the Southern Plains, supported by a good premium of fall feeder cattle futures to nearby contract levels.

The value of the U.S. dollar has weakened substantially in the past year. As we know, a weaker dollar generally makes U.S. agriculture products more competitive in the world export market.

After a challenging currency position in 2020, analysis says the outlook for a stronger Australian currency and Euro should make U.S. beef and pork exports the largest beneficiaries this year.

Couple this with the lower number of cattle in the U.S. and the growing demand of the global foodservice; it all paints a positive picture.

But, as always, we’ll have to watch the weather, exports and the Washington, D.C. happenings.

Two out of three isn’t bad.

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Dennis Sun: Slower Mail, Higher Prices

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By Dennis Sun, columnist

Those who live in rural areas, as well as those living in urban areas, cherish electricity, telephone, broadband and a prompt U.S. Postal Service. It is something we’ve become accustomed to.

So far this year, everything seems to be reliable, except for the mail service.

We hear it has big troubles. Last year, the USPS had a booming business. The agency netted a positive cash flow of almost $2 billion in the first half of the year.

How can the USPS be in such financial trouble? From what I can find, there are two looming issues – a 2006 law passed by Congress and unions.

In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act during a lame-duck session which required the USPS to pre-fund 75 years worth of retiree healthcare benefits in a span of roughly 10 years.

So far, the USPS has paid $20.9 billion into benefits, but the agency deferred around $47.2 billion as of September 2019. Those delayed payments still count as an expense, meaning regardless of the agency’s financial success over the last few years, its balance sheet will continue to report enormous losses.

I’ve heard there are six unions involved in the USPS, and those unions got to Congress during the lame-duck session of 2006. Lord only knows how it got passed.

At the moment, the USPS is implementing policies to slow down mail delivery, especially in rural areas, due to a loss of revenue.

Last year, President Trump appointed a donor to become the USPS Postmaster General, along with his appointees on the board. They cut overtime and other parts of USPS spending.

All at once, the mail slowed down and their customers started complaining – rightfully so. The complaints were enough to prompt Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to suspend operational changes in August 2020 after heavy criticism over postal delays. He now plans to release a new 10-year strategic break-even plan, which includes slower mail and higher prices, potentially as soon as late March.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairwomen Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) made the case for action as the USPS faces shrinking volumes of first-class mail, increased costs of employee compensation and benefits, and higher unfunded liabilities and debt.

Maloney drafted legislation on USPS financial issues, such as eliminating a requirement to pre-fund retiree health benefits and require postal employees to enroll in government-retiree health plan Medicare for a savings of $40 to $50 billion over 10 years.

DeJoy said the reform bill, the USPS Fairness Act, “Alone doesn’t solve the problem.”

One union is asking Congress to award the USPS an additional $15 billion and called for a separate modernization grant of $25 billion. The USPS will also ask the Biden administration to recalculate pension obligations, which would save the USPS around $12 billion.

In December, Congress converted a $10 billion U.S. Treasury loan to the USPS into a grant and now the USPS wants more stimulus dollars.

The USPS just announced a Wisconsin-based maker of military trucks, Oshkosh Corp., won a long-delayed $6 billion, 10-year contract to build as many as 165,000 mail trucks.

This is mind boggling!

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Dennis Sun: Coal is Still King

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Hopefully we won’t have any more storms this year like the storm we endured this past week, which was one for the books. It made us further appreciate coal and natural gas, and we wish Washington D.C. would as well.

If we look back in the records or listen to Weatherman Don Day, the years of a strong La Niña always produce a polar vortex weather event such as the one we saw the week of Feb. 8. The last strong La Niña was in the winter of 2011-12, and records show we had the same type of storm across the nation around this time. Weather patterns tend to repeat themselves.

This past storm was ranked as the second worst storm to ever happen in the country. The main reason for this is the storm covered 70 percent of the nation. It was the fourth time Houston had snow, and we saw pictures of icicles on South Padre Island, Texas. In Louisiana, the cold shut down Mardi Gras celebrations – that is cold.

One time, my family and I were in San Antonio, Texas during an early Easter. When we left Wyoming, the temperature was 30 degrees below zero. Two days later, it hit southern Texas and froze everything up.

The fountains at the Alamo looked like ice sculptures, and most of the houses had frozen water pipes as the main water pipes came out of the ground and up the outside of the houses. What a novel idea. Let’s face it, the south can’t deal with cold. Some parts of southern Texas have had no electricity for over 30 to 40 hours.

Many of us have heard about wind turbines freezing up, and it’s true. But, according to news reports, the polar vortex weather has not only shut down electrical generation from wind and solar energy sources, but also other conventional energy sources – especially in the energy-rich state of Texas.

During the ongoing cold, coal and natural gas saved the day, providing over one-half of the electricity on the power grid which serves Texas and its neighboring states. Those southern states also learned even with adequate power sources, the current power grid in most states is not able to keep up with demand of a polar vortex.

The big issues are the severe cold, lack of adequate infrastructure, the large area of the storm and not planning for all of the above.

The best way to plan for these issues, besides building more and better infrastructure, is to have diverse outlets of energy production. The current administration and others in Washington, D.C. want to eliminate oil, natural gas and coal production.

We learned this past week solar and wind energy alone are not going to cut it.  During a normal summer, wind can provide around 60 percent of the power for the state of Texas, but during a harsh winter, it’s a different matter.

Utilities are going north and using coal powered electricity to power up the Southern Plains states. It’s a mess. I’ve been visiting with people from the South. They’re going to remember this storm for a long time, and it’s not even over yet. A coal train from Wyoming looks really good right now.

And, as one person put it yesterday, “There’s not many Texans supporting the Green New Deal this week.”

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Dennis Sun: Rural Broadband, Like Rural Electricity Was, Is Overdue In Rural Areas

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Dennis Sun
Publisher, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Living in rural areas does have its advantages and adds to quality of life, but one has to realize that there are some shortfalls. Some have no choices, as their businesses are located on a farm or ranch.

Lately, as we see more and more people moving to our part of the country from back east or California, a year later we hear how the romance of living out in God’s country seems diminished. Not receiving the mail daily or a newspaper on Sunday is hard to deal with and what to do with the garbage is a pain – no more of “out of sight, out of mind.”

As you visit with people who have moved out here for a year or so, they tell of their experiences dealing of “living in the wild.” From not having a snow plow or plowing out the road a couple times a day to erratic cell service, these are huge issues to them.

The people who have been here over a year all have a common complaint, everybody in the family wants to come out and visit in the summer, even family relatives they don’t know. Unless they put their foot down, their summers were spent cooking, washing bedding and entertaining relatives.

One issue binding most rural people is internet service – high speed internet service. In the last couple of years, there has been some movement to help with rural internet service.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during the Trump administration had huge grants to get internet service into rural areas. The Wyoming Business Council also has a broadband manager and established a program get broadband to rural areas.

Let’s face it, in the Intermountain West and Great Plains areas, we really have huge rural areas. If internet companies could make a profit supplying these areas with coverage, they would already be there. FedEx and United Parcel Service, I’m told, lose money servicing our area. That means we have to get creative to find the funds.

A couple years ago, during the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) planning, rural connectivity was the number one issue for the agricultural committee, and we also now realize the importance of connectivity through the pandemic. In fact, some others on the ENDOW Committee didn’t want anyone on the ag committee to bring the issue to light, as they thought it would hinder businesses wanting to move to Wyoming.

Some 75 years ago, ranchers and farmers had the same issues over electricity as we do currently with internet service, and we fixed that problem with Rural Electric Cooperatives, didn’t we?  It was developed by using low interest government loans.

We realize establishing good, affordable rural connectivity will attract others to move into rural areas, which may cost counties more to service rural areas and may bring on more subdivision in rural areas.

 I think it is possible to control the added costs and to protect farms and ranches so they are able to provide food and fiber for all of us while also having affordable broadband, we just have to make it a priority and that today is the biggest stumbling block.

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