Magagna: American energy security begins with agriculture
The relationship between agriculture and land may often be overlooked, but it is one of our nation’s most critical. From farmers tilling the soil and rancher managing the rangelands to engineers extracting resources, these industries offer each other mutual benefits and work together to ensure that their operations are done in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner.
At the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, we appreciate the relationship we have with our state’s energy industry. As we celebrate 150 years as Wyoming’s oldest trade association, the ties between agriculture and energy, particularly in the West, cannot be overstated. From fueling equipment to harvesting crops, energy production has gone hand-in-hand with our state’s agriculture industry.
Importantly, multiple use of federal lands is a cornerstone of Wyoming’s economy, as nearly half of our state is composed of federal lands and waters. Agriculture, energy, mining, and recreation have co-existed on federal lands for decades, but now thanks to misguided federal policies and actions, the potential for further energy production and expansion of our critical industries has lessened.
We are certainly feeling the effects today — high gas prices, rising home heating bills, and increased dependence on foreign rivals for our energy needs underscore the poor energy policy decisions made by the White House and other federal institutions. For the sake of our nation’s energy security and our economic future, Wyoming’s essential industries must stand together and fight for the continued use of federal lands rather than let Washington bureaucrats dictate things from afar.
From his very first day in office, President Biden’s administration has pursued policy measures that put America’s energy security—and therefore our nation’s food security—at grave risk. From issuing an executive order that curtailed all new oil and gas leases on federal lands to canceling key drilling projects in rural Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, the White House has made it clear where they stand on energy development. While the attack on energy development has been the most blatant target, at the same time a wide array of changes to environmental policies have directly impacted our ranching community.
While the leasing ban has since been overturned after energy-producing states like ours proved the decision would bring undue economic harm—energy revenues topped $1.2 billion in Wyoming in 2020—the potential of further restricted use of federal lands is real. The Department of Interior has appealed the leasing ban’s reversal and has dragged its feet on issuing new leases, so much so that members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee labeled the lack of new permits as being tantamount to another leasing ban.
To top it all off, costs for agriculture have skyrocketed as American energy security has faltered. Diesel to fuel tractors and harvesters is hovering near record price levels, pricing many farmers out of the market and threatening future food growth and crop development not just in Wyoming but in other critical food valleys across the United States. Gas for trucks to navigate ranches and transport livestock to market is also at a high price, reducing food supplies and affordability across the board.
Lack of clarity on leasing on federal lands has also hampered coordination among ranchers, energy producers, and other industries that operate on federal lands and waters. Sustainable activities like cattle grazing, a longtime conservation practice, have been affected, resulting in less healthy soil that can also sequester carbon and reduce emissions.
Clearly, a solution is needed that prioritizes energy security and agriculture operations above all else—these essential industries cannot survive without each other, as well as an economic environment that supports rather than hinders their development. If we want to strengthen energy and food security, and in turn reduce our state’s carbon footprint, then lawmakers in Wyoming and Washington alike must pursue policy pathways that open up our federal lands to expand both energy exploration and livestock production instead of closing the door.
Jim Magagna is Executive Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
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