USDA

Maggie Mullen

When it comes to beef, Made in America doesn't necessarily mean it was made here. That's because if the cow was raised in another country it can be labeled with a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sticker as long as it was processed here. That has American ranchers in a beef with each other over what to do about it.

USDA

Hot Springs County Hospital in Thermopolis and Westward Heights Care Center in Lander received a combined $25.5 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture. The hospitals will be using the funds to modernize and expand their facilities.

University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

The University of Wyoming was found in violation of the Animal Welfare Act during a routine inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in early July.

Breakdown of direct, indirect, and induced jobs per 100 new employees for wind, coal, and slaughterhouses
Patrick Manning, Matthew Halama, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services / Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

A new report outlining the status of Wyoming's economy and workforce shows slaughterhouses could create more indirect and induced jobs than wind and coal state lines employees.

U.S. Senate committees will hold hearings this week on the Trump administration's plan to reorganize the government. It includes a department that manages millions of acres of public lands in our region.

United States Department of Agriculture

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was in Wyoming as part of a tour of the Mountain West. Secretary Perdue Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that he is getting a lot of feedback from producers over tariff and trade issues and how that might hurt Wyoming producers.

The tamarisk plant, also called saltcedar, is infesting waterways across the West. The scaly-leafed shrub can grow taller than a person. It sucks up a lot of water and spits out salt, making the soil around it too salty for other plants to grow.

“It’s very bad, yes,” says Alex Gaffke, a graduate student in land resources and environmental science at Montana State University.

 Logo of the United States Forest Service
US Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service closed its comment period asking the public whether to reopen sage grouse conservation plans. The National Wildlife Federation found that over 120,000 comments were submitted requesting the agency to keep the plans how they are. The organization, along with several other conservation groups, analyzed the comments to come up with the number. 

Melodie Edwards

In 2015, Wyoming passed the Food Freedom Act, giving the state the most lenient local food regulations in the country. It allows Wyoming farmers to sell things other states can’t, like raw milk, eggs and poultry direct to consumers. But many Wyoming food producers say, there’s still one road block: beef. The issue is that federal regulations make it hard to market Wyoming branded beef outside the state where all the customers are.

Wikimedia Commons

The United States Department of Agriculture will invest $225 million dollars in conservation projects across the country, including two in northeastern Wyoming that will continue efforts in forest health and enhancing sage-grouse environments.

Mike Cline, Public Domain

In the last couple years, wolves have killed record numbers of livestock in northwestern Wyoming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now stepping in to protect calves with special fencing on a ranch near Jackson.

Wyoming Director of Wildlife Services Mike Foster said in a press video that the agency has installed over two miles of an electrified wire known as turbo fladry on the Walton Ranch where large packs of wolves have moved in.

“It’s an electrified polywire and it has plastic flags that hang off the wire."

USDA via Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Department of Education is looking for local sponsors for a federal program that provides free meals to low-income students over the summer.

When school’s out, kids can get meals at 83 different sites across the state. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the sites are run by school districts or community groups like YMCAs.

WDE nutrition programs consultant Amanda Anderson says those sites alone can’t serve all of the state’s students who get free and reduced school lunches during the year.

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is putting up 235 million dollars in grants for innovative conservation projects around the country.

The grants will support efforts like improving water and soil quality, wildlife habitat, and farmland. The grant was part of last year’s Farm Bill.

Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust director Bob Budd says the grants will tackle big issues.

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given the Wyoming Department of Education a $65,000 grant to boost local food programs at schools across the state.

So-called ‘farm to school’ programs have been on the uptick in Wyoming in the past few years. The Wyoming Department of Education says the grant money will be used to put on 5 regional conferences to get school districts and local producers into productive partnerships.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow says these partnerships benefit Wyoming students nutritionally—and educationally.

Roger Wollstadt

The Powder River Basin Resource Council's Bill Bensel says without a USDA meat plant in Wyoming local meats can’t get to state schools and stores. However, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture's Derek Grant says that’s not true.

“Our producers can take their livestock to those meat plants and then sell the products in the state of Wyoming to restaurants and school and individuals.”

Bensel says the problem is that there are too few slaughtering plants—only 12 state wide—to make it economically feasible for ranchers to process in-state.

biorootenergy.com

The U.S. Department of Agriculture starting a program that pays people to deliver dead trees to power plants that can convert them to biomass fuel.  Large swaths of Wyoming’s forests have been killed by pine beetle infestations and some say they pose a fire danger. Todd Atkinson with the Farm Service Agency says he hopes money will give people the incentive to harvest from more remote areas.

Aaron Domini

Stakeholders in the Rocky Mountain region are in unanimous agreement about what needs to be done about invasive plant species. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Bioscience.

They are common invaders—cheat grass, leafy spurge, salt cedar, yellow toadflax and spotted knapweed. Project leader and UW professor Edward Barbier says that what sometimes begin as attractive lawn shrubs purchased from local nurseries can escape, and proliferate, taking over land, choking out native plants and providing less than ideal grazing material for livestock.

The USDA is predicting that this year’s hay crop will be the worst in decades because of the drought.

Platte County Extension Agent Dallas Mount says most Wyoming hay farmers are producing only half as much hay as usual, and some are producing none at all. He says that’s driving up prices.

The US Department of Agriculture has named more than 1,000 counties – about a third of all counties nationwide – to be natural disaster areas. The drought-driven designation is the largest the USDA has ever made.

In Wyoming, all but a small corner in the northwest part of the state is currently dry, with designations ranging from Abnormally Dry to Extreme Drought.  

Todd Even of the Farm Service Agency in Wyoming says that in some areas it’s estimated that more than fifty percent of range land or grass hay crop has been lost.

Some Native American farmers and ranchers in Wyoming could be receiving checks and debt forgiveness in the coming year in the wake of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
 
It’s estimated that Native American farmers and ranchers lost over 770-million-dollars in revenue between 1981 and 1999, because the USDA denied them loans and services based on their race. Many Native Americans also lost their land in the process.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it plans to shutter four offices in Montana and Wyoming as part of a $150 million cost cutting measure that includes 259 closures nationwide.

The Food Nutrition Service office in Cheyenne, and the USDA Rural Development office in Park County will close, though FSN employees will continue to work from home.

The Food Nutrition Service office was the only one in the state. Food Nutrition Service is the source of the federal SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps.