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‘Megadrought,’ Big Meat Packers Drive Prices Up For Wyoming Beef

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‘Megadrought,’ Big Meat Packers Drive Prices Up For Wyoming Beef


Anyone who loves to throw a good burger or steak on the grill won’t be surprised ranchers are realizing record profits and consumers are paying premium prices at grocery stores.

The contrast between these trends stems is the first lesson taught at business schools everywhere: supply and demand, or vice versa. For the beef industry, including Wyoming ranchers, high demand and limited cattle supply allows them to get top dollar for their livestock, maximizing profits in the current market.

“It’s a supply and demand issue,” said state Rep. Bob Davis, R-Rock Springs, who is also a rancher by trade. “Beef is in high demand, but ranchers don’t have the inventory to fill that demand. That’s bringing prices up and determining the price that the processors are willing to pay the ranchers for the beef.”

At a recent National Cattle Convention held in Florida earlier this month, industry experts from CattleFax presented an optimistic outlook, projecting record prices across all classes of cattle for the year ahead.

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Drought Discourages Breeding

Several factors propel the bullish forecast, with a yearslong drought being the most significant. These dry spells in the Western and Midwestern regions of the U.S. have hindered efforts to expand herds and contributed to their continued decline, Davis said.

“We’ve been in a drought for at least four years,” he said. “And ranchers have had to sell down their inventory because of a lack of feed, lack of pasture, lack of water. We just can’t compete with mother nature.”

Severe drought causes cattle to stop breeding, resulting in a scarcity of calves for sale, which causes ranchers to miss out on crucial income.

“We had to sell half our herd over those four years. We started with 300, but when there’s a drought they don’t breed, so they’re dead weight and we don’t make money if they aren’t breeding cattle we can spell,” said Marilyn Wood, a southern Utah rancher.

To replenish the depleted inventory, the Wood family would need to spend about $1,500 per head at current prices, amounting to a significant $225,000, she added.

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However, realizing a return on that investment would require a two-year process. After acquiring the calves, a year is needed for it to mature and become eligible for breeding. Then it’s an additional year before the bred calves can be sold.

Rebuilding

Furthermore, achieving a full return on that investment depends on several factors, including the selling price of the beef compared to the initial purchase price. There is also uncertainty about whether all calves will successfully breed.

“Most ranchers don’t have $225,000 to go out and replace 150 head of cattle,” Wood said. “It takes a lot of years to rebuild that inventory.”

The most recent USDA inventory report reveals a historic low in cattle numbers, with a 2% decrease to 28 million head. This marks the lowest inventory level in 50 years, a trend expected to continue for three more years.

The low inventory also creates problems for ranchers needing to buy cattle to replenish their herds.

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“There isn’t enough cattle on the market for ranchers to just go out and buy more,” Wood said. “We have to build our inventory with the herds we already have, and that takes years.”

While 2023 brought favorable weather conditions overall for cattle ranchers, it wasn’t enough to declare an end to the drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2023 drought report.

The Great Plains region, spanning from Montana and North Dakota to Texas, endured three years of unusually dry conditions. Above-average precipitation in 2023 brought some relief, especially in the Western areas. But the area still didn’t fully bounce back from the deficits of the previous three years.

Scientists have dubbed the drought ongoing in the Western region for more than two decades a “megadrought.”

The Southwest region also has experienced several years of drought, with 2023 providing some relief, but not sufficient to fully alleviate the area from drought conditions.

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Even if the drought lifts and ranchers can replenish their inventory, shoppers aren’t likely to find much relief at the grocery store in the near future.

Beef prices have been continuing to climb as ranchers don’t have enough supply for demand, like these prices at King Soopers in Cheyenne. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

Big Beef Business

Many ranchers say this is largely because of the influence of major packing conglomerates on the meat processing industry.

“These corporations are the biggest reason why we are seeing the prices we are seeing,” said Tyler Lindholm, fifth-generation rancher and state director for the free-market advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.

Referred to as the “big four,” these companies wield control over the market, dictating the price at which beef is sold, Lindholm said. Critics argue this dominance amplifies market instability and undermines the interests of consumers and ranchers.

“These four major packing corporations are the problem,” Lindholm said. “Yes, right now ranchers are making a profit. But it’s just a bubble and like bubbles, they pop. And I don’t expect these processing companies, who really are responsible for setting the price you pay at the store, to bring the price back down.”

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Lindholm also stressed the importance of legislative measures to address the overwhelming control exerted by these corporations to ensure fairness and stability in the market.

As part of this, Lindholm advocates for state laws that enable people to buy beef directly from local ranchers, bypassing the big companies. He said direct-market friendly laws pair consumers with fresher and potentially higher quality products, but also enable them to support local businesses and farmers.

Additionally, he would like to see more state-inspected packaging facilities. This way, ranchers wouldn’t have to rely on big corporations to process and package their beef, giving them more control over their products and ensuring a fairer marketplace.



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‘Monolith Of Wokeness’: Senate Votes To Defund UW Gender Studies, Diversity Office

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‘Monolith Of Wokeness’: Senate Votes To Defund UW Gender Studies, Diversity Office


The Wyoming Senate passed an amendment to the biennial budget Wednesday prohibiting the University of Wyoming from using state money to fund its Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or any diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program at the school.

It also passed another amendment prohibiting the school from using state money for its gender studies program.

The measure passed by a 20-11 vote. An identical measure was defeated in the House on a 35-27 vote.

In total, the proposed budget allocated $402 million to the University of Wyoming entering the legislative session. The amendment came with a stipulation to pull $1.7 million from that funding.

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The amendment was proposed by state Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, who said the $1.7 million had previously been used to pay for the program.

The amendment also states that no state money can be used for similar programming at the school.

State Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, supported the amendment, saying the office and similar programming highlights differences between people rather than honoring equality.

He also brought up his alma mater Harvard University, which he said has gone in a negative direction because of programs like this.

“This kind of program was the principal agent of introducing that rot, introducing a faculty that is without diversity of opinion, that is a monolith of wokeness,” he said. “We’re seeing this rot affect the University of Wyoming.”

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Scott said he is now advising people against attending the school.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, spoke against the amendment. He said the DEI office is integral for helping international students acclimate to attending school in Wyoming.

“Trying to ensure that all of them feel safe, all of them feel welcome, all of them feel like they are a part of the university system and a valued part of that university system,” he said. “They don’t all when they arrive.”

Gender Studies

The Senate also passed an amendment by an 18-13 margin prohibiting the University of Wyoming from spending any general funds, federal funds or other money under its control for any gender studies courses or academic programs.

“I don’t think it’s right for the university to take sides on this issue and fund more of an ideology than a program,” Steinmetz said.

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Some of the stated objectives of the program is to provide students with an understanding of social movements and social justice, the intersectional nature of feminist, LGBTQ+, racial, disability, environmental, immigration, labor, and economic justice movements, and translate feminist and social justice theories into service or activism.

Students can earn a Gender and Women’s Studies undergraduate major or minor degree, and a graduate degree minor in this field. Steinmetz said that about eight undergraduate students majored in this during the 2022-2023 school year.

Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, remarked that the school will soon change its nickname from the Cowboys to the “Social Justice Warriors.” He said legislators should approach funding from an economic perspective.

Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, opposed the proposal. He said the University of Wyoming should be a bastion of free thought.

“The bedrock of a university, Mr. President, is freedom of thought,” he said. “If you don’t choose to go to these classes, then don’t go.”

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Others like Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, said the move would hamper free speech.

“You are free to disagree with this programming, to disagree with the content of it, and so who are those students who are adults and choosing to take those courses,” she said.

She said the funding would not be shut off until current students in the program complete their studies.

Budget Highlights

The House was on pace to finish its $10.8 billion biennial budget discussions by around 1 a.m. Thursday as of publication late Wednesday.

Excluding withdrawn amendments, the House was scheduled to consider 86 budget amendments over the course of Wednesday, while the Senate was to consider 66.

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Entering the day, the House had added $96 million in amendments to the general fund in spending, of which $40 million is dedicated to a 988 suicide hotline trust fund in the event a similar bill doesn’t pass. This bill had $30 million reduced from it on Tuesday.

Another $15 million is for the Wyoming Military Department to perform a land swap to improve the National Guard’s training practices.

The Senate added about $27 million to the general fund.

The differences between the two budgets will be ironed out in a joint conference committee that must finalize a report by March 4.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Bill To Eliminate Most Wyoming Gun-Free Zones Passes Committee

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Bill To Eliminate Most Wyoming Gun-Free Zones Passes Committee


A bill that would eliminate most gun-free zones in Wyoming has passed the House Judiciary Committee on a unanimous 9-0 vote.

The measure will now move on to the full House of Representatives.

House Bill 125 would eliminate gun-free zones in schools, governmental meetings, and sporting events.

However, it was amended in committee on Wednesday to not apply to sporting events where alcohol is sold, after concerns were raised about firearms at University of Wyoming games at War Memorial Stadium and the Arena Auditorium.

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The measure would allow anyone who is allowed to carry concealed weapons to carry them into government meetings ranging from local city council meetings to the legislature. Wyoming law does not require a permit for residents over the age of 18 to carry firearms. However, to carry guns into a school legally, a concealed carry permit would still be needed.

Some restrictions on firearms would remain in place. Citizens could not carry guns into courtrooms, for example. And property owners could prohibit them on their property if they so desire. So in a privately owned office building, for example, guns could still be banned at the discretion of the property owner.

Testimony For And Against House Bill 125

In committee testimony on Wednesday, Mark Jones, Gun Owners of America Hunting Director, and a Johnson County resident, told the committee that the bill is a “basic issue of Second Amendment rights. ”Gun-free zones are simple invitations to criminals and mass killers,” Jones said. He said that federal figures show that 93 percent of mass shootings occur in gun-free zones.

But Erika Cole of Cheyenne, who is a member of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, spoke against the bill. Cols said she is herself a gun owner “But I think there is a time and a place for guns.” She went on to say that she is concerned about allowing guns into sensitive areas such as schools, government meetings, and sporting events. “Increasing the number of guns in in places like these does not make us safer, it  just creates a lot more potential for dangerous scenarios.”

Bills similar to House Bill 125 have been proposed several times in the Wyoming Legislature in recent years, but so far none has won final approval.

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Home Schooler Robotics Team Prepares for World Lego Competition

Gallery Credit: Kolby Fedore, TSM

 





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Buy Tickets for Air Force vs. Wyoming on March 5

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Buy Tickets for Air Force vs. Wyoming on March 5


Tuesday’s MWC schedule includes the Wyoming Cowboys (13-13, 6-7 MWC) meeting the Air Force Falcons (8-16, 1-11 MWC) at 8:30 PM ET on MW Network.

If you’re looking to catch this matchup in person, head to StubHub or Ticketmaster to buy your tickets!

Air Force vs. Wyoming Game Information

Watch college basketball, other live sports and more on Fubo! Use our link to sign up for a free trial.

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Buy Tickets for Other Air Force Basketball Games

Rep your team with officially licensed college basketball gear! Head to Fanatics to find jerseys, shirts, and much more.

Air Force Players to Watch

  • Ethan Taylor: 14.8 PTS, 4.2 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.5 BLK
  • Beau Becker: 15.1 PTS, 4.8 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.9 BLK
  • Rytis Petraitis: 15.5 PTS, 6.2 REB, 3.9 AST, 1.9 STL, 0.8 BLK
  • Jeffrey Mills: 9.6 PTS, 2.8 REB, 3.3 AST, 1.5 STL, 0.1 BLK
  • Kellan Boylan: 8.0 PTS, 5.4 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.9 BLK

Catch college basketball action all season long on Fubo!

Wyoming Players to Watch

  • Sam Griffin: 17.4 PTS, 4.0 REB, 3.5 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.0 BLK
  • Brendan Wenzel: 11.1 PTS, 5.4 REB, 1.6 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK
  • Akuel Kot: 14.2 PTS, 2.7 REB, 2.2 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.2 BLK
  • Cam Manyawu: 7.2 PTS, 6.3 REB, 0.9 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.4 BLK
  • Caden Powell: 6.0 PTS, 4.9 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.8 BLK

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Air Force vs. Wyoming Stat Comparison

Wyoming Rank Wyoming AVG Air Force AVG Air Force Rank
210th 72.9 Points Scored 67.9 315th
280th 75.3 Points Allowed 71.0 154th
199th 35.2 Rebounds 29.5 361st
281st 7.6 Off. Rebounds 6.8 328th
186th 7.4 3pt Made 9.0 39th
296th 11.7 Assists 15.1 68th
324th 13.1 Turnovers 11.2 158th

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