Chinese Stocks and Wyoming Wool

What does the Chinese stock market have to do with the success of Wyoming sheep ranchers?  Quite a bit, as I learned at the recent mid-year meeting of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association.

Speaker Larry Prager of Center of the Nation Wool spelled out the China-Wyoming wool connection.  The United States has enough capacity to process 12 to 15 million pounds of wool each year. The U.S. produces about double that amount annually.  The half that cannot be processed here is exported. The largest export destination for US wool has been China, followed by India.  With the exception of 2014, China usually accounts for over half of US wool exports.  

China consumes a lot of wool.  It makes the rest into products for re-export abroad.

Australia is a big wool producer with 70% of its production shipped to China. Australia has a weekly wool auction.  This sets the price for wool world-wide.

If the Chinese stock market melt-down slows China’s spending at the wool auction, prices fall and the impact is felt immediately here in the Cowboy State.

Additionally, American wool prices are pegged to the Australian dollar.  The weakening of the Australian dollar, and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar has negatively impacted domestic wool producers.

We do indeed live in a global world economy.

Other panels addressed lamb carcass pricing and the myriad of business risks facing the industry.

All employers face daunting regulatory challenges from the current administration in Washington – few more so than the sheep industry.  Concerns addressed include: grazing allotments, efforts by the federal government to control Wyoming water and land as well as threats from environmental rules.  Migrant work visas, too, are a concern. 

38% of sheep in America are tended by sheepherders from south of our border.  In a rare instance of an immigration policy that works these folks come in on an H2A visa, work for months and then go home for the rest of the year.  Seems like Washington ought to be happy with that one – right?

Not so.  The Obama administration is renewing this visa program only on condition of tripling – – that’s right, tripling – – the required wage.  Not only does that hurt woolgrowers, but it likely will mean the end of employment for these itinerant shepherds.

Hopefully, we’ll soon see a change in Administration that will reverse this atmosphere of hostility toward employers, agriculture and the West.

The Woolgrowers invited me to recognize my efforts in the Legislature on behalf of private property rights, and it was my pleasure to spend the day learning much more about this vital segment of Wyoming’s economy.  My many thanks to Amy Hendrickson and the Wyoming Woolgrowers for the opportunity to listen and learn.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22, consisting of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County.  A businessperson, Kinskey is the former Mayor of Sheridan.  He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 307-751-6428.

Taxing and Spending in Cheyenne

Quite a bit of email coming in about a proposed corporate income tax.  There is a bill to enable a corporate income tax.  It is limited to retail stores and intended to hit the “big box” retailers that have done so much damage to Main Street stores.

Nonetheless, it is an income tax all the same, something to which I – and many others – are adamantly opposed.

Why?  First, if it passes, it may be initially only on big box retailers, but can it only be a matter of time before bills are introduced to extend it to multiple other businesses?

Second, it may be initially only for corporations, but, again, wouldn’t it soon be conceivable to apply it to individuals as well?

Third, typically such taxes start out as targeting only “the rich.”  The federal income tax started as a 1% tax that “only the rich will pay.”  Generation by generation the “tax the wealthy” drumbeat went on, and the tax went up.  Today, everybody is subject to the income tax.  Unless you are poor, then it turns into a tax refund, at the expense of hard-working men and women everywhere, like you.  What happens is before long “the rich” comes to mean anybody with a job!

Fourth, government consumes every dollar available.  It grows in proportion to revenue.  Income taxes are a powerful revenue raiser.  And, an equally powerful grower of the size of government.  We need less – not more – government in America.

Fifth, raising taxes, income taxes or otherwise, feeds a false narrative that Cheyenne has done enough to rein in spending.  That is untrue.  While there were cuts during the downturn of 2008-09 – and significant cuts at that – there is still way too much waste, inefficiency and spending.

My vote is “No” to new taxes and tax hikes.  If there comes a day when it appears we’ve throttled back on spending, and there is a hue and cry from the folks I represent that Wyoming needs more spending and more taxes, I may reconsider. But, we are a long way from that day.

In other important matters, as I write, the bill to construct a veterans skilled nursing facility at the Veterans Home in Buffalo is coming up for consideration.  Vying for consideration are Casper and Sheridan.  I am an advocate for location in Buffalo.

The State of Wyoming operates five health care facilities – that State Hospital in Evanston, the Life Resource Center in Lander, the Pioneer Home in Thermopolis, the Retirement Center in Basin and the Veterans Home in Buffalo, formerly known as “The Soldiers and Sailors Home.”  It provides assisted living care to veterans from across Wyoming.  The proposal would add a skilled nursing component there.

A task force formed by the State in 2014 determined that the proper role of the government in health care facilities is to operate as a safety net, a provider of last resort.  This way, the State would not compete with private enterprise.

For over a century, the role of the Veterans Home has been precisely that, to first serve those who, due to circumstance or history, are unable to find a proper place closer to home. 

In 2016 the Legislature enacted a bill that clearly indicated that when funds became available, a veterans skilled nursing home was to be build on the Veterans Home campus.

Nonetheless, legislators for Casper and Sheridan will jockey for location in their communities.  As for me, I represent both Buffalo and Sheridan.  But, the veterans at the Veterans Home has clearly indicated their preference to stay where they are when they need a higher level of care, rather than relocate to a different community.

In the end, I feel we must respect the wishes of those most affected by the decision

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan county.  A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, Kinskey can be reached at [email protected] or cell 751-6428.

Great News for Jobs

The last week has brought great news for all who have yearned for a more robust local economy.

JOCO First, the economic development arm of Kaycee, Buffalo, and Johnson County, scored $1 million in Wyoming Business Council funding toward the cost of developing a shovel-ready business park.

They’d initially been denied, but persistence pays off. Mayor Mike Johnson and Commission Chair Bill Novotny led a delegation to Cheyenne to plead the case for reconsideration. It worked. They won the first installment on the cost of the project

Days later, Wyoming leaders announced that a titan of the outdoor industry – Weatherby – will establish a light manufacturing operation in Sheridan’s High-Tech Business Park. The park was built several years ago by the City of Sheridan, with assistance from the Business Council. The purpose was to provide shovel-ready sites for precisely these kinds of business relocations.

Also, of assistance was SEEDA – the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority. SEEDA, a collaboration between the City of Sheridan and Sheridan College, was able to make a substantial financial contribution to the project, creating the vehicle for a $12 million loan from the State Loan and Investment Board for a 100,000 square foot light manufacturing facility.

The two developments are related. The Weatherby project lends a sense of urgency to the efforts of JOCO First. JOCO First was able to argue that Buffalo, too, needed a shovel-ready business park, and needed it sooner rather than later. Perhaps on the coattails of the Weatherby project, the entire region will benefit through job creation or business relocation in the area.

In many ways, Johnson and Sheridan counties share an employee and business base. Folks in Buffalo commute to jobs in Sheridan, and vice versa. Many people from Dayton and Ranchester and Clearmont and Kaycee travel to bigger communities for work. Some in Sheridan prefer to live in Buffalo, and others prefer Northeast Wyoming’s more rural settings. Economists regard the two counties as one labor market, not two.

Labor market studies show that the interstate between the communities grows shorter every day. There is one other finding that is important: The number of underemployed people far exceed the number of unemployed. Likewise, many people have withdrawn from the labor force due to a lack of work equal to their skills and training.

Collectively, this creates a deep pool of talent for the right kinds of jobs.

Light manufacturing is the holy grail of economic development. We have agriculture, energy, and tourism, and we need to promote and nurture them. As Dad says, “Don’t forget to dance with the gal that brung ya.”

But a fourth industry will help to stabilize the ups and downs in other sectors. Manufacturing is America’s strength, and is a good fit for rural Wyoming. There are no smokestacks – just good, steady jobs.

This industry segment is small but growing. Our community college and our high schools are critical to providing the training employers need to seriously consider growing in our area.

Hats off to all the dedicated people in Sheridan and Johnson counties – and in Cheyenne – who drove these efforts to fruition. They are helping to build a better future for generations to follow.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan county.  A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, Kinskey can be reached at [email protected] or cell 751-6428.