Wyoming Livestock Board works to regain brand inspector positionsWritten by Jennifer Womack
Two of the agency’s inspectors, one in Kaycee and another in Uinta County, were let go late May. Agency administrators say the lay-offs were based on an assessment of inspection numbers and an ability for neighboring inspectors to pick up the slack.
Kaycee ranchers reacted with fervor sending over 20 written comments to the agency’s Cheyenne office with more to be delivered by area legislators attending a June 17 meeting on the subject. Ranchers from the area said its already difficult to get a brand inspector during the peak times of the year and didn’t believe inspectors from other areas would be available in a timely fashion.
Senator John Schiffer, during a June 16 WLSB conference call, said ranchers in his area have the highest regard for their brand inspector. Of the individual he said, “There’s a man born to be a brand inspector.”
To board members on the call, regarding the brand inspectors selected for lay-off Schiffer stated, “It’s my read that it was as much of a surprise to you as it was to those of us in Natrona and Johnson counties.” Schiffer said the board should play a more active in role in these types of discussions and decisions.
Representative Lisa Shepperson questioned recent additions to the agency’s Cheyenne staff while layoffs are being made in the field. “Why are we hiring more administrative people and firing people who work with the producers?” she asked.
Board member Eric Barlow successfully motioned that the agency resubmit its budget cuts to the Governor. Funds from the account housing producer fees will replace those cut in the Governor’s efforts to reduce budgets across all sectors of state government. Barlow’s move alters what has been a 65 percent producer funded, 35 percent state funded formula in place since the most recent brand task force’s work was completed.
Barlow followed up with a second motion, also met with Board approval, to rescind the inspectors’ termination letters. Board approval is also required before any layoffs can be made within the next year.
“It’s a reasonable short-term solution and gets us to where we want to be right now,” said board member Albert Sommers.
Barlow pointed out that the changes would leave the board reconsidering its brand fees.
“I want producers to understand that you have two ways to address the brand program,” said WLSB Director Jim Schwartz. “The only thing we have for expenses is salaries, travel and benefits. I’ve not had anyone tell me we need to raise fees.”
The changes draw upon the account that protects the brand inspection program from facing financial challenges similar to those seen in recent years. Without growth in cattle numbers, agency administrators say program expenses will outpace revenue generated.