Wyoming Livestock Board bill is investment in animal health
Green River – According to Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Director Jim Schwartz, legislation regarding a “Livestock Health Program” was the most important bill before the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee in their late September meeting.
“In my two years as director I’ve been frustrated with the inability of the Wyoming Livestock Board to do the job with which it’s charged, which is protecting the $800 million industry in the state,” he said.
He said Wyoming has had to depend in the federal government when dealing with brucellosis. “We’re glad to have them, and we’re glad they can step in, but most producers would far rather deal with a state veterinarian rather than a federal one.”
Schwartz said the WLSB has depended on the federal government for funding, which hasn’t come through as promised. “We had to lay off the person who was supposed to be Dr. Logan’s assistant, and it’s been a frustrating time.”
“There are many diseases threatening our state, and tuberculosis is close in several states. We need to be able to react to those diseases and to do our job, and we haven’t been able to do it with brucellosis,” he explained.
The WLSB has approached the Governor for additional funding for brucellosis funding in the Pinedale area. “It’s a huge job and the agency doesn’t have the resources to do it. We have four people dedicated to the animal health part of our program, so we have extremely limited resources and we need to do a lot more with animal health programs,” said Schwartz. “We need to step the agency up to be able to react to an emergency situation.”
Recently Park County has been added to the area requiring brucellosis testing and surveillance. Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Jim Logan said if an infection shows up in that area the WLSB would be spread really thin. “It’s difficult to get a practitioner to leave his practice unattended while he comes to help us,” said Logan. “We’re facing a shortage of food animal veterinarians to help us in the face of brucellosis.”
Logan said APHIS is also facing an extreme shortage of vets. “They get into situations with avian influenza and tuberculosis testing in other states and there’s nobody left to come help in Wyoming,” he continued. “We need to get away from that dependency.”
He said the agency isn’t even close to being ready to face incoming threats, and that there are many rules and regulations but no enforcement with only two state veterinarians. He also said that import regulations are the biggest eyes and ears for protecting the state against disease, and that there needs to be a closer relationship between the WLSB and Wyoming’s ports of entry.
The WLSB asked the Committee for an additional three field vets, two staff to work with ports of entry and a computer specialist to work with moving the brand program forward. An additional four positions would bring the total to 10 new staff. Improvements to the program would cost $4 million.
“This bill would carry a large price tag, but we’re short of resources and we’ve not been able to do the job required of us. That could have huge implications in the long term,” said Schwartz. “We need to make some investments to ensure the future of our livestock investment is preserved. It’s alarming how little ability we have to react quickly and effectively without dependency on the federal government.”
Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna said he would like to see the bill move forward for the concept it represents. Members of the Committee spoke on both sides of the legislation, arguing whether to cut it down now and add more if necessary, or leave it as is and cut it down during the 2009 legislative session if necessary.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.