A rainy day reserve, Wyoming brand program builds account
Casper – In an update on the Wyoming brand program, Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Director Jim Schwartz said his agency has a large reserve account, and thanked the industry for supporting the program.
Schwartz’s update came during the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup in Casper Dec. 13.
“I want to thank the industry for supporting the brand program. Today we have a pretty big reserve account that varies between two and two and a half million dollars. We’ve worked really hard on being conservative and building this fund in case we have a drought or disease. I strongly recommend you to encourage the board members to save that account for a rainy day,” said Schwartz.
He added that the brand inspection mileage fee has gone from 48 to 50 cents per mile, which has impacted the budget, and to offset the increase in mileage the board has proposed three fee increases for 2011.
“We are looking at ways to make that up, and are considering raising the in-state movement permits from $50 to $60 per year, and raising the out-of-state accustomed range permit inspection fees from an amount equal to 25 percent of the inspection fees to 30 percent of the current inspection feed for livestock. Increasing the G-Form fee from 75 cents to 90 cents when going to out-of-state markets is the third proposed increase.
“This has been a little controversial, but it would generate about $17,000, which would make up the difference in our mileage fee, somewhat,” noted Schwartz.
The board hasn’t made a decision on allowing a G-Form to go to the Crawford Livestock Market in Crawford, Neb. from Wyoming, and Schwartz said there were differences of opinion among board members on what to do with the G-Form.
“In my opinion, if we expand where we can go to Crawford on a G-Form, then they will want to go to Nebraska on one, then Colorado, Montana and Utah, and that would break our brand program. But, if we did away with the G-Form into South Dakota, it would probably require two additional employees in our brand program. It will ultimately be a board decision,” said Schwartz.
Entering a brand renewal year in 2011 will also help build income for the brand program. “We have about 5,000 registered brands, and between 80 and 82 percent are being renewed, which is pretty respectable,” noted Schwartz.
He also provided an update on current legislation that pertains to the brand program.
“One issue in Wyoming is there are a lot of hobby ranches coming out. In Wyoming there are about 9,000 agriculture producers. In Laramie County alone we have 11,500 people living on five- to 35-acre parcels of land. We are trying to figure out how to work with these individuals, and so far it’s been very frustrating for some county commissioners,” noted Schwartz. He lists a free-running yak operation in Johnson County as one hobby farm issue that local government is trying to deal with.
“The proposed legislation gives counties the ability to react to some of those issues. The downside is that there may be instances where all the county commissioners are from town, and don’t understand agriculture. That is a legitimate concern that is happening in our state,” explained Schwartz.
The second piece of legislation he mentioned will deal with the animal welfare issue.
“The Wyoming Livestock Board is responsible for every dumb, living creature out there. We are looking at how to split this issue so we separate pets and livestock, and protect our animal husbandry practices,” he noted. “Our proposal will be to give some authority to counties on the most prevalent pet-related issues, and our number one goal needs to be protecting our animal husbandry practices in Wyoming on the livestock side. We need your support on this.”
“The last piece of legislation relates to quarantines. Today when we quarantine something, we have no way to force a test. An example of this was a recent bunch of 87 horses that came to Wyoming with no Coggins test. They were quarantined, and the guy said he didn’t care about the Coggins or moving his horses. There was no way for us to force a test.
“We can quarantine animals, and the producer can’t move or market them. But, if you have animals you want to keep forever, we can’t force a test, and we are proposing a change in the quarantine statute to address that,” noted Schwartz.
When asked about the state’s brucellosis status, Schwartz said that at this point it doesn’t look like Wyoming will lose its brucellosis-free status over the recent cases in Park and Sublette counties.
“This can be good or bad. One Pinedale rancher said he wants the whole state on Class A status, because that keeps the issue on the main burner,” noted Schwartz.
“I think the feds are the problem in this issue, and you should get some money from them. The Game and Fish claim the elk and bison, and we’re free except for the reservoir they contain,” commented Chas Cain.
“That is something that should be considered,” replied Swchartz. “Ranchers in that area of the state are doing everything in their ability to stay clean. They’re testing and vaccinating every animal and just working really hard to make sure their herds aren’t infected, yet the elk and bison could infect them tomorrow.”
Of the future, Schwartz feels the agency needs to become computerized to help with disease traceback and other time sensitive issues.
“We asked for $360,000 this year to initiate the computerization, and were denied by the Governor. We’re working hard to see it happen, and it’s the highest priority for myself, the board and the brand program,” said Schwartz.
“In conclusion, we’re pretty steady. The industry has built a really good earmarked account, and it’s the industry’s money. There is the fear that if it builds too high the legislature will say they’ll take it, but we need to work at protecting that money for a rainy day,” said Schwartz.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.