WLSB watches livestock identification, indemnity bills move through Legislature
Cheyenne – As the 2012 Budget Session continues in Cheyenne, on March 1 Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Director Leanne Stevenson said both bills that directly impact her agency were still moving forward.
Senate File 18, the livestock indemnity bill, went through the Senate with minor amendments and passed out of the House Ag Committee on March 1.
Stevenson says the legislators have taken the indemnity funding out of the bill itself, but have also made changes to enable the $500,000 from last year’s supplemental budget to be used for indemnity after it expires on July 1.
“In last year’s supplemental budget, that $500,000 was placed in the auditor’s office for use through the end of biennium for testing and containment of brucellosis,” explains Stevenson. “So, instead of appropriating new money, we’re taking money that’s already been appropriated, and the balance of that fund at the end of June will go into this fund for indemnity.”
Stevenson says the amendment to transition the funding in the budget bill has been moving forward in both the House and Senate appropriations committees.
Producers would drive ID
Of the voluntary livestock identification bill, Stevenson says the funding has been cut from $315,000 to $43,015.
“The Legislature is highly scrutinizing anything with funding because of the budget situation,” says Stevenson. “The cut was based on our fiscal note for the bill.”
She says the remaining funding will get the program established and provide for rulemaking.
“We have to promulgate rules, and there’s potential to come back in next year’s supplemental budget,” explains Stevenson, emphasizing producer involvement in the rulemaking.
“One thing that will be crucial to the success of a voluntary livestock identification program is the involvement of the producers,” she says. “We’ll start from the options they give us. They’ll be crucial in driving what’s in the rules, and that will determine what we have for a program.”
Brand program to remain
She also emphasizes that the livestock identification bill is not intended to replace any current ID system.
“It will only enhance those systems,” she says. “It’s not the intent of the Wyoming Livestock Board to do away with branding. Brands are for ownership, but they aren’t always tight enough to be traceability mechanisms. They work very well in some cases, but in detailed cases the brands don’t always get us there.”
“With the livestock ID program we want to build on the brand program, brucellosis tags, the scrapie tag program and the green tag program, using those as the basis for our voluntary livestock ID program,” explains Stevenson.
The livestock identification bill went to the Senate Ag Committee on the afternoon of March 1, and if passed, it would progress to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then to the Senate floor.
Should the bill clear the entire process, Stevenson says the next step would be to identify industry representation through the major livestock producer organizations in the state. She says a meeting amongst all of them could happen shortly after the close of the 2012 Budget Session.
Tech funding moves ahead
In addition to those two bills, a funding request from the WLSB for computerization was also still moving forward and intact in both the House and Senate budget bills as of March 1.
“The Governor’s recommendations were such that we would get computerization, and the Joint Appropriations Committee took the Governor’s recommendation,” says Stevenson. “With the livestock ID program, we need to be geared up so we, as an agency, aren’t a stumbling block to our producers, at a time when other states have already implemented requirements for our producers.”
The 2012 funding request, at $559,215, is supplemental to the 2011 request.
“That funding would provide us with a core computer integration system for the agency and all the agency functions,” explains Stevenson. “Then we would have an integrated system between animal health and brand inspection – right now we have separate, stand-alone systems, and very little in the inspection portion.”
Should the computerization funding make it to the end of the session, Stevenson says paperwork is already in place to begin work with the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
As computerization is implemented, Stevenson says it would apply to anything currently in electronic format at the present and going into the future.
“We’ll convert things like our import permits and the records for brucellosis tags to the new system, but we won’t go back to the archives of history to try to get up to speed,” she says. “Anything that’s electronic will be converted, and we’ll move forward.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.