Wyo producer groups bring checkoff concerns before Joint Ag Committee
Worland – In two full days of meeting, the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee of the Wyoming Legislature heard from a variety of state agencies and producers on their high-priority issues for the year.
Notably, several producer groups approached the committee with their concerns for a dry bean check-off and to make changes to the beef check-off.
Wyoming’s dry bean industry provides some of the top-quality dry beans, primarily pinto beans, in the country.
“There are needs for research in dry beans and variety development for varieties specific to Wyoming,” said Mike Moore, UW Seed Certification manager. “There has been some funding from the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association, the bean industry and Seed Certification, but none of those groups are able to provide funding easily or readily.”
“It all points to a place where we are ready to institute a dry bean check-off,” he adds.
Mike Forman, president of the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association, added, “The dry bean industry has changed in the years I’ve been growing beans. The idea of having a program available to fund research for a bean that producers and consumers like, but also one that grows well in our environment, is important to us.”
In addition to concerns about variety, bean producers have concerns about herbicides.
“We have one weed in particular that haunts all of us. We have funded a small research project, but we need to expand that,” Forman said. “Pinto beans are a relatively small crop, compared to others on the national scale. Our single biggest problem is probably weed control, and I think we could benefit it we had dollars to fund research.”
If Wyoming producers generated funds for Wyoming-specific research, Forman said that producers wouldn’t have to depend on national researchers who don’t have Wyoming interests at heart.
Legislators were concerned about forwarding the idea of a dry bean check-off because of a lack of concrete producer buy-in.
Forman, Moore and Keith Kennedy of the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association emphasized that the idea of a check-off passed unanimously at the WCIA meeting.
“We have talked to our neighbors, and in Park and Big Horn Counties, we have good support from our handlers and buyers,” Forman commented. “I’m not naïve enough to say there might not be a few growers who don’t want to pay for it, but we’ve allowed for that in our proposal.”
Kennedy further explained that a provision in the draft bill allows for producers to regain the payment if they don’t support the checkoff.
The three brought a draft bill to the committee, which laid out a means to collect the check-off, similar to the wheat check-off, and marked an estimated $157,000 revenue per year.
“In terms of the research that is needed, is $157,000 a drop in the bucket, or is it significant enough to provide value?” asked Representative and Committee Co-Chair Mark Semlek of the bill’s anticipated revenue.
Kennedy noted that the funds “would go a considerable way in helping to accomplish a lot of our goals, particularly with respect to plant breeding.”
With the promise to bring more data regarding producer acceptance of the program, the committee passed a motion asking the Legislative Services Office (LSO) to draft a bill for consideration at their September meeting.
Looking toward Wyoming’s cattle industry, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna noted, “The current statute establishing the Wyoming Beef Council is 43 years old. Another statute allows the Wyoming Livestock Board to collect up to one dollar per head of cattle and calves for the beef check-off.”
The language in statute, Magagna explained, is limiting and does not provide for any mechanism to collect more than the currently-mandated one dollar per head for the beef check-off. In the event that Wyoming would like to institute a state check-off or that the national check-off be raised, a separate mechanism for collection of the finances would be necessary.
“We are asking for a slight change that removes the one dollar limit and leaves the amount flexible to be collected, as authorized by a referendum conducted under federal or state authority, in which no less than a majority of producers agree to,” Magagna says.
However, Magagna’s points were countered by the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation and the Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, who noted that their membership strongly oppose any increase in the beef check-off.
Though Magagna commented that the bill would not begin the referendum process or instigate any increase in the beef check-off and would only serve to provide a mechanism if such a situation were to happen, legislators voted down a motion to ask LSO to draft a bill.
Representative Hans Hunt commented on the motion, “I would appreciate a more in-depth discussion and private notice, as well as more information on this subject and encourage that we don’t move forward with this now.”
The next meeting of the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee will be on Sept. 25-26 in Laramie. Look for more on the topics presented at the meeting in future editions of the Roundup.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.