Joint Ag seeks draft to change in-state livestock transport fees
Pinedale – During a June 13-14 meeting of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee, legislators heard updates, delved into water policy and heard from the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB).
“We had a really productive meeting,” said Committee Chair Hans Hunt (R-Newcastle). “We brought the Agriculture Committee together with the Select Water Committee to discuss several topics, and we have a few bills drafts that we’ll look forward to seeing at our next meeting.”
During the 2018 Legislative Session, WLSB Director Steve True visited with Chairmen Hunt and Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) about changing fee structures for in-state range movement permits.
“With the 15 percent increase approved this year, on top of the 10 percent increase from last year, we have seen $1 million of our budget cuts offset,” True said. “We feel the need to continue to offset the costs of brand inspector salaries, raises, mileage, etc.”
True noted WLSB also believes permittees with custom in-state range permits or out-of-state range permits should also help to share in these costs and is considering a fee increase, which would have to be changed in statute.
Currently, the in-state permit is $80.50 to move cattle from county-to-county, and approximately 240,000 head of cattle are moved every year on those permits.
“This is a chance to offset some of our revenue needs and get a better verification of those cattle,” True commented. “These permits were called gratis permits for years – and there’s a reason for that. It’s a cost of almost nothing to move those cattle.”
With several ideas for the increase, True said, “We had a lively discussion at the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Summer Cattle Industry Convention, but we need to vet this idea through our other industry groups still.”
While he noted action from legislators may be premature at the moment, True suggested looking at pricing structures and criteria. One proposal involves a tiered permit system, which would increase the cost of the permit based on the number of head moved.
WSGA Executive Director Jim Magagna said, “Our members support the idea that a $70 permit shouldn’t allow movement of anything from 20 to 20,000 head of cattle,” suggesting a one-time fee, assessed on a per-head basis, be required to exercise a movement permit.
“We will work with Director True and others in this process,” Magagna added. “There is industry support for the changes, both to increase revenues and to create greater equity between those who pay a regular fee and those who have been able to use the permit system to avoid paying any fees.”
During the meeting, Hunt said, “One idea that seems to have support is to move from a flat rate to a tiered system based on numbers.”
With a lack of foundation to support stages of division of tiers or rates for each tier, Rep. Bill Henderson (R-Cheyenne) commented, “It would be nice to see how those number changes would roll up and impact revenues.”
Hicks added some time is available to facilitate a third meeting of the committee, which would allow extended discussion on the idea at their September meeting before a final vote at a one-day meeting in Casper in November, which is yet to be scheduled.
Hunt clarified that final numbers can be added at a later date to reflect conversations of the WLSB and other groups.
Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) suggested moving forward with a bill that has the potential to be complex, to provide more time for bill development.
“I suggest we move forward with a bill and get some more information, as well,” Hunt said. “Whether we want to take action at our September meeting or wait until November after more discussion, we’ll have time. “
A motion directing the Legislative Services Office to draft a bill passed unanimously.
Hunt said, “We’ll consider the draft of this bill at our next meeting in Powell on Sept. 27-28.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.