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Published February 27, 2012, 10:13 AM

Land grazing fee already fair

WASHINGTON — According to the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, President Barack Obama’s proposed budget includes elements such as an effective increase in the public lands grazing fee assessment, which would force family-owned ranches to shell out more cash to Uncle Sam.

By: Public Lands Council, Agweek

WASHINGTON — According to the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, President Barack Obama’s proposed budget includes elements such as an effective increase in the public lands grazing fee assessment, which would force family-owned ranches to shell out more cash to Uncle Sam.

Dustin Van Liew, PLC executive director and NCBA director of federal lands, says increasing the grazing fee through an arbitrary tax is unwarranted and is further evidence that the president and his administration are out of touch with production agriculture.

Fair fee

“From the president’s estate tax proposal to his plan to add a tax to increase the grazing fee and make extreme cuts in the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service range funding, this budget proposal is further proof that this administration does not understand American agriculture. Federal lands ranchers are and always have been willing to pay a fair price to graze livestock on public lands. They willingly invest significant amounts of money to manage and improve the range,” Van Liew says.

“The current grazing fee is fair. In fact, most public lands ranchers already pay more than market price for their federal permits, considering factors such as added regulatory costs, increased predation, ownership of water rights, maintenance of improvements and the difficulties of managing livestock in rough, arid rangelands. Arbitrarily increasing the grazing fee via a tax will do nothing more than impose unnecessary costs on the ranchers working every day to produce safe and affordable food and fiber.” he says.

Specifically, the president’s budget calls for the BLM to impose a $1 per animal unit month increase above the grazing fee to cover administrative costs. Van Liew says ranchers should not bear the burden of paying for “bureaucratic administrative costs” that are out of their control. He also notes that the current administration denied petitions to change the grazing fee structure as recently as last year.

Van Liew says the president’s budget outline is just a proposal and that it is up to Congress to determine final budgetary allocations.

“The president’s lack of understanding for the federal lands grazing industry, as evidenced by his proposed 74 percent tax on federal land ranchers, is extremely disappointing. Effectively increasing the grazing fee during these times of economic uncertainty will unnecessarily increase burdens on livestock producers and hamper their ability to create jobs and generate economic growth in their communities. We are not going to stand by and let that happen,” Van Liew says. “PLC and NCBA will continue working with members of Congress to do what’s in the best interest of ranchers, and thereby our nation’s natural resources, to ensure a sustainable future for our industry and rural America.”

Editor’s Note: The Public Lands Council has represented livestock ranchers who use public lands since 1968, preserving the natural resources and unique heritage of the West. Public land ranchers own nearly 120 million acres of the most productive private land and manage vast areas of public land, accounting for critical wildlife habitat and the nation’s natural resources. PLC works to maintain a stable business environment in which livestock producers can conserve the West and feed the nation and world.

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