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Published May 16, 2012, 10:15 AM

West River livestock inspections could cost more under latest plan

PIERRE — The state Brand Board shifted its plans Tuesday and proposed raising the livestock ownership inspection fee by only a dime to 90 cents per head. A public hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. June 27 in Pierre.

By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau

PIERRE — The state Brand Board shifted its plans Tuesday and proposed raising the livestock ownership inspection fee by only a dime to 90 cents per head. A public hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. June 27 in Pierre.

The timetable calls for the increase to take effect Sept. 1 if possible. The board’s director, Larry Stearns, said the inspection program will run a deficit during the 2013 budget year if changes aren’t made.

“Ninety cents would carry us at least two more years,” Stearns said. Previously this spring the board approved increasing the fee to $1 on a 3-2 vote but withdrew that change last month at the request of Gov. Dennis Daugaard before it could take effect.

An estimated 1.5 million or more head of cattle will be checked for ownership this year. The ownership inspections are required in the big-range counties west of the Missouri River when cattle, horses and mules are sold, moved or sent for slaughter.

The board met Tuesday with representatives of three livestock organizations and a policy adviser for the governor to discuss a three-part compromise. In addition to raising the fee to 90 cents, legislation also would be developed to provide authority to charge an additional amount when brand inspectors are asked to travel to locations other than livestock auction markets, such as ranches and pastures.

Known as local inspections, the compromise also calls for inspectors to receive an additional amount for conducting them, especially when they involve small numbers of animals.

Details of the legislation should be worked out in the next three months, said Jerry Vogeler, executive director for the South Dakota Livestock Auction Markets Association.

Vogeler said the time had come to end the bickering and reach agreement. “Going down the road of divisiveness is getting no one nowhere fast,” he said.

Vogeler added that the 20-cent increase, which the auction markets association opposed, was “a road to disaster.” He praised the governor for stepping into the matter.

Brand inspections had been conducted for decades by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association under a contract with the Brand Board. That relationship was halted under the previous administration of Gov. Mike Rounds.

The inspectors now work directly for the Brand Board, which is part of the state Department of Agriculture.

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