According to the Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), President Barack Obama’s proposed budget includes an increase in the public lands grazing fee assessment that would put many family ranches out of business. Dustin Van Liew, PLC executive director and NCBA director of federal lands, said 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 and rural economies of the West.
“This proposal came as no surprise to us—it’s a repeat of last year’s arbitrary fee increase proposal, only this time includes not only Bureau of Land Management permittees but also the U.S. Forest Service. Judging by the president’s plan to levy a 74 percent tax on the grazing fee and make extreme cuts in BLM and USFS range funding, we think it’s safe to say 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 said. “The current grazing fee is fair. In fact, most public lands ranchers already pay market price for their federal forage, when considering factors such as added regulatory costs, increased predation, ownership and maintenance of water rights and 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.”
Specifically, the president’s budget calls for the BLM and USFS to impose a $1 per animal unit month (AUM) increase above the grazing fee to cover administrative costs. Van Liew said that ranchers should not bear the burden of paying for “bureaucratic administrative costs” that are out of their control, including costs such as attorneys fees paid from agency budgets to radical enviro-litigators. He added that 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 said. “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.”
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