Wyoming 2012 Legislature items for agriculture | TSLN.com
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Heather Hamilton

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Wyoming 2012 Legislature items for agriculture

The 2012 Wyoming Legislature Budget Session will convene on Feb. 12, 2012, in Cheyenne, WY, and will include multiple budget and legislative issues relevant to agriculture producers.

“It is a budget session, so that’s at the top of the list, and there aren’t a lot of concerns for agriculture in regard to the budget. I will be looking at the Rangeland Health Assessment Program, which was started last year by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and which the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) was instrumental in getting started. We feel that’s a critical program, and would like to see it funded a little stronger than Governor Mead proposed,” stated WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna of one of the big budget-related issues for the WSGA.

“We will also be interested in seeing the process as it goes forward for the Wyoming Livestock Board, and what may happen there. They have a couple key items, funding for computerization and operational funding, and that’s always a fairly tight budget. Whatever the legislature does on the brand side impacts the expenditure of producer dollars paid into the program so we’re prepared to watch that closely,” continued Magagna.

Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton added that the Livestock Board recently met in preparation for the possibility of budget cuts, and several other agencies are anxiously waiting to see what the Joint Appropriations Committee comes out with at their January meeting.

“Governor Mead has been talking about a 2 percent budget cut, and the Joint Appropriation Committee has talked about 2, 5 and 8 percent budget cuts. I think the state of Wyoming is going to move into having to tighten our budget. A lot of agencies within the state have expanded over the years in various areas, and some of it is based on legislative direction. It’s going to be interesting to see when those agencies come in with reduced budgets if those agree with the Appropriations Committee,” Hamilton commented.

He continued that the big issue for the upcoming session for the ag community will be the wolf delisting in Wyoming.

“That’s an evolving issue, especially now that we just heard that Congress didn’t provide protection against litigation in regard to the Wyoming Wolf Management Plan. We’ll see how that plays out. In talking with the Governor, he seems to think we need to keep going ahead with it. There are some members of the legislature worried that if Wyoming comes up with a plan, the administration will seek to kibosh it,” Hamilton explained.

“Our position is we need to move forward and take our best shot, and work with Congress to get protection from litigation,” Magagna added. “I see this as Wyoming’s final effort to test the credibility and commitment of the Fish and Wildlife Service on this issue.”

“There will probably be some legislation to allow for change of place of use within an irrigation district. That one is going to be interesting when it comes out because we have policy supporting it. WSGA and the Conservation Districts are opposing the idea, and we will need discussion among the various ag groups just to see where everyone will be on that. With the adoption of supporting policy in WyFB, it will be hard for me not to support it,” Hamilton noted of another ag-oriented piece of legislation.

Both groups are prepared to watch the redistricting issue, noting their concern over the pulling numbers from rural areas to fill voting districts from more populated areas of the state.

“I would like to see some mechanism that would allow for a weighted vote, where you would have representation on county lines rather than going into this kind of along county lines, then going some other place to pick up what you need. That part of it is something I don’t see our legislative body in power going with, so there probably won’t be a lot of change, just arguing,” noted Hamilton.

“There is a bill that would provide some compensation to ranchers, through the Livestock Board and State Veterinarian, to provide for when livestock have to be destroyed for disease-related testing purposes, including brucellosis and tuberculosis,” Magagna said of another livestock-related piece of legislation.

If producers have concerns regarding any potential piece of legislation, or a budget related issue, now is the time to contact Wyoming Senators and Representatives, added Magagna.