Water, value-added ag addressed during Wyo. legislative session
Wyoming just wrapped up its 2022 legislative session, and Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, says his organization is pleased with the results.
This was a short session, only 20 days, and the focus was on the budget, so the organization didn’t introduce any new major legislation, but did support a few that clarify water regulations, and provide funding for value-added agriculture endeavors.
The bonding act authorizes the Wyoming Business Council to “issue revenue bonds as specified for agriculture processing projects; specifying that municipal, county and joint powers board industrial development projects and purposes include agricultural and agricultural-related projects.”
The goal is to encourage ag producers and other enterprises to keep more of the value of ag products in the state. It was driven by the need for more packing capacity during the COVID shutdowns, but was expanded to include any business that adds value to ag products, Magagna said. “The goal is to take a product that next step in terms of adding value and getting it closer to being ready for the consumer.”
The bill was supported by all the ag organizations in the state.
Several bills relating to water were passed. One clarified what happens to water rights when a piece of land is subdivided, Magagna said. “Basically it provides a process whereby those water rights are divided up appropriately, not just left hanging, so to speak, if a piece of land is subdivided.”
Another bill focused on the development of water on federal lands, which had historically included both the name of the leaseholder and the federal agency on permits for stock water development. “About 10 years ago the state engineer at the time decided that putting the grazing permittee’s name on that was meaningless, because it was attached to the land.” After some discussion, the engineer entered a memorandum of understanding, so there could not be a transfer without involving the permittee. “This codifies that,” Magagna said. “The water right is tied to the land and the angecy can’t change the use of it without involving the permittee. It firms up what we’ve been doing for about the last 10 years.”
The other water bill the WSGA was following is specific to areas designated by the state engineer as “control areas,” Magagna said. One case in southeastern Wyoming has been getting a lot of attention. One landowner applied for eight deep wells to put in pivots, over the Ogallala Aquifir. The neighbors are concerned about how that will affect both the ground and surface water in the surrounding areas. The way the law was written previously, those contesting the application carry the burden of proof that the well would cause harm. The bill passed changes that so the applicant or petitioner shall bear the burden of proof.
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