Spending CutsWritten by Jennifer Womack
Brucellosis dollars part of SF10
Cheyenne – Wyoming agriculture took its fair share of cuts when Governor Freudenthal began making trims on his supplemental budget earlier this month when state revenues were reported lower than was originally expected.
Predicted at $910 million this past October, supplemental budget forecasts were reduced to $260 million early January. While Wyoming finds itself in a better financial situation than many other states around the nation, money will undoubtedly take center stage this session as legislators wrestle with how best to spend the available dollars. If lawmakers follow Freudenthal’s recommendations they’ll have about $32.65 million to spend on projects of their choice.
Wyoming Livestock Board Director Jim Schwartz says the Governor’s original supplemental budget request included a $100,000 appropriation to be used for the spaying of heifers. The funds would have been applied in the “Designated Surveillance Area,” the portion of the state where wildlife continues to harbor brucellosis.
Schwartz says it was a real plus to have the money as part of the Governor’s request, but that it wasn’t money they’d received in the past. He’s thankful to see the $208,000 the agency spent testing cattle in the Bondurant and Daniel areas for brucellosis Summer 2008 remain in the Governor’s recommendations. “We’re in pretty good shape honestly,” says Schwartz.
SF10 could help the WLSB expand its efforts to prevent the commingling of elk and domestic livestock in Northwest Wyoming. The legislation, requesting an appropriation of $750,000, is sponsored by the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee. “We will be looking to allow for the spaying of heifers and other improvements to prevent commingling, whether it’s water development or fencing,” says Schwartz. “One thing we left out,” he says of a measure that will be pursued through amendments, “is that we need to encourage adult vaccination.”
According to SF10, producers who spayed their heifers would be eligible to receive between $3.50 and $8 per head. The legislation also states, “…payments may be made for fencing, feed and other preventive activities undertaken for the purpose of keeping cattle separated from elk in areas of high brucellosis prevalence in elk…” The legislation would also allow the WLSB to aid those producers dealing with the costs of complying with a brucellosis-related quarantine.
Senator John Hines (R-Gillette) is sponsoring a similar piece of legislation that has been assigned a number of SF31. The legislation would allow for the WLSB to cover the costs associated with spaying, but Schwartz says it doesn’t include an appropriation. Given the reduction in funds available Schwartz says it’s a back-up measure that would at the very least allow the agency the flexibility it needs. One ag lobbyist in Cheyenne this week commented that anything with dollars attached to it is going to be very difficult to get through the session.
As one of his highest legislative priorities this session Schwartz says, “Anything ranchers in Northwest Wyoming have done to prevent commingling has been on their own backs. We need to step up to the plate and help them out.” Schwartz says questions persist as to whether or not the measures would meet the constitutional requirement of “adequate public benefits.” He responds, “Of course there is. We need to help those ranchers stay in business.” If the legislation is met with approval, funds could become available as early as Summer 2009.
Items the Governor had originally included in his supplemental budget request for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture were also among the cuts. The agency isn’t set to receive the $57,000 it requested for inspection equipment, an additional $10,000 for fuel or $378,000 in laboratory equipment. An additional maintenance position at the Wyoming State Fair, budgeted at $43,086, was also cut from the supplemental budget proposed by the Governor.
State agencies could find themselves wrestling with additional reductions later this year. During the Jan. 13 Wyoming Livestock Board meeting, budget officer Anne Iske said they’d been told by the Governor’s office to prepare for a potential five percent reduction in the aspects of their budget stemming from the General Fund. The same request has been made to other state agencies. Potentially amounting to $432,000, Schwartz says that’s a lot of money for a small agency like the WLSB. He did, however, note that he wouldn’t trade places with his counterparts in other states where state employees are taking 25 percent reductions in pay or being placed on furlough part of each month.