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Win Some, Lose Some

Written by Natasha Wheeler

      After the general election in November, we figured there would be changes coming out of Washington, D.C. We hoped that the Republicans gaining control of Congress would mean more favorable bills towards agriculture and public land ranching.  Where we were wrong was that some of us, myself included, thought that Congress most likely would not get much done until after Jan. 20 when the new members were seated and had a chance to get to know how it all worked in Congress.  Man, were we wrong!

Either the Democrats figured that their only chance to get a few items that they wanted was to work with all in Congress before they adjourned for Christmas or the Republicans started calling the shots right after the election.  Most likely, it was a little of both.

As I wrote this column earlier in the week, Congress sent the President two bills to sign. I imagine that a number of environmental groups called the White House in the past week trying to convince the President to not sign or to veto the legislation.

The first bill to come out of Congress was the National Defense Authorization Act package, and this bill had the Grazing Improvement Act along with numerous natural resource issues in it. There were some in the Senate who wanted to remove all public lands parts of the bill, but they were not successful.  The House had passed the Grazing Improvement Act earlier, but the Senate had not acted on it this year. There were some parts of the Senate bill that could have damaged public lands ranchers. As you remember, the Wyoming Public Lands Coalition wrote most of the House bill, and the other western states accepted it.  

The bill that was passed did have a lot of proposed wilderness in New Mexico and Nevada that was not popular with some, but it allowed the Democrats to vote for the bill. And the Grazing Improvement Act did have some parts that ranchers have been trying to get passed for a long time. These components will really help in dealing with the BLM.

The other bill sitting on the President’s desk earlier last week was the cromnibus spending package to fund the government through next year, all except funding the Homeland Security Agency.  Congress will take that issue up right after Jan. 20, and the big issue there is the President’s Executive Order on Immigration.  Some wanted it in this bill, but that’s a big fight for another day.  This $1 trillion funding bill had a lot of extras in it that will really help the West. Some conservatives didn’t vote for it, as they thought the bill had too much pork in it.  

Some issues in the bill were to eliminate any spending to list the sage grouse for a year. By then, BLM plans will be in place. It would block the EPA from applying the Waters of the U.S. interpretive rule, but it didn’t completely kill the rule. The funding bill proved effective in stopping the Secretary of Agriculture from implementing a new beef checkoff program, and it would change Country of Origin Labeling, which livestock groups are still divided over.

As with other legislation, you win some, you lose some. That’s how it works.

Have a great new year!