Ag groups pleased with outcome of 2016 Budget SessionWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – Tight financial times and critical budget cuts provided the stage for the 2016 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature, and after 20 challenging days, legislators produced a budget, signed by Governor Matt Mead, and a number of other bills, many of which have also been signed into law.
Wyoming’s agriculture interest groups agreed that the session turned out well, and most cited bills related to trespass, pesticide education funding and the budget as positive points of the session.
“Overall, it was a good session,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Exeuctive Vice President Jim Magagna.
Wyoming Farm Bureau’s (WyFB) Brett Moline agrees, saying, “It was a good session for agriculture.”
Among the bills that were important during the session, two bills related to criminal and civil charges for trespassing to collect data were of high importance for WSGA, WyFB and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD).
WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank comments, “Both of the trespass bills went through. Those were our major priorities.”
Frank explains that the bills clarified language to eliminate the issue surrounding free speech concerns.
“In our opinion, it also makes it clear that the trespass applies to trespassing on private lands,” she says. “There were some concerns with the Senate version of the bill, because they took out trespassing across private lands, but the House amended the language back in a different section. We are comfortable with the version that came out and pleased with the final result.”
Magagna adds that the bill also has a provision that allows for data collected on private land to not be used in making decisions, but data collected from public lands can still be utilized by agencies in decision making.
“Anyone who trespasses across private lands is still guilty of trespass,” he says.
Moline notes that trespass is one topic that will also likely be discussed during the interim.
WyFB and WSGA also both mentioned benefits in House Bill 97, which allows for compensation for wolf predation.
“This bill was important for us,” Magagna says. “It will allow compensation for wolf predation in the predator area until such time as the wolf gets delisted again.”
“We’re glad that legislators put some general fund money in that fund,” Moline says. “It is not as much as we had hoped, but at least there is some money there.”
Moline also adds that WyFB is pleased the money for compensation came from the general fund, rather than the Animal Damage Management Board funding.
A bill to increase the registration fee for pesticides by $15 to provide for pesticide education funding was also passed.
“The pesticide education program has always been offered to applicators at no cost,” Magagna says. “When we lost the federal funding, that went away. This restores that program.”
Wyoming Ag Business Association’s (WABA) Keith Kennedy added that WABA is pleased the pesticide applicator training funding passed.
“These priority items were successful for agriculture,” Magagna says.
As one disappointment for agriculture, Magagna, Moline and Kennedy note that funding for weed and pest control on state lands was largely eliminated.
“Now the burden to control weeds on state lands will be on the lessee,” Moline says.
Magagna adds that the bill related to trespass for collection of shed antlers also failed, which was a disappointment.
“There were some periphery issues of ownership that the legislature embraced, so we will have to move forward after resolving those,” he says.
At the conclusion of the session, Magagna and Kennedy note that the interim session is the next area of focus with the Wyoming Legislature.
“Interim may be interesting,” Kennedy commented.
Magagna adds, “We’ll certainly be involved during the interim session. It is apparent the state will have to be more frugal in their expenditures. In terms of the general fund to operate state government, they did a good job of setting the stage moving forward. However, I’m still concerned with the amount of money being spent on capital improvements. I think we need to be cautious moving forward.”