Indemnity payments: WLSB reviews draft bill for reimbursement for livestockWritten by Christy Martinez
Cheyenne – Two bills from the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) will go before the Joint Ag Committee at their meeting in Afton on Sept. 26-27, and one of them addresses indemnity, or reimbursement for livestock, in a disease event.
At the recommendation of the Joint Ag Committee, this year the WLSB worked with the Legislative Services Office to draft legislation concerning indemnity payments to livestock producers whose animals are sent to slaughter or removed for testing due to disease.
“I think we need to find a way to reimburse those individuals, for brucellosis in particular, because these issues primarily are caused by the state’s wildlife. I think the state has an obligation to reimburse individuals, particularly for test and slaughter rather than whole-herd depopulation,” said WLSB member Albert Sommers during a Sept. 21 board meeting.
However, he thinks the $1 million appropriation included in the bill will mean a ‘no’ from the Wyoming Legislature.
“I agree that this program could amount to a lot of money, but I’m worried we’ll get no money if we ask for too much,” said Sommers.
“One million dollars sounds like quite a bit, until you put that in the context of a five- or 10-year period in which you might remove several hundred head of animals from multiple herds, in which case the balance will drop down over time, unless we don’t have cases or the interest is allowed to accrue,” answered Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan. “There’s enough unknowns of how many cases we’ll have on an annual basis, and we need to consider this is long-term funding with the interest accruing, and put it in the context of several years and how many cattle will need to be removed from a herd.”
WLSB Director Leanne Stevenson said that, at $2,000 per animal, the board needs to decide whether the indemnity payments will be a short- or long-term program.
Stevenson and Logan clarify that the indemnity payments are meant to be on an individual animal basis, rather than whole-herd depopulations.
“In the event of a whole-herd situation, we certainly would rely on the federal government to indemnify,” said Logan. “I don’t see that being the state’s responsibility.”
Apart from the appropriation’s amount, the board also discussed broadening the bill beyond strictly brucellosis.
“Several states have a huge wildlife problem with tuberculosis, and some of those states are not far from Wyoming, so it’s not too far of a stretch to entertain the thought that TB could end up in wildlife in Wyoming, and if that happens our livestock will be exposed,” said Logan. “I would prefer to leave the bill more broad to be able to include TB.”
In addition to brucellosis and TB, Logan said a third disease he sees as possibly in need of indemnity payments at some point is scrapie. Beyond those three, Logan said the rest in Category A of the Reportable Disease List are foreign animal diseases or domestic diseases rare in Wyoming.
“If we get in a situation with those diseases, I don’t see any way the federal government could not largely pick up the tab,” he explained. “Total, there are close to 30 diseases in the Category A list. Of those, half are foreign and half are domestic animal diseases. Brucellosis, scrapie and tuberculosis are the ones we’re most likely to see. Other domestic diseases do show up in this country, but we’re unlikely to encounter them in Wyoming.”
Sommers said he thinks that, if tuberculosis does show up in wildlife in Wyoming, the WLSB will go back to the Wyoming Legislature at that time for many different things.
“I will admit that, if we put $1 million in there, if we have problems with something beyond brucellosis that million will not go far,” agreed Logan.
In the end, the board approved the draft bill after scrapie and tuberculosis were added. The draft legislation will now travel to the Joint Ag Committee, which will meet Sept. 26-27 in Afton. Should the Joint Ag Committee decide to move forward with the bill for the upcoming session, the WLSB will discuss its details further at their next meeting in October in Cheyenne.
Regarding the determination of “fair market value” for the indemnity payments, Stevenson said a change in that language is being considered, particularly the use of an appraiser.
“We’ve talked about adding a definition of fair market value, which would be determined using comparable sales data from state markets at the time of removal,” she said, adding that they’d also clarify that animals removed for diagnostic purposes or disposal would also have a reimbursement of fair market value.