CRomnibus Includes Sheep-Related Funds
WASHINGTON — Several sheep-related programs were affected by passaged of the “CRomnibus” bill in December.
Producers found some good news in the package, but there was plenty of uncertainty in it, too.
“While the bill contains good wins for ASI’s members, there is still much work to be done in 2015 and beyond, particularly as it relates to federal lands policy and the seemingly never ending threats to sheep ranchers’ livelihood,” said Jim Richards of Cornerstone Government Affairs who is the Hill representative for ASI.
Issues of interest to the sheep industry include:
• Wildlife Services. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agreement includes several program increases to enhance ongoing initiatives. Wildlife Damage Management received an increase of $2.6 million for priority initiatives, which include livestock protection and predator damage management.
• Scrapie Eradication. Even though there remains $19.5 million for equine, cervid and small ruminant health programs, there is concern about the directive obligating no less than $3 million of that funding be used for cervid health activities, reducing the dollars from the much needed scrapie eradication program.
• U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. The agreement does not accept the President’s budget request regarding the termination and redirection of research programs or the closure of research stations. The agreement expects extramural research to be funded at no less than fiscal year 2014 levels and provides funding increases for some research including grazing-related sheep.
• Bighorn Sheep. The Forest Service is urged to collaborate with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Agricultural Research Service on research involving the risk of disease transmission between domestic and bighorn sheep.
• Vacant Allotments. The bill directs BLM, to the greatest extent practicable, to make vacant grazing allotments available to a holder of a grazing permit or lease when lands covered by the holder of the permit or lease are unusable because of drought or wildfire.
• Wolves. Compensation to livestock producers for livestock loss due to wolves has been funded at $1 million.
• Animal Unit Month (AUM) Increase. The bill rejects the Administration’s proposal to add a $1/AUM tax on grazing fees.