Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 12:00 PM
'We're already feeding the wolves and paying for it by losing our calves'
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- A bill that would increase funding for predator control by raising a brand inspection fee will not be supported by Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
IFBF members adopted a policy that opposes increasing the fee, which is collected at the time of brand inspection and used for animal damage control efforts in Idaho.
"We're already feeding the wolves and paying for it by losing our calves and cattle," said Bingham County rancher Chris Dalley. "Why should we have to pay to eradicate them?"
Included in the brand inspection fee of $2.71 per head is an animal damage control fee of 5 cents. The money is used to help fund Idaho Wildlife Services, a USDA agency that manages wildlife damage.
Idaho Cattle Association members passed a resolution last month that asks the Legislature to give industry the authority to raise the assessment by as much as 25 cents.
The proposal results from a significant reduction in Wildlife Services' federal funding. The agency saw $247,000 of its $1.7 million in federal funding dry up last year and was told it won't be restored.
The group receives about $700,000 a year in cooperative funds from several different Idaho entities, including sheep and cattle groups, counties and the state. Idaho's sheep and cattle groups have been considering proposals to raise more money for animal damage control since last year.
Wildlife Services officials say that while 72 percent of the group's budget is federally funded and the rest comes from cooperative funds, USDA would prefer the cost-share ratio be at least 50-50.
"Every year, they get less and less funding and the wolves continue to breed and they continue to kill," said Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association.
A bill that was backed by Idaho's sheep industry and passed into law earlier this year gave the Idaho Sheep Commission authority to raise the current grower checkoff fee of 6 cents per pound of wool to as much as 12 cents.
Boyd said Wildlife Services' loss of funding was the impetus for that bill. If the assessment is ever raised, he added: "I believe (it) would be earmarked for animal damage control. What's killing us now are the predators, the wolves."
The ICA proposal would exempt cattle inspected at feedlots and dairies, which doesn't sit well with producers like Dalley.
"That makes it so just the cow-calf and yearling guys get to foot the bill," he said.
IFBF is the state's largest general farm group and its opposition to the bill will make it more difficult to pass, but it faces a tough road regardless, ICA Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott said.
"Yes, it will make it harder," he said. "But it's going to be a tough piece of legislation to get passed because we have a legislature that is very hesitant to raise fees or taxes anywhere, even if it's a self-assessment such as this."