Horse News

Study: Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Cost Taxpayers $1 Billion Over Past Decade

Information supplied by The Center for Biological Diversity

BLM’s Welfare Ranching Bedfellows come with a huge price tag…

WASHINGTON— A new analysis  finds U.S. taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion over the past decade on a program that allows cows and sheep to graze on public land. Last year alone taxpayers lost $125 million in grazing subsidies on federal land. Had the federal government charged fees similar to grazing rates on non-irrigated private land, the program would have made $261 million a year on average rather than operate at a staggering loss, the analysis finds.

Click Image to Download Full Report

Click Image to Download Full Report

The study, Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, comes as the Obama administration prepares Friday to announce grazing fees for the upcoming year on 229 million acres of publicly owned land, most of it in the West. The report was prepared by economists on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Public lands grazing has been a billion-dollar boondoggle over the past decade and hasn’t come close to paying for itself,” said Randi Spivak with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Livestock owners pay less to graze their animals on publically owned land in 2014 than they did in 1981. Today the monthly cost of allowing a cow and calf to graze on federal lands is about the equivalent of a can of dog food. This damaging and expensive grazing program has been broken for years and needs to be fixed. Taxpayers, and the land we all own, deserve better.”

The gap between federal grazing fees and non-irrigated private land rates has widened considerably, according to the study. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service grazing fees are $1.35 per month per animal unit (a cow and a calf), just 6.72 percent of what it would cost to graze livestock on private grazing lands. This is a marked decline from the federal fee being 23.79 percent of non-irrigated private rates when the federal fee first went into effect in 1981.

“The fees for grazing on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands needs to be seriously reevaluated,” said Christine Glaser, an economist with GreenFire Consulting and author of the report. “Over the past three decades the fee formula has clearly decoupled public grazing fees from the development of private, state and other federal agencies grazing fees. Bottom line, this formula shields public lands ranchers from grazing rate increases that every other livestock operator has to live with.”

There are about 800,000 livestock operators and cattle producers in the United States. Of those, fewer than 21,000 — or 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators — benefit from the Forest Service and BLM grazing programs in the West.

“The Public Rangeland Improvement Act subsidizes a small segment of the livestock industry,” said the study’s co-author and former Interior Department economist Chuck Romaniello. “There needs to be a discussion as to what the appropriate level of that subsidy should be, including if there should be a subsidy at all.”

The federal subsidy of the grazing program goes beyond the direct costs and fees. There are vast indirect costs to grazing on federal lands, including the government killing of native carnivores perceived as threats to wildlife, wildfire suppression caused by invasive cheat grass facilitated by cattle grazing, and expenditure of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds from protecting other species threatened by livestock grazing. “The full cost of the federal grazing program is long overdue for a complete analysis,” the study said.

18 replies »

  1. This report needs to be given to Congress.Just maybe somebody will do something to get rid of the welfare ranchers. That is if Big Ag doesn’t stop any honest politician(s). The desertification cattle and sheep have caused plus the destruction of our public forests are enough reasons to stop this not to mention the war against our wild horses and other wildlife killed by the millions.


    • All of our readers who want to do something to help, you can copy articles like this and fax then to your Congressional representatives, to the Editor of your local newspaper, and to media outlets.


  2. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and commented:
    Ranchers I’ve known receive public funds to build livestock management facilities on public lands. When ranchers do the work themselves, the income can equal income from cattle sales. Only the ranchers benefit from the facilities. At the same time, the ranchers complain about government regulations. They threaten to take their guns to town (and sometimes they do try to threaten BLM and FS managers).


  3. Yes, definitely add the cost of the wild horse and burro program portion of BLM – which is mandated to be minimally conducted. Instead, it has turned into another boondoggle for vendors and employees, and the grant f over 6 million a year to Mustang Heritage Foundation. Add it all to the cattle and sheep subsidies, for withut their overgrazing – all the costs to capture, process, transport, hold and arrange for slaughter would not be happening. If there were a value to the terror and anguish the horses suffer – add that too.


  4. This is my FAVORITE part:

    “There are about 800,000 livestock operators and cattle producers in the United States.
    Of those, fewer than 21,000 — or 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators — benefit from the Forest Service and BLM grazing programs in the West.”

    I don’t understand why private land ranchers aren’t kicking these guys to the curb.


  5. Lisa-
    I have always wondered that same thing.

    Perhaps because they are all members of the national and/or state livestock associations (and farm bureaus etc) and know they better not “bite the hand that feeds them”?
    Perhaps because they are all getting cash subsidies and grants regardless what state they live in and regardless if they have public lands grazing?

    I took a random look at the mid west state of Iowa for example and I don’t believe they have any federal grazing allotment BUT Iowa farmers do collect billions and billions of $ from the feds (our money). Here is what I found:

    $24.9 billion in subsidies 1995-2012.
    $16.4 billion in commodity subsidies.
    $4.00 billion in crop insurance subsidies.
    $3.86 billion in conservation subsidies.
    $646 million in disaster subsidies.
    Iowa ranking: 2 of 50 States
    19 percent of farms in Iowa did not collect subsidy payments – according to USDA.
    Ten percent collected 59 percent of all subsidies.

    As we have seen over and over with welfare ranching on public lands – it is mostly not the little mom and pop farmers/ranchers that are getting this assistance – it is usually the big guys – as shown in the above statement: TEN PERCENT [of the state’s farmers] COLLECTED 59 PERCENT OF ALL SUBSIDIES.


  6. I’m giving up blogging but as a parting shot had to point out this report shows the public loses over $10 MILLION A MONTH through the grazing program!

    $10 MILLION A MONTH works out to around $200+ per month for every wild horse left in the wild (less of course, $1.35 per cow/calf pair for a few months each year).


  7. When we add up the costs of:
    1.The shortfall on the collection of grazing fees from the private businesses that don’t always pay;
    2.Doing what is called “sanitizing” every year before cattle and sheep are turned out to graze whereby any animals that are predators to the cattle and sheep and/or that compete with cattle and sheep for water and forage are killed using various methods including shooting, poisoning, burning dens of babies, and a few other equally nasty and cruel methods (and we do know responsible hunters, so those are not the people we’re talking about here) and if wild horses and burros were not legally protected (for the time being that is) they would do the same to them too;
    3.Repairing the damaged range that is damaged by cattle mostly and not wild horses (we live out surrounded by public land with cattle and wild horses on it, and own horses and had a pet steer, so we can concisely state which species is more destructive to their environment, whether contained or out on the open range, and it is not the horses);
    4.The cost of warehousing 55,000+ wild horses, and paying for the broken-down and “operating for failure” adoption program so it can be said by the government “no one wants to adopt these horses because we have tried”.

    And all of this at tax payers expense that adds up to 3/4 to OVER 1 BILLION dollars ANNUALLY.

    Here are a few articles that address tax payers monies spent on livestock grazing on public land, with no return to us by-the-way because only 2-3% of the beef raised in the US come from Open Range cattle ranching operations, and also the history of livestock grazing on public land:

    Click to access TheFederalGrazingProgram_AStampedeofTaxpayerHandouts.pdf


  8. 3 New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Stick To For America’s Wild Horses

    These are three New Year’s resolutions you’ll stick to, not because they’re easier than going to the gym or spending less time online, but because the lives of America’s mustangs are at stake. If you do nothing else today, put #1 on your list!

    1. Shovel out your old vocabulary: There are no Bureau of Land Management lands, nor BLM horses. There are public lands and American wild horses. Feel free to inform others online and in person.

    2. Follow the money trail: as you read wild horse news – especially round-up announcements — ask yourself, “Who profits?”
    It won’t be Nature until livestock numbers are lowered. Livestock outnumber wild horses at least 50-1. Memorize that statistic and repeat as needed.

    3. Question press release propaganda: When newsrooms are short-staffed, press releases become stories, so it’s your job to find the source behind the headline. Just because “news” is repeated verbatim in a dozen sources, doesn’t mean it’s true. Agencies send out hundreds of press releases. Who’s quoted? If all represent a single viewpoint or source, return to resolutions 1 and 2, above.


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