Horse News

BLM and Forest Service grazing fees lowered in 2019

BLM Press Release

“So Welfare Ranchers get another handout at the expense of YOUR pocket book and the loss of habitat for wildlife on our public lands.  More subsidies, more failed federal programs and a slap in the face to the private ranchers and farmers who pay taxes, maintain and care for their own land…the welfare ranchers of the west continue to rape our public lands and reap their private profits.  The wild horses, burros and even sage grouse be damned as the most corrupt agency in the federal government continues to pander to special interests and deep pockets.  The Department of the Interior’s BLM just can’t shake it’s addiction to cater to hunting, grazing and extraction special interests…and the wild ones are paying the price.” ~ R.T.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   Contact:  Brian Lombard, (202) 912-7526

February 20, 2019                                                                                                                     

BLM and Forest Service grazing fees lowered in 2019

 WASHINGTON – The Federal grazing fee for 2019 will drop to $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.35 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the USDA Forest Service. This represents a decrease from the 2018 Federal grazing fee of $1.41 per AUM.

 An AUM or HM—treated as equivalent measures for fee purposes—is the use of public lands by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.  The newly calculated grazing fee was determined by a congressional formula and takes effect March 1, 2019.  The fee will apply to nearly 18,000 grazing permits and leases administered by the BLM and nearly 6,500 permits administered by the Forest Service.

 The formula used for calculating the grazing fee was established by Congress in the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act and has remained in use under a 1986 presidential Executive Order.  Under that order, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM/HM, and any increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level.

 The annually determined grazing fee is established using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM/HM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states.  The figure is then calculated according to three factors—current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production.  In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions.

 “The BLM and Forest Service are committed to strong relationships with the ranching community and work closely with permittees to ensure public rangelands remain healthy, productive working landscapes,” said Brian Steed, BLM Deputy Director for Programs and Policy.  “Fifty percent of the collected grazing fees deposited into the U.S. Treasury are returned to the Range Betterment Fund for on-the-ground range improvement projects. Portions of collected fees are also returned to the states for use in the counties where the fees were generated.”

 The grazing fee applies in 16 Western states on public lands administered by the BLM and the Forest Service.  The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.  Permit holders and lessees may contact their local BLM or Forest Service office for additional information.

21 replies »

  1. Regulatory capture plays a big role in how grazing policy works.

    “In spite of the impressive amount of on-the-ground data showing the poor condition of the land, BLM officials have continued the time-honored system of deferring to the ranching industry,” wrote Charles Wilkinson in “Crossing the Next Meridian.”

    On one side, you have the cattle industry. It has had more than 100 years to develop its legislative power.
    On the other, you have conservationists and outdoorsmen, who are considerably less organized and have less time to devote.
    Plus, the actual on-the-ground government regulators live in the same communities as the people they regulate.
    “They’re the ones who have to meet the ranchers on the street and in the grocery market. It’s not pretty when there’s real conflict,” Wilkinson told Reveal. “That’s a pressure that helps the current system stay roughly in place.”

    Liked by 1 person


    Class war in the American west: the rich landowners blocking access to public lands

    Private landowners present a rising threat to the millions of acres set aside for public use by blocking access to public lands

    Flora, a former US Forest Service manager, moved to a sparsely populated area outside the state capital, Helena, in 2005 and into what would be the middle of heated fight over who could use the roads. Two of her neighbors locked in an escalating war over easements – negotiated agreements that allow people to cross private land in order to get to public land – with one neighbor reportedly insisting that if others used his road, he could do whatever he wanted on their land.

    In 2011, one of those neighbors turned up dead. No arrests have been made.
    Flora and her husband, who were friends with the man who died, packed up and left the state, fearing for their own safety. Given her own experience, and what she saw in her years as a Forest Service manager, Flora believes private conflicts over public land access are on the rise in the west.

    The problem, she said, often begins when people misunderstand the historic limits of private property when it connects to public land.
    “They have two acres and they think they are in the vast wilderness. They really don’t get it, a lot of the newer people moving it,” said Flora. “I think they are flummoxed by the access laws. It’s about whose got the bigger voice and bigger gun, despite what the law is.”


  3. Who actually made this decision, and what is their justification? It can’t be because the BLM/USFS are so flush with cash they can’t even ask the grazing permit program to even begin to pay for itself. If raising beef or lamb isn’t profitable, it can’t be made so by cutting the already ridiculously low fees, of which half are already essentially given back.

    Where I live, the private land grazing rate is much higher, $30-40/head/month in 2017, about 26 times the cost of public lands grazing for a cow/calf pair. In other words, a c/c pair could graze on public lands for 26 months (at 4 months/year that’s over 6 years) for what it costs for a single month on private lands, where they are also generally held more responsible for thoughtful resource management.

    Most states publish their own rates by region. Here’s one from 2017:

    Click to access 2017%20CustomRates%20-%20Final.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Livestock grazing on federal public lands is a privilege – not a right

    In reality, western public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service belong to the whole American public. These federal agencies authorize livestock grazing on public lands under a landlord-tenant relationship, in which the ranchers lease the exclusive right to graze the grass but receive no “rights” to the land itself. The public lands must by law be managed for multiple uses, including public access and enjoyment, wildlife habitat conservation, wilderness, watershed protection, and other uses under various federal statutes. Public lands truly belong to all Americans.

    Livestock grazing on federal public lands is a privilege, not a right. When the final ruling came down on the Hage case, the judge concluded that under the Constitution, “no individuals have a right to graze livestock on the federal land at issue without authorization from the United States. … Any and all rights on federal property must be expressly granted by Congress.

    Public land ranchers should not be painted as victims, given how pervasive land seizure sentiments and rebellion against the rule of law have become. Most Americans are beginning to see the cowboy myth for what it truly is: a distracting cover for an even greater land heist to turn even more of our national inheritance over to commercial exploitation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 7 kinds of government subsidies those angry ranchers get that you don’t
    By Katie Herzog

    The Hammonds, whose arson conviction inspired the action in Malheur, received almost $300,000 in federal disaster payments and subsidies from the mid-90s to 2012.

    Ammon Bundy, spokesperson for the Malheur action, got a $530,000 Small Business Administration loan in 2010, costing taxpayers more than $22,000. And we don’t know if he’s even paid the loan back.

    The Hammonds benefited from a government program that kills predators so they won’t attack ranchers’ and farmers’ livestock, Reveal reports. Specifically, the U.S. government shot five coyotes from the air for the Hammonds between 2009 and 2011, which, according to one expert’s estimate, would have cost taxpayers about $8,000. In fact, USDA Wildlife Services — an opaque and ironically named agency — spends $100 million annually to kill millions of animals, much of that in support of ranching and agricultural interests.

    The Bundys graze cattle on federal land, a privilege for which the government charges a dirt-cheap price. Federal grazing fees were just $1.35 for a cow and calf per month in 2012, while the going rate on private land was about $20 — that’s a 93 percent discount for ranchers using federal land, as FiveThirtyEight points out. (And even that wasn’t good enough for the Bundys; family patriarch Cliven Bundy has grazed his cattle on federal land without a permit since 1993, and refused to pay more than $1 million in fines and fees, which led to his infamous standoff last year.)

    Half of the grazing fees that ranchers pay the federal government come right back to benefit the ranchers. As U.S. News reported last year, “50 percent of grazing fees collected by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service (or $10 million, whichever is greater) go to a range betterment fund in the Treasury. According to the bureau, these so-called ‘Range Improvement Funds’ are used ‘solely for labor, materials, and final survey and design of projects,’ presumably benefiting ranchers.”

    Ranchers can cash in on a federal drought disaster relief program. In a particularly ironic case last year, some Nevada ranchers illegally grazed their cattle on public land that been closed to protect it during the ongoing Western drought, denying that the drought existed at all. But it turns out that two of the families leading that rebellion had received $2.2 million in federal drought relief funds the previous year.

    The U.S. Bureau of Land Management routinely removes wild horses from public lands to make way for cattle. In 2015, according to the BLM, this program cost the American public $75 million.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How is an SBA loan a subsidy? Any small business can apply for these, so this is not specific to ranchers, and is a financial obligation many others share. This is a federal program but there is no reason ranching or any ag interests could be disqualified from applying for one. This makes the headline misleading. You don’t get SBA loans if you don’t qualify, not because you are or are not involved in ranching.


    • That’s a good point IcySpots. Small Business Loans apparently do cost the taxpayers when loans are not repaid. I don’t think most taxpayers object to helping a small business owner, but they might not be so benevolent toward those who hold the public grazing permits and are already receiving very generous taxpayer funded subsidies. Watching our Wild Horses and Burros disappear for the benefit of permit holders has not set well with the American Public.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SBA has its own guidelines and consequences for failure to repay, so while I understand some “may” not look on defaulters benevolently, this is certainly not limited to those with grazing permits. What about hotels or businesses that seek ch. 11 reorganization, even after gaining substantial generous city, county, and other subsidies to attract them to a community? Any loan not repaid has legal consequences, regardless of the lender or the business purpose involved.

        I agree the grazing permit program constitutes a taxpayer subsidy which is bleeding the public to prop up private interests. I just don’t think the SBA should be singled out here, as they are not providing a subsidy but a loan program with hefty applicant paperwork and commitments involved. Like student loans, our gov’t. has legislated this program to help smaller businesses get started and grow. And like any program, there are those who would scam it if they could, but blaming the SBA is pointing a finger in the wrong direction.

        (Note: I don’t work for them or any related organizations, or have any SBA loans, to be clear).


  7. How Farm Subsidies Harm Taxpayers, Consumers, and Farmers, Too

    Driving Small Farmers out of Business. Farm subsidies are promoted as assistance to family farmers. In reality, they finance the demise of family farms and prevent young people from entering farming. Economists estimate that subsidies inflate the value of farmland by 30 percent. High farmland prices make starting a farm prohibitively expensive for younger people, who would also have other expenses, including buying expensive equipment, seeds, and pesticides. With young farmers unable to enter the industry, the average age of farmers has increased to 55.[20]

    Because agribusinesses are already the most profitable, they often use their enormous farm subsidies to buy out smaller family farms. In what has been called the “plantation effect,” family farms with less than 100 acres are being bought out by larger agribusinesses, which then convert them into tenant farms. Three-quarters of rice farms have already become tenant farms, and other types of farms are trending in that same direction.[21] Since 1945, the number of farms has dropped by two-thirds, and the average farm size has more than doubled to 441 acres.[22]

    Liked by 1 person

    • How else can we support small farmers or local sustainable ag enterprises? As is well understood, productive land is being concentrated into fewer and fewer corporate interests who are in turn dependent on the Farm Bill for planting and marketing decisions. Smaller operations and access to land for younger people are both vanishing, to the loss of all small communities, land health, and ultimately human health.

      The USDA still provides only token funding to support organic and smaller scale operations, this is an area which can be changeed to prioritize more in the public interest, but not without a lot of public input and insistence. The Farm Bill passed in Dec. 2018 is valid for 5 years.

      We already have a long history with sharecropping and tenant farmers, and know how that worked out. Disenfranchising people from land they can make a living on essentially makes them all slaves to corporate interests. If you want healthier foods, soils, ecosystems and communities making a dent in the Farm Bill would be the place to begin.


    • IcySpots, I don’t think the article’s intent was to blame SBA nor was it my intent.
      I’m all for helping out small business, including “buying local’, rather than purchasing from big box stores…to the degree possible.
      I think the point of the article was to put a spotlight on the greed and sense of entitlement of a few who continue to bite the hand that feeds them.


      • Understood, I was replying to something you posted that quoted this, in a list of “subsidies” “angry ranchers get” that others don’t, which is patently untrue regarding the SBA:

        “Ammon Bundy, spokesperson for the Malheur action, got a $530,000 Small Business Administration loan in 2010, costing taxpayers more than $22,000.”

        Poor journalism is poor journalism whatever the source, and we all have to aim higher than this to be effective and credible. This was one example that failed that test so I called it out.


  8. IcySpots, perhaps the title could be considered inaccurate but the author of the article did give references.
    The SBA reference is from an article in Mother Jones.
    The underline (link) in the article…”got a $530,000 Small Business Administration loan”..doesn’t show up when posted here.



    • Well enough, but an SBA loan is not something specific to “angry ranchers” as the posted article declared, that’s all I was trying to point out. It’s also hard to defend it as a subsidy, since though the interest rates and terms may be generous, a lot of these businesses are too small to get started otherwise, and as mentioned, there are consequences for defaulting. Our society and Congress has decided it is important to help small businesses get going and survive, hence this program. Didn’t mean to hijack this thread, done here. Just ask everyone to become more critical readers and thinkers, we need to be in these times.


  9. IcySppts. from what I understand, each click and every comment helps elevate the article…pushes it up the chain in some way that I don’t understand. I’m for all discussion that helps inform readers. It’s also, as you said, important to be certain that the facts we put out there are accurate.


    • Louie, I appreciate your endless efforts to bring forth published information, and of course some will be inaccurate but I think we have to point that out or risk validating bad information by forwarding, clicking, etc. without objecting. Discourse (not just ranting and character assassination) is important and is being lost in so much of our country today it is incumbent on us all to aim higher, not just for ourselves but for those who follow.


    • Which is exactly what we did IcySpots. We thoroughly digested, edited and reviewed the information. It is also important, I think, to follow the links and go to the original source.

      Liked by 1 person

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