Livestock Board returns $140,000.00 in federal funds
Cheyenne — Wyoming Livestock Board members, meeting in Cheyenne Aug. 21, voted to abandon their agreement to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in implementing its National Animal Identification System (NAIS). According to agency director Jim Schwartz, the agreement amounted to $140,000 in grant money. Schwartz says the decision by the board resulted in the agency’s lost ability to utilize those funds in developing what some had hoped would be a state-level program. “I had signed the contract,” says Schwartz, “but hadn’t spent anything.” It’s now a matter of sending the money back. Asked if other states are taking similar measures, he says most see this year’s disbursement as the last they’ll be offered and aren’t refusing the funds. Congress, citing expenditures surpassing adequate progress, is amidst debates on the future of NAIS funding. If funding continues, it will likely be at a much-reduced rate. Many believe the whole animal ID issue is dead. Gillette rancher and veterinarian Eric Barlow brought the resolution to reject the NAIS agreement. “After reviewing the work document which outlined what we would do with the money,” says Barlow, “it did not appear to me to be building on a national program or being used to establish or fortify any program the WLSB has implemented.” Barlow says that some members expressed hope the funds could be used in advancing the agency’s computerization efforts. “Maybe we could have, if that’s what we would have asked for,” says Barlow. “Either someone didn’t ask for that or USDA rejected it.” Barlow says the way he read the plan of work the money would have been used to register premises, educate producers on NAIS and hire staff for a six-month period for the purpose of doing those things. Brent Larson of Laramie and Liz Philp of Shoshoni, sheep producer representatives on the board, were the two dissenting votes to the resolution. Larson says while he doesn’t support NAIS, he did see the opportunity to use the dollars to advance Wyoming’s programs. He wanted the agency to seek amendments to its agreement with the USDA on how the dollars would have been spent. “I thought we could make it work for us,” says; Larson. “Why not rework the plan and use the; $140,000 to build something that would work for Wyoming?” Something that would be worthwhile? Without the $140,000 grant the Wyoming NAIS Director’s employment would possibly not be funded. Appreciating the need to preserve the market-ability of Wyoming livestock, Barlow says he suggested that staff form a working group, including; industry representatives, to look at existing programs and how they can serve as the underpinning of a Wyoming-based program. Larson, given the $800,000 in budget cuts the agency took earlier this year, isn’t sure where the money for a state-level program will come from. It would have been good to keep the USDA grant if it had true value to help Wyoming livestock producers. The board voted to give it all back due to too many negative strings attached. Quotes provided by Jennifer Womack, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.