FORT HALL, Idaho — News that the Idaho Land Board delayed a decision on whether to revise the grazing rate formula on state endowment land was viewed as a positive sign by ranchers attending Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting.
IFBF members submitted the majority of public comments on the issue.
The land board voted 5-0 Dec. 5 to put off a decision on the grazing formula, which hasn’t been revised since 1993 and was $9.01 per animal unit month this year.
An AUM is the amount of forage needed to feed a cow and calf for a month. The IDL manages 1,139 grazing leases on 1.4 million acres of state endowment land, representing a total of 257,370 AUMs.
An Idaho Department of Lands subcommittee and advisory group has been reviewing the methodology of the grazing rate formula.
Four alternative formulas, in addition to the current one, are on the table and some cattle ranchers worry the alternatives could result in a significant increase in the grazing rate on state land.
The vast majority of public comments received by IDL have recommended keeping the current grazing rate formula. Most of those comments have been submitted by farm bureau members.
IFBF members who are ranchers said the land board’s decision to put off a vote on the grazing rate formula was a good sign that the body is taking a deeper look at the issue.
“I take my hat off to them for not just jumping into a decision,” said Blackfoot rancher Chris Dalley. “That means they want more information. They want to make sure it’s a good decision for everybody....”
Cody Chandler, a Weiser rancher, said cattlemen have come forward late in the game to make their voices heard on the issue “and I appreciate the fact that the land board stepped back and they are going to look at this a little bit harder.”
During its regular meeting Dec. 5, the land board met in executive session to discuss new information about the proposed alternatives, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney told Capital Press.
The executive session lasted more than an hour.
“There was new information that was brought to our attention and we wanted to make sure we considered everything before making a decision,” Denney said.
He said the land board will likely wait until after the 2018 Idaho Legislature adjourns before taking up the issue again. Idaho’s legislative session usually wraps up about the end of March or first of April.
“That will give us more time to collect additional information,” Denney said.
Russ Hendricks, IFBF’s director of governmental affairs, said much of the discussion on the issue has centered around the state grazing rate not tracking with the private land grazing rate but that’s not a fair comparison.
The average grazing rate on private land in Idaho was $18 this year.
Private land grazing leases typically include a lot of services that are not included with public land leases, such as fencing, water development and maintenance, labor and predator and noxious weed control, Hendricks said.
“When you add in all the additional (services) over and above the lease rate, the state rate is already way above the private lease rate,” he said.