Idaho horses

Idaho legislators are considering an increase in brand inspection fees for horses and mules.

Idaho may update its brand-inspection fee system for horses and mules to increase its financial sustainability.

The Idaho Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee on Feb. 22 endorsed Senate Bill 1082, which would raise the limit on existing fees and add a charge to cover the cost of inspectors’ on-farm visits.

A brand inspection is needed when an animal leaves the state, changes ownership or goes to slaughter. The State Brand Board, through negotiated rule-making with stakeholders, sets the fees, which cannot exceed a statutory cap. The Idaho State Police run the brand-inspection program, which has its own budget from dedicated, fee-derived funds.

The current brand-inspection fee can be no more than $1.50 per head. SB 1082 would raise the limit to $10.

Idaho also offers an ownership and transportation certificate, known as a lifetime inspection, valid for as long as someone owns a horse or mule. SB 1082 would raise the limit or cap on this fee to $75, from the current $35.

SB 1082 proposes a new equine farm-service fee, of not more than $55, to cover inspector travel to farms. Qualifying livestock auctions and feed lots are excluded.

Idaho State Brand Inspector Cody Burlile said the Brand Board inspection program has had a deficit. It raised the cattle inspection fee by 25 cents to $1.19 by rule, but was unable to raise horse and mule inspection fees because of the caps. Proposed changes under SB 1082 would better enable horse and mule inspections to pay for themselves while allowing for some growth in demand, he said.

“We are totally in support of that,” Idaho Horse Board Executive Director DeEtte Lindbergh said of the proposed legislation. A portion of inspection revenue goes to the Horse Board, which issues grants to agricultural groups such as 4-H, therapeutic and backcountry trail riding organizations, and Miss Rodeo Idaho.

Proposed changes would align more closely with current costs, she said. Statutory caps haven’t been raised in 30-plus years, the fees themselves in about 20.

The new equine farm-service fee of up to $55 is important in that horse inspections are commonly conducted on one or two animals, and rarely more than five at a time, said Wyatt Prescott, lobbyist for the Idaho Cattle Association, which supports the legislation. In contrast, cattle often are inspected by the truckload, 50 to 100 at once, depending on animal size.

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s 2019 Policy Book says IFB supports eliminating mandatory equine brand inspections. But IFB also supports an option for having a brand inspection that stays valid as long as the equine stays under one ownership, and raising the fee for it. For livestock, the Farm Bureau supports the concept that animals can be left unbranded at the owner’s discretion except for animals grazing on federally and state-managed land.

Lindbergh said horse brand inspections are valuable in tracking stolen animals, in disease control and traceability, and in resolving ownership disputes.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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