Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Full Cost of the Grazing Program to US Taxpayers

This is a report by the Center for Biological Diversity that was published in 2005-6,..so the amounts listed in this report as expenditures have no doubt risen significantly;

Acessing the full cost of the U.S. Grazing Program / Executive Summary

Several efforts have been made to estimate the full costs of the federal livestock grazing program. This study examines budget records and other relevant data to derive a minimum estimate of $128 million for the full, annual cost to the U.S.

Treasury of grazing on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service in the western U.S.Grazing fees charged by the BLM and Forest Service are limited by regulation to a fraction of market rates. Moreover, 50 percent of the fee revenue is retained by agencies to construct range developments, and approximately 15 percent goes to county governments. This leaves approximately 35 percent for the U.S. Treasury.

As a result the federal grazing program operates at a loss to the U.S. Treasury, a loss that can be calculated as the Congressional Appropriations for the program, less the fee receipts to the Treasury. The net direct loss of the BLM's range management program was over $72 million in 2001. The loss for the Forest Service exceeded $52 million in 2000.

However, these direct costs of range management and administration are likely a minor part of the full costs of the grazing program to the public. Many other programs, both within the two agencies and in other federal posts, either support ranching operations on public lands or are needed to compensate for resource damage caused by livestock. Such programs include Wildlife Services, in the Department of Agriculture, which kills wild animals to protect livestock, among other purposes. Public lands ranching accounted for about $4 million of Wildlife Services’ costs in 2000. Another example is the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior, which is responsible with identifying, protecting and recovering threatened and endangered species, many of which are imperiled as a result of habitat loss due to livestock grazing.

Federal agency accounting does not operate transparently, failing to apportion costs explicitly to grazing on public lands. Instead these costs are dispersed among a plethora of programs. Agencies also change budget organization, thus masking trends. Poor accounting practice makes it nearly impossible for anyone inside or outside the agency to estimate the full costs of the grazing program.

In addition to federal costs, state, county and local governments as well as private institutions and individuals also pay costs as a result of the federal grazing program such as water treatment, flood mitigation and State game and fish management.

Taking into account the many direct and indirect federal expenditures that benefit or compensate for impacts of livestock grazing on federal lands, the full cost of the federal grazing program to the U.S. Treasury is likely to approximate $500 million

annually. Considering the many other indirect costs borne by state and local government agencies, individuals and private institutions due to resource damage and impaired opportunities for recreation and other non-commercial land uses, the full cost to the U.S. public could approach $1 billion annually.

Click on title above for full report;


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