A Meat and Dairy Article from All-Creatures.org

Cost and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America's Public Lands

From The Center for Biological Diversity
September 2022

In addition to BLM and USFS, other federal agencies allow grazing on their lands, including National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense.

"Conservative estimates put the annual subsidy to just public lands welfare ranchers who make up less than 1% of all livestock producers at a minimum of $500 million. If we were to include all livestock producers the costs would be far higher." - Cattle Ranching: Welfare Ranching

welfare ranching

Executive Summary

Approximately 229 million acres of federal public lands in the western United States are used for livestock grazing for cattle and sheep. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) are the two federal agencies with by far the largest grazing programs among federal agencies. These programs exist mostly on the grasslands, deserts, sagebrush steppe and national forests.

Each year in January, the federal government establishes the fee it charges livestock operators to use federal public lands for grazing privileges.

In advance of the release by the Bureau of Land Management of the 2015 federal grazing fee, we have prepared this report that focuses on the extent of the federal grazing program on BLM and USFS lands and associated appropriations and receipts from grazing fees, which are an indication of the cost to the taxpayer. This report is an update of an earlier 2002 study, Assessing The Full Costs of the Federal Grazing Program.

Key Findings:

1. Receipts from grazing fees were $125 million less than federal appropriations in 2014.

Total federal appropriations for the USFS and BLM grazing programs in fiscal year 2014 were $143.6 million, while grazing receipts were only $18.5 million.

Appropriations for the BLM and USFS grazing programs have exceeded grazing receipts by at least $120 million annually since 2002. Had the federal government charged the average private forage market rate for non-irrigated lands in the western states, grazing receipts would have been on average $261 million, greatly exceeding annual appropriations.

2. The gap between federal grazing fees and private land fees has widened considerably.

The federal grazing fee in 2014 was set at the legal minimum of $1.35/AUM, or animal unit month, which is the amount of forage to feed a cow and calf for one month. The annual federal grazing feehas been set at the minimum required by law since 2007.

In 2013, the federal grazing fees of $1.35/AUM were just 6.72 percent of fees charged for non- irrigated private grazing lands in the West, which averaged $20.10 per AUM. The gap has widened considerably since 1981, when the federal fee was 23.79 percent of fees charged on private rangelands. The federal grazing fee is generally also considerably lower than fees charged on state-owned public lands.


Please read the ENTIRE 2015 REPORT HERE.

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