The Trump administration has lowered livestock grazing fees by 25 percent, using a 40-year-old formula that has been a boon for livestock operators whose animals graze on federal public lands. The new fee, effective in March, will be $1.41 a month for each cow and calf, horse or five sheep or goats.
Costs to administer the grazing fee program exceed the money collected, resulting in taxpayer subsidies of about $100 million per year. The grazing fee reduction comes as the Trump administration considers an increase in entrance fees for 17 of the most popular national parks to cover maintenance backlogs. Under the proposal, entrance fees could nearly triple for Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and other national parks. Vehicle fees could increase to $70 from the current weekly pass of $30.
“It’s shameful that the Trump administration wants to drastically increase national park fees while gouging taxpayers to subsidize livestock grazing,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These enormous subsidies for a small group of livestock operators have cost taxpayers more than $1 billion over the past decade. This program is long overdue for an overhaul.”
The fee structure charged to livestock operators on America’s public lands has remained unchanged since Congress passed the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act. A three-tier formula dictates federal grazing fees based on market indicators but is not indexed to inflation. A 2015 study by the Center, Costs and Consequences, the Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, found that federal grazing fees were just 7 percent of what it would cost to graze livestock on similar state and private lands.
More than 200 million acres of federal public lands in the western United States are used for grazing cattle and sheep. Most grazing programs ― on grasslands, deserts, sagebrush steppe and national forests ― are administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Less than 3 percent of the nation’s 800,000 livestock operators and cattle producers use federal grazing programs.
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