S.D. board proposes smaller rise in livestock fee
By The Associated Press
PIERRE (AP) - A state board agreed Tuesday to scale back its plan to raise the fee for brand inspections that are used to prevent the theft of cattle and horses in western South Dakota.|
The Brand Board wants to increase the fee by 10 cents a head, or half the amount it approved earlier. The panel will make a final decision after holding a public hearing next month.
The board voted in March to increase the fee to $1. But the panel scrapped that hike after Gov. Dennis Daugaard urged the board to try to find a compromise after livestock groups and other associations objected.
The board's latest plan raises the inspection fee to 90 cents. If it's approved, the higher rate could take effect by Sept. 1.
Board members said the increase is needed to cover higher inspection costs associated with rising fuel prices and salaries.
Board member Curt Mortenson of Fort Pierre said a 90-cent fee balances the program's books for about two years. But Mortenson said he won't hesitate to try to raise the price once more if the program becomes more expensive in the future.
"I don't want to start running this thing into the ground," Mortensen said.
The board voted 4-0 to propose the 10-cent increase. Chairman Mark Kimball of Platte abstained after saying he believes the fee should go to $1.
"It's awful tough if you let something slip into the red," he said.
The program inspects the brands on about 1.5 million head of livestock each year when the cattle or horses are sold, slaughtered or moved out of the inspection area that covers all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River. Most of the inspections are at local sale barns, but some are conducted at ranches for private sales or when livestock is shipped elsewhere.
Nathan Sanderson, a policy analyst for the governor, said Daugaard wanted a compromise to lessen the animosity between the board and livestock producers. Some of the discord is years old and stems from a 2008 decision by the state to take over inspections from the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.
Still, Sanderson said, the governor will support the Brand Board - no matter what decision it makes.
Officials of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Livestock Marketing Association, which represents local sale barns, supported the compromise at Tuesday's board meeting.
"Divisiveness gets no one nowhere fast," said Jerry Vogeler, director of the Livestock Marketing Association. "It's time to set aside the bickering and get people to agree."
Forecasts show the inspection agency would end the next budget year with a $75,000 loss if the inspection fee isn't raised. A 90-cent fee should keep the program in the black until June 2015, said Larry Stearns, the board's executive director. After that, the fee may need to be increased once more.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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