Grazing fees drop
Only a few months ago, ranchers who graze their animals on federal lands were bracing themselves for significant fee increases proposed by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. But intense pressure from the livestock industry forced Babbitt to jettison the attempt (HCN, 1/23/95). Now, under the federal formula, fees will decline this year by 19 percent, from $1.98 an animal unit-month to $1.61. An animal unit month (AUM) is the amount of forage consumed by one cow-calf pair or five sheep in one month. "Isn't that wonderful?" Babbitt asked in the Washington Post, "The reduction in the grazing fees illustrates the deficiency in the current formula and underlines the need to revisit this issue." Established in 1978, the formula for grazing fees takes into account such factors as wholesale meat prices, production costs and private-land grazing fees. This year's reduction stems from a crash in the price of beef, says Reeves Brown of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association.