Volume 3, Number 44 - January 29, 2004
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Legislataors ponder Brucellosis bills
House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen of Daniel expects that brucellosis will be the subject of several proposed bills in the upcoming Wyoming Legislature, which is slated to convene Feb. 9 in Cheyenne.
Legislators have been considering Wyoming's brucellosis situation in light of the words in the state constitution.
Article 19 of the Wyoming Constitution states: "The legislature shall pass all necessary laws to provide for the protection of livestock against the introduction or spread of pleuro-pneumonia, glanders, splenetic or Texas fever, and other infectious or contagious diseases. The legislature shall also establish a system of quarantine, or inspection, and such other regulations as may be necessary for the protection of stock owners, and most conducive to the stock interests within the state."
How exactly the legislators will interpret the constitutional requirement to protect the state's livestock from infectious diseases like brucellosis remains to be seen.
Olsen said he's been in discussions with other legislators about potential legislation. Senator Randall Luthi is proposing that the state provide funding for brucellosis testing of cattle when such testing is required pursuant to state regulation. The proposal would allocate $500,000 from the state's general fund to the Wyoming Livestock Board budget. This budget allocation would be used to compensate livestock producers for the costs of testing, Olsen said, adding that he plans to co-sponsor the bill with Luthi.
Another piece of legislation being considered by Olsen is one that would take an undetermined sum of money from the State Farm Loan and Investment Board's $275 million allocation to provide for no-interest or low-interest loans to help those livestock producers having contact herds with the original infected cattle herd to meet their operating expsenses. Olsen said that some of these producers are holding their contact herds intact, without shipping any to market, so that a second test for brucellosis can occur after those animals calve this spring. The economic impact of retaining the animals include the increased feed cost to get the animals through the winter, and the loss of anticipated revenue since the animals are being held for further testing. Olsen said the legislation, if drafted, would be a short-term measure to assist a few producers involved in the situation.
Olsen is also concerned that while Governor Dave Freudenthal has begun working to establish a state-level brucellosis task force, that group will need funding to implement its recommendations, whenever that time comes. Olsen said he has begun discussing the matter with Freudenthal, noting that funding for the group "is vital."
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