Bills Could Give New Responsibilities To State Department Of Agriculture | Outside
SHERIDAN – The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Committee on Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources will introduce two bills that could slightly restructure the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
The first bill, discussed at the committee meeting in Riverton on September 9-10, transfers funding for weed and pest control programs on state lands from the Bureau of Lands and Investments to the state at the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. On a biennial basis, OSLI allocates $ 350,000 to state trust land conservation projects that specifically address invasive or noxious weed species on state lands.
“The intention is not necessarily to change the way the program works, it is to consolidate the budget into an agency that has been more robust in advocating for these types of programs,” said Senator Brian Boner, R- Douglas. “… It’s about protecting these transfer funds that are intended for our constituents.” “
Jennifer Scoggin, director of the Office of State Lands and Investments, opposed the change.
“The problem is that if we transfer the funding for weeds and pests to the Department of Agriculture, the board of directors (OSLI) has basically the responsibility of controlling weeds and pests on the lands of the. State without any direct control over resources to do so, ”Scoggin mentioned.
However, Boner argued that OSLI had failed to discharge this responsibility, even with direct control over funding.
“Looking at the budget history for this particular function within your office, it was over $ 700,000 prior to the 15/16 biennium when we started cutting back,” Boner said. “Now it’s $ 350,000… How is it accountable to the beneficiaries of the trust if you cut that budget by 50%, which is obviously disproportionate to the rest of your budget? How does this fulfill your constitutional obligation? “
Scoggin said OSLI prioritizes staff positions over the weed and pest control program when budget cuts are made.
“The revenues have been disastrous, and everyone has had to make cuts, and we don’t take these decisions lightly,” Scoggin said. “… (We’re just trying) to keep positions there to manage all these other programs as well and to balance the needs of weeds and pests on state land … We are doing our best.” to maintain the positions, because if we don’t have the positions to manage the programs, it is not in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust.
Lawmakers agreed that the Department of Agriculture would be better able to manage funds for weed and pest control programs on state lands. Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, agreed.
“I have to say that the feeling in the country among pasture tenants is that the Office of State Lands has neglected this program or made it a low priority,” Magagna said. “Whether it’s reality or perception, we could discuss it the rest of the day, but I think we need more focus on the program… I think considering this has a lot of merit. “
With unanimous support, the bill moved forward. No staff will be transferred between departments if the bill becomes law, according to the agriculture ministry Director Doug Miyamoto, as the current workload is expected to be easily absorbed by the existing staff of the Ministry of Agriculture. Currently, the work is shared among OSLI staff, according to Scoggin, and accounts for about 15% of a full-time employee’s workload.
The committee also approved a bill clarifying the structure of the Ministry of Agriculture’s predator management program. Under the agreement, the department will coordinate control and contracting efforts among various agencies and counties with predator control functions across the state.
The bill was a simple organizational effort that consolidated all predator management efforts under one department and made it easier to communicate with the Bureau of Land Management on ongoing predator control projects on their lands, Miyamoto said.
“What I would like to do is… have a plan for each year,” said Miyamoto. “All of the county predator councils each have a plan they submit to us on the work they plan to do over the next year. (The Federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has the same thing, and everyone keeps track of what they’ve actually done… There has never been a single place where you could get all of this information for a combined animal management program for the state of Wyoming … It’s not all in one document today, and I wish it were.
There could be ongoing discussions about restructuring the Ministry of Agriculture. When discussing the Weed and Pest Bill, Boner suggested a 10-page amendment moving several non-agriculture functions from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Health. These include inspections of restaurants, swimming pools, spas and daycares.
The committee decided to focus primarily on changing weeds and pests during this week’s meetings, but lawmakers said Boner’s Amendment could resurface as a restructuring bill. wider down the line.