Ranchers oppose cuts to wolf compensation,
by Mateusz Perkowski,
Capital Press 2/24/17
Ranchers who suffer livestock losses from predators stand to
lose state support under both budget scenarios currently
proposed for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Funding aimed at predator control and compensation for livestock
depredation would be cut under recommendations from Gov. Kate
Brown as well as the co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means
Committee, Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and Rep. Nancy
The proposed cuts drew objections from the livestock industry
during a Feb. 22 hearing on ODA’s budget before a panel of Joint
Ways and Means Committee members focused on natural resources.
As the wolf population has grown in Oregon, livestock losses
have been a continuing source of frustration for ranchers, said
Mike Durgan of the Baker County Wolf Compensation Advisory
Even when wolves don’t kill cattle, they cause health problems
that are considered indirect losses and aren’t compensated with
state dollars, Durgan said.
Until wildlife officials find a better way to manage the
predators, the livestock industry should receive state
assistance, he said. “I want to make it clear I’m not advocating
killing wolves today.”
Oregon counties have steadfastly contributed money to their
partnership with ODA and USDA’s Wildlife Services division to
pay for predator control, even as they’ve fallen short of funds
for public safety and other vital services, said Craig Pope, a
Polk County commissioner.
“We will have no one else to call if we let this partnership
fail,” Pope said. “Counties cannot make up the difference of
this funding hole.”
The Oregon Hunters Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk
Foundation testified in favor or restoring the state’s full
contribution to the predator control program, which they say is
necessary to maintain a balance between predators and deer and
Under Gov. Kate Brown’s recommended 2017-2019 budget, the ODA
would eliminate $460,000 in state funding for the USDA’s
Wildlife Services division, which kills problematic predators.
An ODA program that compensates ranchers for wolf depredation
would be funded at $211,000 under the governor’s proposal,
compared to $233,000 in the 2015-2017 biennium.
The co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile,
have proposed a “budget framework” for the upcoming biennium
that would decrease funding for the wolf compensation program
“and/or reduce funding for predator control.”
While the co-chairs’ budget framework doesn’t specify the exact
reductions for ODA programs, it does propose cutting state
funding for all natural resource agencies to $405 million, down
from $413.6 million during the previous biennium.
Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, said he’s concerned about
livestock losses and supports continued assistance from the
state but raised concerns about possible hunting of wolves.
While wolves aren’t currently hunted in Oregon, controlled hunts
could be allowed during a later phase of wolf recovery under the
state’s management plan for the species.
Frederick cautioned against the display of “trophy” wolves
killed by hunters, which he said would erode public support for
the predator control and wolf compensation programs.
“That’s a political situation that will shut down a great deal,”
Aside from predator control, other ODA programs are on the
chopping block under the proposals from Brown and the co-chairs
of the Joint Ways & Means Committee.
A coalition of natural resource industry groups — including the
Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Association of Nurseries, Oregon
Cattlemen’s Association and others — urged lawmakers not to
curtail those programs.
For example, the co-chairs’ budget framework recommends
decreasing the number of positions in ODA’s agricultural water
quality program and shifting food safety and pesticide programs
from the general fund to program fees.
Industry representatives fear such shifts will effectively
increase fees on farmers, ranchers and others.
Under Brown’s budget proposal, about $250,000 in general fund
dollars would be cut from ODA’s inspection program for “confined
animal feeding operations,” shifting the burden onto fee payers.
A biocontrol program for controlling invasive weeds would also
be eliminated, saving $250,000.
Don Farrar, Gilliam County’s weed officer, argued against the
proposal because biological control with predatory insects can
effectively suppress large infestations of weeds.
“This program has been one of the best in the nation and it
would be sad to lose that,” he said.
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