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Hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee - Grazing Improvement Act

Hearing

Date: June 7, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Idaho First District Congressman Raúl R. Labrador today had his second bill successfully pass through the Natural Resources Committee. H.R. 4234, also known as the "Grazing Improvement Act of 2012", passed by a bipartisan vote of 27--15.

The bill, co-sponsored by Democrat Jim Costa (CA-20), enjoys bipartisan support and if enacted would provide several important tools for assisting America's ranchers access public lands with respect to grazing. The bill can now move to the House floor for consideration.

Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-1) said while introducing the bill for mark-up, "This piece of legislation is going to be one of the most significant pieces of legislation we have to affect land management and affect those who are in the industry who deal with the land and grazing. I commend the sponsor of this, Mr. Labrador from Idaho, for coming up with this."

Specifically, if enacted the bill would:

Extend Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service livestock grazing permits from 10 years to 20 yearsin order to give producers adequate longevity and production stability;
Codify appropriation rider language to require expired grazing permits to be renewed under existing terms and conditions until the renewal process is complete;
Encourage the respective Secretaries to utilize categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to expedite permit processing; and
Allow trailing permits to be categorically excluded from NEPA.
On the bill passing committee today, Congressman Labrador said:

"Livestock grazing is an important part of the rich ranching tradition in America. Ranchers are proud stewards of the land; their reputations and financial security depend on this basic fact. Yet, the process to review the permits which allow them to make a living has become severely backlogged due to lawsuits aimed at eliminating livestock from public lands. The local federal land managing offices cannot keep up with the pace of litigation and the endless environmental analysis. This diverts the already-limited resources from these offices and leaves ranchers at risk of losing their grazing permits and jeopardizing their livelihoods. This bill streamlines the permitting process providing ranchers with security and confidence and helps land managers do their jobs more efficiently. I thank Chairman Hastings for advancing this bill and I encourage the House and Senate to pass this commonsense legislation in a timely fashion."

Full text of Labrador opening statement attached.

Opening Statement

Congressman Raúl Labrador

June 7, 2012

Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chairman, for moving my legislation through this committee -- H.R. 4234, the Grazing Improvement Act.

Livestock grazing is an important part of the rich ranching tradition in America. Today, my home state of Idaho produces some of the world's finest tasting lamb and beef. Food production is a major part of Idaho's history and is an integral part of our cultural fabric and our economic security. These traditions are under attack and we must preserve them for future generations.

Ranchers are proud stewards of the land; their reputations and financial security depend on this basic fact. Yet, the process to review the very permits which allow them to produce food has become severely backlogged due to lawsuits aimed at eliminating livestock from public lands. The local federal-land managing offices, cannot keep up with the pace of litigation and the endless environmental analysis. This diverts the already-limited resources from these offices and leaves ranchers at risk of losing their grazing permits and jeopardizing their livelihoods.

Agriculture is a difficult way to make a living, but producers choose this path because it is their livelihood, their passion, their way of life. Several ranchers in my state of Idaho have said that if they were to lose their grazing permit they would have to subdivide their land. I cannot allow this to happen. My bill, the Grazing Improvement Act of 2012, would provide relief to these ranchers and to ranchers throughout the country.

What my legislation does --

Extends livestock grazing permits from 10 to 20 years in order to give producers adequate longevity and production stability.
Codifies existing appropriation language to put into statute annual riders.
Encourages the respective Secretaries to utilize categorical exclusions to expedite permit processing.
Mr. Bishop will be offering the manager's amendment which we think will provide common sense improvements to the bill. I would like to thank the land managing agencies for working with us to provide feedback on how the legislation could be modified. I think that the changes we will propose today will streamline the implementation process in order to provide the grazing industry long term economic security.

I commend the Chairman for convening this mark up today to shed some light on existing statutes that should be modernized. I believe that protecting our environment can be done in a manner that does not impede our economic growth. It is time that we improve our regulatory structure so that we continue to prosper as a nation.

We can no longer allow the federal government to maintain an enormous backlog in processing grazing permits. I am grateful that the Committee is moving my legislation forward, in hopes of ensuring grazing certainty and stability for America's livestock producers. I look forward to debating this matter. Thank you.


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