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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Ag Econ Professor to Testify Before House Subcommittee

LAS CRUCES - A New Mexico State University agricultural economics professor will travel to the nation's capitol next week to explain grazing fee formulas to members of the House of Representatives subcommittee on national parks, forests and lands.

John Fowler, of NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences , will provide testimony that will be used in Congress' decision over the controversial Livestock Grazing Act of 1995.

"I'll explain how the current formula has worked, where it's derived from," Fowler said. "I'll also explain the new, proposed formula and describe the impact it will have, not only to the land, but also to the ranchers and permittees throughout the West."

The new formula, which would raise federal grazing fees for ranchers from the present $1.61 to $3.96 over a three-year period, would automatically go into effect Aug. 21 under Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's rangeland reform. However, the Livestock Grazing Act of 1995 could supercede rangeland reforms new regulations if passed before that date.

"Under Secretary Babbittfs rangeland reform, the ownership of rangeland improvements would be turned over to the federal government from private hands," Fowler said. "And all new water would be filed for in the name of the federal government."

Fowler testified before the U.S. Senate last month with Frank DuBois, New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture, and Bud Eppers, Public Land Council president.

"I'll be the only person going back to Washington to provide more explanation, more education and more detail as to the performance and function of the grazing fee portion of this bill." he said.

Fowler compared the controversy surrounding the legislation to that of nearly 60 years ago, when the Taylor Grazing Act was passed by Congress in 1936.

"This is a very critical, significant time in range livestock history," Fowler said. "If the Livestock Grazing Act of 1995 is not passed, then the range livestock industry as we know it is going to undergo some major, major changes."