Grazing fees charged by governmental agencies are a key regulatory tool in managing environmental stress to lands and are becoming increasingly important as a mechanism for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from livestock grazing. The practise of charging below market rates to ranchers has endured for many decades in the USA and many other countries as a way of garnering political patronage, and minimizing management chores for public officials.
Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is generated in large amounts from livestock grazing; the contribution to global warming increases with overgrazing practices, which are common in the western USA as well as many other world areas such as Chile, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand.
Summary of policies in the USA
Charging fees for grazing private livestock on federal lands is a long-standing but contentious practice. Generally, livestock producers who use federal lands want to keep fees low, while conservation groups and others believe fees should be increased. The formula for determining the grazing fee for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service uses a base value adjusted annually by the lease rates for grazing on private lands, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production. Currently, the BLM and FS are charging a grazing fee of $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM). For fee purposes, an AUM is defined as a month’s use and occupancy of the range by one animal unit. The fee is in effect through February 29, 2012. The collected fees are divided among the Treasury, states, and federal agencies. Fee reform was attempted but not adopted in the 1990s. Issues for the 112th Congress include instances of grazing without paying fees and efforts to retire certain grazing permits. This report will be updated as needed.
Background to USA policies
The USA summary and backround were taken from the Congressional Research Service Report RS21232 by Carol Hardy Vincent