A few years ago: A nine-month investigation published by the Mercury News in November found taxpayers lost $108 million last year on federal grazing programs. Today this has increased to $112 billion dollars and growing. Another example in 2004 far more costly to taxpayers, due to illegla activity, misinformation, and dishonesty from BLM: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-869
The report found that large corporations and millionaires at that time, such as hotel mogul Barron Hilton, computer heiress Mary Hewlett Jaffee and many others, benefited the most from below-market grazing fees and other rules. Nothing has changed today.
Now more than a few corporations have found the money quite good, and our legislators seem to do nothing to fix this situation, making it legitimate and stop giving welfare payments (i.e. Corporate welfare) to these new styled hobby ranchers i.e. Corporations, simply managed by the true Lease Holders.
The Agriculture Department’s Inspector General speaking about Welfare Ranchers “. . . the program is very wasteful and is prone to abuse because most of the risk for financial losses is born by taxpayers rather than private companies. So the corporations involved make profit no matter what they do, and still charge the taxpayers full premium prices for the beef on the market.”
This article will present both sides of the “Welfare Rancher” information to the public, which will allow the American public to decide.
The Positive Attributes of Welfare Ranchers
Let’s start with the positive accounting of Welfare Ranchers, what they as a group have accomplished for the taxpayers and the open market under a democratic situation.
Welfare Ranchers have done nothing for America’s taxpayers;
Welfare Ranchers have done nothing for America’s economy, except make it worse;
Welfare Ranchers have done nothing for the beef markets, as they produce such as small percent of marketable beef;
Welfare Ranchers have done nothing for anybody except themselves, constantly taking from taxpayer money, blaming wild horse herds for ruining our lands, when it is proven time and again it is their cattle ruining our environment. Then taxpayers also cover the replenishment costs of cattle grazing on public lands — Double-Dipping of taxpayer money constantly!
Grazing Regulations included Doctored analysis: http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/abuses_of_science/cattle-grazing.html
Grazing on Public Lands good for Welfare Ranchers and at taxpayer expense, bad for the Ecosystem and more costly to the taxpaying Public: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2008076883_grazing28m.html
Welfare Ranching and cattle grazing on Public Lands damaging to Public Lands and the Ecosystems: http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/05/16/is-cattle-grazing-damaging-public-lands-in-the-west/
Other Cattle Ranchers Opinions on Welfare Ranchers
Let’s make it clear from the beginning in this discussion about Welfare Ranchers. This explanation is taken from what this Journalist has observed, researched, and read, as well as comments made from the honest cattle ranchers, who do not accept charity in their day-to-day business of cattle ranching. Honest ranchers care about their business, the lands and the ranges, the wildlife, horses, and our environment. This Journalist discovered, ironically, that many ranchers actually cared about the environment and strived to enhance it instead of deplete and rape the land.
This is from a group of honest cattle ranchers, their comments:
Welfare Ranchers are:
“. . . They are a small group of what we call “Public Lands Ranchers” and quite honestly, they only care about themselves”;
“. . . I’ve found these welfare ranchers, let’s call them what they are, complain about our nations economy, those who receive welfare in the cities, or just plain and simple, complain about anyone that receives money from the government or spent on anyone else, and they are always first in line for their hand-out – that consists of tax supported public lands grazing. It’s welfare, plain and simple!”;
“. . .I agree. These welfare ranchers complain about welfare families, and yet spawn a whole lot of generations of, well, welfare recipients under the name of cattle ranching. It’s embarrassing, is what it is, to the rest of us!”;
“. . . The fact is they are hobbyists, not true cattle ranchers. My neighbors to each side of my land, I own, use public lands, and are only managers for large corporations. They had to sell out to corporations, because they were very bad business people!”
“. . . The welfare ranchers preach law and order, so long as it benefits them, yet they assign some glamour to those among them who break the rules and break the laws that govern their relationship with the “evil” BLM.”
The mentality of a Welfare Rancher is simply convoluted logic, founded on the principle that their ancestor may have grazed the same land; therefore, enjoy that same entitlement by birthright. It is the old “my government owes me something” mentality and that certain public property is theirs and theirs only – ironically, they become managers when selling their (i.e. lease only) supposed portion of “land owed to them by our government” to corporations.
The irrationality of public property simply given to them remains absurd and nothing will change this situation. What becomes more absurd is the corporations stepping in, onto this supposed government land (already leased) and taking over the ranching operation.
This is not accomplished in any legal nor ethical fashion what so ever, yet our government has allowed it to become “okay” to do so to shut the Welfare Ranchers up, plus corporate profits play a significant role as well. And it is quite costly to taxpayers for them to ignore this situation, both in public lands destruction and court costs. Many people and other government agencies (e.g. the Veterans Administration and healing war veterans) goes without essentials, so corporations and large land owners can reap profit – at the same time wave their American flag chanting how American they are!
Of course, it is not so farfetched to assume quite a bit of money exchanges hands, from corporate officials to government employees, to rationalize a corporation receiving tax based welfare funds – which is also termed corporate welfare, an entirely different subject but similar in many aspects in content – i.e. the strategized ripping off taxpayer dollars.
Not so odd, if you or I attempted a similar situation, we would be bounced off the land, or sent to jail.
Another cattle rancher voicing his opinion about Welfare Ranching was a little more adamant. “These people don’t want to solve problems unless the solution involves more taxpayer-funded improvements going to them.
They play themselves off as the poor and down trodden, while most of them live off a system that the rest of us taxpayers fund every April 15th. These ranchers give us 2% of our beef cattle while receiving grazing rights at a fraction of the costs that the other 98% of beef producers have to pay in order to operate in the real market. This 2%, nicknamed “The Selfish Two” by some rangeland advocates, causes about 98% of the problems associated with public lands grazing – which includes the outright and unnecessary removal of our Wild Horse Herds!
Another problem associated with this extremely vocal and self-absorbed minority of ranchers, is the fact these people often generate distractions that impede the actual development of pragmatic solutions to long-term problems. The reality, unless a solution directly benefits them, they are opposed to any and all for resolution. In their minds their personal interests should receive greater status than public interests. Thereby, the Wild Horse Herds depleted, for no legitimate or scientific reasoning, other than these Welfare Ranchers want them off our public lands.
The wholesome fact becomes, and certainly expressed by more than a few cattle ranchers, “Perhaps if the Federally subsidized public lands ranching industry doesn’t appreciate what it has, then it is time to turn those public lands over to some more contemporary uses.” Especially since the corporations have taken over a majority of the Welfare Ranchers lands, and yet remain obtaining taxpayer money under the guise of subsidies to these same ranchers that are currently managers, not Lessees.
A greater problem involves the public and Congress finally having its fill of obstructionists that cost tax dollars and contribute an insignificant portion of the nation’s food supply. People are starting to question whether welfare ranching has finally outlived its usefulness, including a few private lands ranchers who complain that they pay taxes that are used to subsidize their competitors.
Welfare Ranchers Defined and Redefined
Public lands grazing subsidies, like most agricultural subsidies, disproportionately benefit large landholders. In a 1992 Government Accounting Office profile of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) permittees, the largest 500 permittees, out of nearly 20,000 total, controlled 36 percent of the public lands forage. Just 16 percent of all permittees controlled 76.2 percent of the AUMs (animal unit months-one AUM being the amount of forage required by a cow-calf pair for a month) available on BLM lands. Most of these permittees were big corporations or very wealthy individuals. The smallest 2,000 permittees controlled less than 0.13 percent of BLM forage.
This inequality is a result of the process for assigning public lands allotments. Access to permits requires ownership of private base operations, of course this was dependant on a narrow, some would say, duplicative toward particular ranches already in mind. Since wealthy ranchers own more land, and thus more base property, they wind up with more federal lands allotments.
This means winding up with far more direct profit from the welfare handouts from taxpayer money, as it does not go to anything else but the Lessees pockets, or to enhance their bank accounts – nothing more.
In addition, few ranchers depend entirely on their public lands allotments to meet all their forage needs, so one can assume the government welfare handout, again, is simply profit, money in their pockets so to speak, unnecessarily, other than for profit.
Although the percentage varies from operation to operation and state to state, most ranchers fulfill the majority of their annual forage needs from private lands. Only the largest operations actually use public lands for a significant amount of their livestock’s forage.
If the public lands were to become unavailable to these large ranches, most of their operators could reasonably afford alternatives for grazing their stock. But, their profit base from government handouts would be lost, or would they be lost at all?
Alternatively, smaller ranches today represent status or lifestyle choices for their owners, and the minority of ranchers who use public lands. Most western ranches do not depend exclusively on livestock for their income, or for even an important fraction of their income. Growing and selling livestock is usually a break-even enterprise at best. Hobbyist ranchers are a better term here, and compatible with the IRS terms.
Jobs in town or other business ventures are what allow families to maintain their status and appearance as “ranchers” and not running cattle or sheep on the range. If these ranchers chose to give up, or were forced to relinquish their public lands allotments, most would adjust through reducing their herd size to match their private holdings, or through leasing the private grazing lands of other landowners. Family ranchers might also continue to diversify their income, as many are already doing-either with new enterprises on the ranch (for example, guest ranches, and guided fishing and hunting), or with other work off the ranch.
So there is simply no need to replenish or coordinate efforts with Welfare Ranchers. There entire existence remains dependent on government handouts; welfare is a far simpler and correct term. They remain a small and insignificant situation in the scheme of things, and mostly Lease-Owned by corporations; whereas, the actual Lease Holder simply manages the ranch, and not so ironic, the corporations pocket the government handouts pretty much under a false-premise, while pretending to actually care about the ranges and the biospheres. No, they simply want to liquidate the public lands for future use, for a more diversified and not of agricultural situations – and yet keep obtaining the welfare handouts for their already large profit chain.
The fact is this; the Federal courts will, out of necessity, have to step in, to rid the United States of such leaches and those that commit this type of welfare fraud on a daily and yearly basis. These are not stipends, rather handing out money to friends and corporations, getting it from the taxpayers who honestly believe it may go for something good, but in truth it is not. Then these same rich ranchers and corporations snub the taxpayers, as being ignorant and misinformed.
The truth of Welfare Ranching has been around for decades — the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior, managed by previous ranchers, hid this from Public scrutiny and the taxpayers for those same decades. There is no use for Welfare Ranching any longer, and never has been since the 1800s, as it does not assist the poor farmer or rancher to remain competitive, it is simply a 100% profit stream for the already wealthy ranchers and corporations.
Yet another Special Interest Lobby situation that rips-off taxpayer money — at the sacrifice of War Veterans not receiving proper care from wounds received in Combat, Jobs sacrificed due to taxpayer money placed into the already rich rancer pockets that could establish employement programs and training, and on and on. Welfare Ranching is a billion dollar Rip-Off to taxpayers and at many levels.
Briefing Report to Congressional Requestors, Rangeland Management: Grazing Lease Arrangements of Bureau of Land Management Permittees, May 1986. (General Accounting Office GAO/RCED-86-168BR).
Dobie, F.J., The Longhorns, (Boston, MA: Little Brown & Co.), 1941, pp. 21.
Freemuth, John, “Federal Land Management in the West:, in Zachary A. Smith, editor, Environmental Politics and Policy in the West, (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Debuque, Iowa, 1993), p. 202.
Grazing Fee Review and Evaluation, The Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of the Interior, 1986, p. 79. A 13.2:G79.
Hanneman, Michael D., Effects of Cattle, Elk and Mule Deer on a Narrowleaf Cottonwood Riparian Community Under a Short Duration Grazing System in Northern Arizona, Masters Thesis, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 1991.
Norlagg, Neil, Personal Interview, rancher, Mormon Lake, Arizona, 8 March 1995.
Rangeland Reform ’94 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, The Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture Forest Service, I53.19:R16.
Smith, Zachary A., The Environmental Policy Paradox, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice Hall, 1995), p. 195.
Tersey, Darrell Personal Interview, Rangeland Management Specialist, Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix District Office, 19 April 1995.
Young, James A., Sparks, Abbot B, Cattle in the Cold Desert, 1985. Utah University Press, Logan, UT 84332-9515, p. 68.
F.J. Dobie, The Longhorns, (Boston, MA: Little Brown & Co.), 1941, pp. 21.
Briefing Report to Congressional Requestors, Rangeland Management: Grazing Lease Arrangements of Bureau of Land Management Permittees, May 1986. GAO/RCED-86-168BR, pp. 1-14.
Grazing Fee Review and Evaluation, (The Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of the Interior, 1986, A 13.2:G79), p. 79.
Personal Interview, Darrell Tersey, Rangeland Management Specialist, Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix District Office, 19 April 1995.
Zachary A. Smith, The Environmental Policy Paradox, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice Hall, 1995), p. 179
John Freemuth, “Federal Land Management in the West:, in Zachary A. Smith, editor, Environmental Politics and Policy in the West, (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Debuque, Iowa, 1993), p. 202.
Personal Interview, Gary Hase Jr., Natural Resource Manager II, Range Section, Land Department, State Forestry Division, 20 April 1995.
Personal Interview, Neil Norlagg, rancher, Mormon Lake Arizona, 8 March 1995.
Rangeland Reform ’94 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, (The Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture Forest Service, I53.19:R16), p. 1-9
Michael D. Hanneman, Effects of Cattle, Elk and Mule Deer on a Narrowleaf Cottonwood Riparian Community Under a Short Duration Grazing System in Northern Arizona, (Masters Thesis, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 1991), pp. 11-19.
Rangeland Reform ’94 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, p. 1-8.
Personal Interview, Darrell Tersey, Rangeland Management Specialist, Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix District Office, 19 April 1995.
The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of The Interior, Grazing Fee Review and Evaluation Final Report 1979-1985, (Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Department of The Interior Bureau of Land Management, A13.2.G79, 1986), p. 7.
Federal lands accounted for 10% of the rangeland forage and 2% of total food consumed in 1982.
July 15, 2012 at 10:59 am
Our Wild Horse advocacy sets up a booth at as many horse related, trail celebrations, or outdoor enthusiasts events as we can. I try to educate the people on this subject when they stop and ask why the horses are being removed, but it’s hard to explain this to them in a way that’ll really stick in their craw and make them mad enough to do something about it on their own. You’ve done a great job laying this subject out and I’d like your permission to add it to the educational materials we hand out at the events we attend. This is just what we need to get John Q. Public fired up about what’s happening to our public lands, who’s trying to take it from him and why he needs to step up and say, ‘ Get those damn welfare cattle off MY public lands!’ before it’s too late.
Great article! I look forward to reading your next piece.
Americas Wild Horse Advocates/Spring Mountain Alliance
Las Vegas, NV.
Photographer and Journalist
July 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm
Please do as you wish with the articles, any of them on BLM and on the sight, as that is what they are for, to us, leetting people know about what is happening on our Public Lands. Aslo, the petition —
Go to this sight to sign petition for a new investigation of BLM and DOI! http://signon.org/sign/non-partisan-federal?source=c.url&r_by=4161608 Please Share. Thank you.
This is demanding the goverment do an Independent Investigation, with full Federal Legal authority, into the goings-on in the BLM and the Department of the Interior.