Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New Mexico ranchers’ state grazing fees are increased by 25 percent

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said the fee for grazing on state trust lands will increase by nearly 25 percent beginning Oct. 1 — from $4.80 to $5.99 per “animal unit month” — making the cost of state grazing leases more than double that of federal leases. The fee increase affects 3,500 leaseholders in all but one of New Mexico’s 33 counties who graze livestock on about 8.8 million acres of state trust lands. An animal unit month, or AUM, usually refers to one steer or a cow and her calf, five sheep or one horse grazing for a month. Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, said the group’s 1,500 dues-paying members aren’t happy about the fee increase, but they don’t blame Dunn. “While it is a tough deal, it is not his fault,” Cowan said. Dunn said he follows a grazing fee formula established in 1988 by then State Land Commissioner Bill Humphries. The State Land Office established the fee formula following a court case in which a lessee had challenged arbitrary increases. The grazing fee formula takes into account private grazing land leases, beef cattle prices and the costs of raising livestock. In a statement, Dunn, who comes from a ranching background, said the estimated $19.5 million raised through the increased grazing fee will help the state’s public schools, hospitals and universities that benefit from revenues raised by trust land leases...more

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