S.D. Senate considers livestock inspection surcharges and elimination of horse ownership inspections

Farm Forum

PIERRE – The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee recommended legislation on Jan. 24 that could lead to a new fee for some types of livestock brand inspections.

SB 16 would allow the state Brand Board to add a surcharge up to $25 per trip for a local inspection of 100 or fewer head of livestock.

A local inspection typically takes place at a ranch and often involves a private transaction, rather than at a public sale day held by a livestock auction market.

There have been 3,381 local inspections since July, and about two-thirds have been for 100 head or less.

The Stockgrowers Association opposes the change and prefers an additional 5 cents be charged for every head. The fee was raised to 90 cents last year.

The logic of that position was questioned by Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. He said he saves thousands of dollars in commissions and fees by selling off his place rather than taking his cattle to the sale barn, and therefore he agrees with adding the local-inspection charge.

“I don’t expect my neighbors who go to the sale barn to pay for it,” Rhoden said.

Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, said he’d like matters to come to an agreement that sticks.

The vote was 7-0 to recommend passage by the full Senate. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, said a two-thirds majority will be needed because the bill contains an emergency clause allowing it to become law upon clearing the governor’s desk.

The committee also considered eliminating ownership inspections for horses and mules. Nathan Sanderson, a policy advisor to the governor, said the purpose of the legislation, SB 21, is to streamline the Brand Board program.

He said people can continue to brand horses and investigations will remain in place in instances of stray or abandoned animals. He said approximately 60 percent of horses checked by state inspectors don’t have brands.

Brand Board executive director Larry Stearns said inspections at horse sales cost more than $2 per head in 2012. He said numbers of horses inspected at livestock sale barns declined in recent years.

“It’s kind of an old, worn-out tradition at this point,” Stearns said.

Rep. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said he has lifetime inspection permits on many of his horses. “Lots of horses are traded and sold on spur of the moment deals,” he said. “Is there going to be a brand inspector there every time? No.”

Heinert said brands often are used primarily for marketing horses.

Cattle-brand inspections are subsidizing horse inspections, several witnesses said.

But the Stockgrowers executive director, Silvia Christen, argued that inspections of horses should continue even though they cost more.

Christen said it would make more sense to talk about how to make the horse inspections pay for themselves rather than eliminate them.

The committee recommended the legislation’s passage 6-1.

“This is moving with the times and I say we move with the times also,” Vehle said.