Appropriations Advancements
June 17, 2016

During April and May, the House and Senate Appropriations committees approved their respective FY2017 appropriations bills funding the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. According to Jim Richards of Cornerstone Government Affairs, two American Sheep Industry Association priorities received positive attention with the inclusions of language directing the Agricultural Research Service to continue working on infectious disease issues and to work with stakeholders to propose mission improvements for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station.

Other sheep related priorities addressed in the FY2017 agriculture appropriations bills include: the USDA-APHIS' Equine, Cervid and Small Ruminant Health program, which includes funding for scrapie eradication, received $21 million in the House bill and $19.7 million in the Senate bill. Wildlife Damage Management received $100.38 million in the House bill and $102.09 million in the Senate bill and the Wildlife Services Methods Development Program received $18.86 million in the House bill and $19.1 in the Senate bill.

In an effort to ensure sheep operations are not negatively affected by erroneous decisions to cancel grazing permits due to perceived bighorn sheep conflicts, ASI proposed that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management be required to find alternative allotments and use sound science when making decisions. On May 25, the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 bill funding the Department of Interior, EPA and USFS without this language.

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved the FY2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, a measure to fund federal land management agencies, environmental infrastructure accounts and Indian health and education programs. The bill continues the prohibition on listing the sage-grouse as an endangered species and includes a provision to allow the service to move forward with its recommendation to delist the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes. It also prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency Waters of the United States rule.

As the bill relates to bighorn sheep conservation, the committee inserted the following language:

In order to ensure the nation does not lose its domestic sheep industry or bighorn sheep conservation legacy, the USFA and BLM shall implement a variety of solutions, including the following directives: The agencies are directed to complete risk of contact analyses using appropriate data sources, such as from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and to share the findings with the public. The service is expected to engage ARS to ensure the best scientific understanding of where disease transmission occurs and the degree of that risk and to assist the USFS with identifying all allotments that are suitable for sheep grazing. The service and BLM are also directed to identify and implement actions to resolve issues on allotments with a high risk of disease transmission, including, if agreeable to the directly affected stakeholders, the relocation of domestic sheep to allotments with a low risk, pending any site-specific environmental analysis. Together, the agencies are encouraged to convene a meeting of stakeholders interested in collaborating on strategies and solutions to address the risk of disease transmission and to report to the committees on implementation of these directives within 60 days of enactment of this act.