Recently, there has been quite a bit of discussion about ranchers grazing their cattle on public lands. Some facts have been shared but, unfortunately, so have a lot of untruths, according to the Nebraska Cattlemen. The discussion stem from ads for the Bob Kerrey senate compaign which criticized candidate Deb Fischer's family as "welfare ranchers" because they grazed public land in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Cattlemen provided the following set of questions and answers regarding grazing on public lands.
Q. How much public land is grazed by cattle?
A. In Nebraska, less than 1.25% of the land is owned by the government. While not all of this land is grazed, some of it is grazed by cattle owned by cattle ranchers.
Q. How many ranchers graze their cattle on public lands?
A. Nationwide, more than 22,000 ranchers graze their cattle on public lands. While not all ranchers may have access, many do not want to graze on public lands for various reasons such as transportation of their cattle to the public land area or compliance with rigorous guidelines. To say that a small special group of ranchers are the only ones allowed to graze is not a true representation of the demand.
Q. What does a rancher pay to graze his/her cattle on public land?
A. In 1986, a market based fee formula was created to establish the rate ranchers pay. Larry Van Tassell, head of the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics recently reported that the formula has a base that is affected by three primary factors: current private grazing land lease rates, current beef cattle prices, and the cost of producing cattle. There is also a minimum fee of $1.35 per animal per month. It is also important to note that many formulas do not allow year round grazing.