Farm leaders from both Utah and Idaho, two of the largest public-lands states in the nation, were on the telephone most of the day Friday, conferring with both states' congressional delegations.
Officials of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation and Utah-Idaho Farmers Union officials are opposed to a proposal, discussed by the House-Senate Conference Committee on Friday, to increase public-lands grazing fees by about 500 percent over the next four years.Officials from both organizations said the measure, which is an amendment to the Department of the Interior budget, was approved earlier this month by the House. The Senate passed its version of the Interior budget Thursday, without the grazing fee increase.
The conference committee has to decide whether to take the grazing fee measure out of the House-passed Interior budget or leave it in. If the grazing fee comes out of the House's Interior budget, local farm leaders expect they have won a tough battle and there will be no increase in public-lands grazing fees.
If the committee leaves in it, though, farm leaders expect the grazing fee increase will become law.
They said Sens. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and James A. McClure, R-Idaho, promised they would do everything they could to forestall approval of the grazing fee increase in the House-Senate committee.
C. Booth Wallentine, Utah Farm Bureau executive vice president, said: "House representatives want to get out of Washington, D.C., and get home to campaign for the Nov. 6 election, and they will probably approve whatever Interior budget the conference committee hands them.
The 1990 farm bill, which covers the government's agricultural programs for the next five years, is also being considered now by both the House and Senate and local farm leaders believe it will also by approved this weekend, probably the way it came out of a House-Senate Conference Committee Oct. 16.
Farmers Union president W. Lee Reese, a dairy farmer from Benson, Cache County, said the bill, as approved by the committee, places an unfair economic burden on farmers, ranchers, rural communities, rural businesses, banks and churches.
If it is signed into law, Reese said, "agriculture commodity prices will drop for program and non-program crops, farmland values will decline and rural businesses and banks will be hard hit."
Utah Farm Bureau officials Friday were less critical of the farm bill, saying it will provide less protection of farm income and calls for vastly more complicated farm programs, but it is going in the right direction, they said.