CHEYENNE — The Wyoming House of Representatives is expected to receive for a first reading this afternoon legislation that supporters say could spur growth in Wyoming's livestock industry.
For many years, Wyoming livestock producers have been at a market disadvantage because there is no U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected meat-packing plant in the state.
But regulatory changes made by USDA in 2011 now allow states with qualifying state-level meat inspection programs to ship products across state lines from packing facilities with 25 or fewer employees.
"There's definite potential from an economic-development standpoint," Cindy Garretson-Weibel said.
Garretson-Weibel is the agribusiness director with the Wyoming Business Council, a state economic development organization.
"Not every state is as fortunate as Wyoming to have a state inspection program," she added. Even fewer states are able to qualify for the cooperative program with the USDA to allow state inspected meats to be sold across state lines.
The House Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee voted Tuesday to recommend passage of House Bill 109.
The bill sponsored by rancher Rep. Sue Wallis, a Republican from Recluse, is scheduled to hit the floor of the House today or tomorrow for debate by the full body.
House Bill 109 requires the state Department of Agriculture to work toward establishing a cooperative interstate shipment program for meat and poultry with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Dean Finkenbinder is manager of consumer health services with the state Department of Agriculture. He said the cooperative program requires that the state inspection program meet or exceed the standards of the USDA federal program, and the Wyoming program is capable of meeting the standard.
The bill appears to have wide support for those involved in the livestock industry, according to testimony before the ag committee.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council's Jill Morrison said that the conservation and agricultural heritage preservation organization supports the bill and believes it will help Wyoming producers serve growing niche markets.
Bryce Reece, executive director of the Wyoming Woolgrowers Association, said evidence from other states shows that slaughter and packing facilities bring new businesses such as livestock feeding operations.
"We're losing those opportunities," he said, by sending Wyoming livestock out of state for slaughter.
Ag Committee member Rep. Mike Greear was the lone vote against recommending passage of the bill. He said the bill might not pass the full House, and he would like to see a bill to study the creation of the program rather than one that starts the program.
"I think that what you have in front of you is a study bill," Wallis said.
The legislation requires the state Department of Agriculture to select a coordinator for the program and identify state-inspected businesses that qualify.
The department would report to the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee on its progress by Aug. 15. The report would identify additional resources, legal changes and administration changes needed.
For more Daily news click here and look under 'Breaking News'