The column on Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) is right on the money. It may be worse than the author indicates because the cost of having federal agencies write these checks has been the near destruction of our livestock industry. Livestock grazing (ranching) represents an entire sector of local economies in Nevada and has been nearly destroyed by federal regulation. Many Nevada county officials are indifferent to the loss of the economic benefits of agricultural production and the livestock industry in particular. Our elected officials complain that they don’t receive enough money as local and state tax revenues but they have never seen a PILT check they didn’t like. Their budgets even include PILT as a source of income forgetting that Congress could just say no more.
Loss of entire herds of cattle and sheep from Nevada ’s range livestock industry means that the appraised values of ranches have been reduced by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 40 years. Our county officials don’t seem to mind that the taxable value of what little real property we have has evaporated. I don’t know what it will take to convince our leaders that locally owned industry (cattle and sheep ranches) would result in much greater cash income to the county coffers.
One illustration was provided by Dr. A. L. Lesperance of Paradise Valley , NV in “Economic Importance of Livestock In Nevada’s Cow Counties” (1996) revised in 2010. Lesperance explains that each “mother cow” or Animal Unit (AU) requires about $350 per year as operating expenses of a ranch. Other authors report annual cash expenditures from $374 to over $400 per head per year. Mr. Fred Fulstone of Smith NV calculates that about 3.5 sheep require a similar operating cost.
Ranch operating costs include everything from labor to veterinary supplies and other retail purchases providing cash that circulates within the local economy. The Lesperance figure for the cost of cattle production indicates that the Nevada ranches that are left spend as much as $150,000.000 per year for cattle production and about $8,500,000 per year for sheep production.
Federal agencies have enthusiastically cut the numbers of livestock that they permit to graze on BLM and Forest Service controlled lands putting many ranches out of business. But those lands still produce the grass and browse every year that could be consumed by livestock just as in the past. There is a potential to restore 250,000 cattle to Nevada rangelands which would result in an additional $87,500,000 being spent by ranchers within various Nevada communities each year and restoring sheep to 1,000,000 animals would result in an additional $91,500,000 of cash circulating within the Nevada economy every year. Our leaders can’t figure out how $337,500,000 of cash spent annually within Nevada communities can possibly be as valuable as the pittance check from the federal government that is less than 1/10 of that amount.
Fallon , NV