Ag issues on agenda

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Photo courtesy of Michael S. Smith


The 67th Wyoming Legislature kicked off its second week of the 2023 General Session on Monday, Jan. 16, and local legislators stated that Northeast Wyoming residents should pay particular attention to agriculture issues addressed in various bills up for consideration. 

The House Agriculture Committee considered two bills dealing with state lands this past Thursday, according to a press release from Rep. Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle. Both bills — HB16, State land leasing-improvements, and HB17, State lands-grazing of non-owned livestock,  had minor amendments made in the ag committee, Slagle said. 

The bills, according to majority floor leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, were up for second reading by the House Committee of the Whole on Monday. He noted that there were no dissenting votes on either bill. 

According to Neiman, HB16 would increase the amount of money individuals could spend to make improvements on state land from $1,000 to $4,000. 

“This way if a water pump goes down on a leased property and a pipe needs fixed, they can just do so,” he said. “Before, they would have to contact the state while the cattle were standing there without water.” 

He noted that the increase is due in part to recent inflation. 

The second bill, HB17, would allow for a surface leaseholder to run other people’s cattle on the land as long as the leaseholder is also the person managing the cattle. Neiman explained that currently the leaseholder would have to acquire additional permitting to graze cattle they do not own on the leased land. 

“There are several more state land bills coming, as well as the Omnibus Water bill with projects all over the state, including Goshen ID Tunnel Rehabilitation,” Slagle said in the release. 

The Senate is also considering various agriculture bills, according to a press release from Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle. The veteran senator is chairwoman of the senate’s ag committee, which was one of the first committees to begin taking up Senate files this session. The committee has already passed out Senate files relating to partition fences around subdivisions, brucellosis updates and slow-moving vehicle amendments. 

“As Wyoming sees an increase in population, the legislature will grapple with the issues caused by growth and the change in land use,” she said in the release. “Subdivisions not only affect land, but many times fences, rights of way and water rights depending on the location.” 

In addition to agriculture issues, Steinmetz noted that other issues addressed in various bills include property tax relief, school choice, budget transparency and respect for the life of the unborn. These bills are being filed and scheduled for debate in standing committees before they will be seen by either the House or Senate. 

According to Neiman, 135 bills have been read into the House so far, with a large number of those being referred to the appropriations committee. 

Money will be a major topic this session, Senate President Ogden Driskill said in his weekly update, with nearly $2 billion in surplus needing to be allocated. 

“That is a significant pivot from two years ago, when the Legislature and Governor’s office were considering some of the most severe budget cuts in our state’s history,” he said. “While it might be easy to read the numbers as a shift in our economy, the truth is that it is a one-time bump that owes to a combination of improved energy production, federal stimulus and smart investing over years.” 

Senate leadership, according to Driskill, is focused on directing a significant position — between 25% and 30% — of this wealth into short, mid- and long-term investments that will benefit the state for future generations. 

“As Governor Gordon said in his address to the Legislature, Wyoming’s economy is more diverse than it has been in 50 years. That owes to smart policy making that has fostered investment and crested a business climate that is attracting new industry,” Driskill said in his update. 

As lawmakers move forward this session, he said, they will continue to build on that framework by streamlining efficiencies, removing obstacles in the way of small and family-owned businesses and providing relief to the state’s most vulnerable citizens. 

“Inflation is a factor that is creating major challenges for hardworking Wyoming families,” Driskill said. “Across Wyoming, many residents are grappling with skyrocketing property tax. This rapidly emerging crisis is falling heaviest on those who can least afford it: retirees, critical workers, low-income earners and renters, whose rates are escalating as the bill gets passed along.” 

According to Driskill, the state has begun to address this issue by fully funding the Property Tax Refund Program at $5 million in the supplemental budget. These funds will relieve the state’s most vulnerable population, those who are facing down financial hardships due to inflation. 

As the session continues, the Wyoming Legislature’s website,, will be updated with bill information, amendments and voting records.

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