WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following the House Agriculture Committee's action to bring greater stability for western family ranchers and better, more scientific management of public lands, the House Committee on Resources today passed by an overwhelming bi-partisan margin Rep. Bob Smith's (R-OR) "Forage Improvement Act of 1997" (H.R. 2493), completing House committee action on the bill and enabling it to be considered on the House floor.
The Forage Improvement Act is the product of several months' consultation with state and national livestock associations, individual livestock producers, interested Members of Congress, and environmental groups, and enjoys overwhelming support in the western livestock community. The bill passed the Resources Committee by a vote of 23-3, garnering the support of all the Republicans present and voting and a majority of the Democrats.
In passing Smith's bill, the Resources Committee handily defeated two amendments: an amendment offered by Rep. Bruce Vento (D-MN) to precipitously raise grazing fees on arid federal lands to match state grazing fees was defeated, as was another amendment, also offered by Vento, to delete provisions allowing establishment of Resource Advisory Councils (RACs).
"I'm convinced that this bill is critical to the livestock industry's existence. It would be a substantial benefit for family ranchers and for public land management, and it has sailed through the relevant House committees. I'm delighted the Resources Committee followed our lead and passed the bill with so little dissent. It clearly enjoys wide support among those who understand this issue," said Smith, who in addition to chairing the Agriculture Committee is a member of the Resources Committee.
"I'm particularly pleased that the Committee rejected amendments designed to price livestock off the public lands entirely and put ranchers out of business, and to eliminate our well-intentioned and long overdue effort to make Resource Advisory Councils reflect the concern of local communities. The overwhelming bi-partisan nature of the vote is a testament to the bill's necessity and to how carefully we have crafted it over the last few months. I look forward to bringing it to the House floor as soon as I can," Smith said.
"There's no doubt the bill faces challenges in the coming weeks and months, but we have worked hard to include as many interests as possible in drafting and refining the bill. This continues to be a truly collaborative effort and I suspect that will help us when we reach the House floor," Smith concluded.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives.