Texas A&M University is planning on pursuing a study in Lincoln County over the next number of years. County extension agent Holly Gatzke told county commissioners of the plan during the regular commission meeting April 6.
She explained what the university wants to do is ?select about five or six local ranches that are full time operators and representatives of this region, interview the ranchers and gather enough information to create a ?virtual? ranch on computer that would run in southern Nevada on a high percentage of federal land, because most of the real ones do.?
The information, she explained, ?can then be used to figure out what restrictions and what finances would happen with these ranches.?
The university study is under the direction of James Richardson, Regents Professor and Agrilife Research Senior Faculty Fellow in the Department of Agriculture Economic at Texas A&M.
Since 1985, the university has been doing this in different areas and ?then can calculate the impact future farm bills and different policies would have on a given area where the ranches are located,? Gatzke said. The federal government has used a number of these studies in their policy making.
Thomas Harris, in the Economics Department at University of Nevada Reno, is one of the people who is helping with the A&M study in Nevada.
Gatzke said the ranchers don?t have to worry about changes taking place right away on their ranch or grazing areas, ?because it is not really their ranch, it?s a virtual ranch where the impacts and outcome, either positive or negative, can be projected and studied. It?s not focused on any one rancher, but rather representative of all.?
At the same time, ranchers will also have a better idea of what changes and economic conditions they need to be watchful for and even oppose, if necessary.
She mentioned, for example, ?how putting sage grouse on the endangered list or cutting back lease amounts from the BLM could impact the financial survivability of the ranches in the area. Or what law regarding the desert tortoise might do.?
Some other factors that will be studied, she said, will be ?variable fixed costs and herd replacement management plan of the ranchers.?
Richardson and a few others from Texas A&M, plus Harris, are expected to visit in Lincoln County June 8, to meet with Gatzke and the ranchers she selects.
?I think the study will be hugely valuable to be able to make sure that we can project and evaluate changes in policy and changes in conditions, for example if a disease might break out and how it could impact viability of the ranches. It gives us a way of providing some economics behind preventing what could be very damaging to the ranches.?
She said once the model is constructed, then other issues, such as the problem with wild horses in some areas, might also be investigated, if so desired. ?But we have to get the virtual ranch model made first.?