BOISE — The Idaho Bean Commission and Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association will turn to the legislature to try to ensure soybean seed doesn’t bring in diseases that could harm the state’s $70 million dry bean industry.
Idaho is the nation’s leader in dry bean seed production because of strict testing guidelines that require bean seed to undergo serology testing and be certified as disease-free.
Idaho dry bean industry representatives say soybeans have the potential to bring in diseases that could significantly harm their industry, a claim supported by a University of Idaho plant pathologist and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
The bean and seed groups earlier this year asked the ISDA to initiate a rule that would prohibit soybeans from being grown in southcentral and southwestern Idaho, where the state’s dry bean industry is located.
That idea was nixed by the office of Gov. Butch Otter, whose spokesman, Jon Hanian, told Capital Press the governor needed a lot more information about the rationale for the proposed ban.
During their quarterly meeting in June, IBC members also discussed the idea of taking soybeans under the commission’s umbrella to ensure they have to follow the same strict testing rules and regulations that dry beans do.
IBC and IEOSA members discussed those ideas during an August conference call.
IEOSA Executive Director Roger Batt told Capital Press the groups will pursue legislation to accomplish both those ideas during the 2018 Idaho Legislature.
“We’re pretty hopeful we can get both those things done during the 2018 legislative session,” Batt said.
Soybean acres in Idaho have fluctuated between a few dozen and a couple hundred over the last decade, mostly on a trial basis, but some bean industry leaders believe it’s only a matter of time before they are grown on a larger scale in Idaho.
“Dry beans are a 100-year-old industry in the state of Idaho; it doesn’t make any sense to jeopardize it with a few acres of soybeans,” said IBC board member Don Tolmie, an agronomist and production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co.
“On the surface, it sounds like we are trying to restrict an ag business,” he said. “That’s not it at all. We’re trying to protect an ag business that is already established.”
If a moratorium is passed, soybeans could still be grown in North and East Idaho.
But the moratorium idea is not supported by some IBC members, including farmers Doug Huettig and Mike Goodson, who both spoke against it during the IBC’s June meeting.
Goodson said it makes more sense to pursue other means of protecting the industry, such as placing soybeans under the IBC’s authority.
“In this tough farm economy we’re in, it doesn’t make sense to try to ban a crop that potentially could help a farmer keep his bills paid,” Huettig said. “It’s nice to have another tool in the tool box to go to.”