BOISE — State lawmakers have approved an Idaho Wheat Commission rule change that would require grain elevators to submit the names and addresses of all growers from whom they purchase wheat.
Members of the House and Senate agricultural affairs committees voted a combined 22-2 Jan. 18 to support the rule after IWC officials assured them the list of grower names and addresses would remain confidential and only be used to communicate with and educate wheat farmers.
Legislators showered Hamilton and IWC Executive Director Blaine Jacobson with questions related to the confidentiality and security of the grower list.
The “list is safe and sacred with the commission,” IWC board member and Ririe farmer Clark Hamilton told members of the House ag committee. “It’s not to be shared and we’re taking that seriously.”
IWC has the authority to have such a grower list but currently lacks the mechanism to collect the information. Since not all elevators provide grower names and addresses to the IWC, the current list is incomplete.
IWC officials said a complete list of wheat growers in the state is needed to ensure producers have a say in how the commission operates and spends their wheat checkoff dollars and also to educate and communicate with growers.
“As a commissioner and as a grower who pays the wheat tax, I feel strongly that the wheat commission must be accountable to Idaho’s wheat growers as to how we spend their hard-earned dollars,” Hamilton said. “Currently, we have no way of reporting how we have invested their dollars or of asking them for their advice on future investments.”
When asked how growers would benefit from the rule change, Hamilton used a 2014 stripe rust outbreak as an example. The University of Idaho issued an early warning of a stripe rust outbreak that year and the wheat commission quickly relayed that information to growers, he said.
Like other farmers who got the early warning, Hamilton sprayed his crop in time to protect it. “Those that didn’t, lost (up to) 30 percent of their crop,” he said.
“Those growers who were part of the communications tree got an early warning and were able to protect their crop,” Jacobson told Capital Press.
Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, said he has spoken to numerous wheat growers in his district about the issue and “every single person I’ve spoken to was strongly in favor of this. It’s nothing sinister, which some people may think it may be. It’s really a great idea.”
Hamilton said the information would only be used to conduct the period referendums the commission is required by Idaho statute to do to gauge whether wheat farmers approve of the way the commission is spending their checkoff dollars, and to mail growers the Idaho Grain Magazine.
Growers on the list could voluntarily opt-in to IWC’s other forms of communications, such as its weekly newsletter and text updates.
“The only thing we’re after is to give them information,” Hamilton said. “We don’t want to use their information.”