BOISE — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Idaho together June 2 and vowed to partner closely with states and communities on land management and other issues.
The two federal agencies plan to work closer together — and want to work closely as partners with states and communities, the secretaries told several hundred people at Boise State University.
“We’re aware that one size doesn’t fit all,” Perdue told the crowd, which included leaders of Idaho’s farming and ranching industries.
He said the agencies’ seriousness about giving local residents a real opportunity to impact federal policy was evidenced by their visit, which included a private breakfast meeting with 10 farmers and ranchers.
“We’re here to make that commitment to you today,” said Perdue, whose comments about partnering with states and communities were echoed by Zinke. “We’re (here) talking direct, eyeball-to-eyeball. We’re going to make a (change) in the way we do business.”
Zinke said one of his main focuses in the coming years will be building trust. “We have to re-establish that collaborative effort (of) working with communities,” he said.
The two secretaries were accompanied by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican rancher, who told Capital Press the visit was historic.
“Having the two of them here, together, in complete agreement with what their agencies’ relationship ought to be with the state is probably the most refreshing thing politically that I have seen in a long time,” Otter said.
During a question-and-answer session with the media, Otter said the secretaries’ message was clear: “There’s a new sheriff in town and there’s a whole new idea called collaboration and working together.”
The pair’s visit was praised by Idaho ag leaders who met with them during the private breakfast.
“The fact that we had two secretaries in Idaho at the same time to talk about natural resource issues was absolutely unprecedented,” said Laurie Lickley, a cattle rancher from Jerome.
During the meeting with the public at BSU, Perdue said, “I think it’s time we start looking at forests as crops and use them,” which drew praise from Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Bryan Searle, a farmer from Shelley.
“I thought that was phenomenal because that’s exactly right,” Searle said. “That’s our problem now — we’ve got too much fuel out there, old timber’s falling down and we haven’t treated them like crops.”
Several Idaho FFA members attended the BSU meeting, and Perdue praised that group at least twice.
“The young people to your left are what gives me hope and optimism” about agriculture’s future, he said to one person sitting next to a group of FFA members wearing the group’s iconic blue jackets.
Perdue said FFA members “are getting the best leadership training of any youth group in the country, bar none. ... I’m optimistic about the future of people like you.”