Idaho Barley Commission mulls move to Idaho Falls
By John O’Connell
ABERDEEN, Idaho — The Idaho Barley Commission has authorized its administrator, Kelly Olson, to study the financial impact of moving her office from Boise to Idaho Falls, where she believes she could better interact with growers.
The five-year lease on the current office, located in the same building as the headquarters of the Idaho Wheat Commission and Idaho Grain Producers Association, comes due in March.
During an Oct. 17 meeting at the University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center, Olson told her board she’d avoid countless lengthy drives to meetings and IBC functions by moving to the state’s major barley production area.
She described a recent work day when she didn’t start her trip home from Idaho Falls until 11 p.m., following meetings with Anheuser-Busch and a UI Extension researcher. Olson said she’d also like the chance to hear growers’ concerns in person, or simply to meet them for morning coffee.
“I think my job would be better and so much easier if I lived in Idaho Falls,” Olson said. “I drive more and more every year.”
Another benefit of the move would be the opportunity for Olson to work more closely with the new UI barley agronomist, whose position will be funded by an IBC endowment.
IGPA president Clark Hamilton, a grain grower who lives in Ririe near Idaho Falls, voiced concerns about the plan. He prefers to have the state’s three grain organizations under one roof. Hamilton said it took several years to get the groups together, and he’ll bring the proposed move up for discussion by the full IGPA board.
During the legislative session, Hamilton believes working in the same building helps the groups reach coordinated decisions.
“It seems like it’s a perfect mix to have everybody there,” Hamilton said. “I’d hate to see anything diminish that relationship by moving you out.”
Aside from a single annual presentation to the legislature, Olson said she has little involvement with the Legislature. She doubts communication among the three grain organizations would suffer if IBC were to move.
“We conduct so much business by email. Functionally, I don’t think it really matters if we’re in the same building,” Olson said. “I would like more face time with growers. That’s what motivates me. (I) could be at their place and give them some direction, and I think that’s good value for the taxes they’re paying.”
Barley Commissioner Pat Purdy, of Picabo, emphasized the current office is at least 75 miles away from the nearest barley production area.
Commissioner Dwight Little said growers routinely seek Olson’s advice on issues such as market dynamics, contracts and diseases.
“Kelly is a great resource, but she needs to be where the people can access her,” Little said.
Olson believes office rent and parking would be cheaper in Idaho Falls, but the tradeoff would be more expensive airfare.
Her assistant, Andrea Woolf, would likely have her position reduced to three-quarter time, working from her home in Boise.
Commissioner Tim Dillin, of Bonners Ferry, asked Olson to also investigate the cost of maintaining offices in both Boise and Idaho Falls, where he suggested she could reside only during the busy season.