Idaho agriculture looks to 2014 legislative session
BOISE — Obtaining more state money for agricultural research, education and wolf control efforts will be among the top priorities for Idaho farm groups during the 2014 Idaho Legislature.
The session convenes Jan. 6 when Gov. Butch Otter delivers his annual state of the state address. Otter is expected to ask Idaho’s 105 lawmakers to approve an additional $1.5 million for University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
CALS lost $5.7 million in ongoing state funding following the last recession and Otter, a cattle rancher and farmer, has publicly stated that he wants to see those funds restored.
Leaders of Idaho’s largest farm groups said they will back him on that goal.
“We’re going to do all we can to push that through,” said Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director Travis Jones.
Jones said the Gem State agricultural community will also be solidly behind a proposal to secure an additional $2.24 million annually in state money for Idaho’s FFA and other secondary agricultural education programs.
For the state’s livestock groups, the top priority during the session will likely be passing an industry led proposal that could generate as much as $500,000 a year more for wolf control efforts in Idaho.
To do that will require convincing lawmakers to increase the state’s brand renewal fee by $25 and allow wool growers to increase their assessment fee by 2 cents per pound of wool. It would also require some money from the state’s general fund and a contribution by Idaho sportsmen.
The money would help fund Idaho Wildlife Services’ predator control efforts. The agency has suffered significant cuts in federal funding in recent years, which has hampered its ability to deal with problem wolves, said Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association.
“We just have to get a handle on this wolf depredation issue on livestock,” Boyd said.
Idaho’s livestock community failed to walk away from the 2013 Idaho Legislature with any additional funds for wolf control efforts.
Idaho agriculture could end up leading the delicate discussion on the possibility of increasing some fees and taxes to raise some of the additional $262 million a year that a governor’s transportation task fore says is needed to maintain the state’s transportation infrastructure.
The discussion was started in 2013 when Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican rancher from Rogerson, and Rep. Clark Kauffman, a Republican farmer from Filer, introduced four bills that offered numerous proposals that would raise some of the funding.
Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead said there may be attempts to more strictly enforce the state’s dyed diesel law but said it’s unlikely there would be a serious attempt to move to a rebate system that requires dyed diesel users to pay the 25-cents per gallon state diesel tax upfront and claim a refund later.