BOISE — Agriculture is well represented at the 2014 Idaho Legislature, with farmers and ranchers holding many key positions in both the House and Senate.
The total number of farmers and ranchers in the legislature’s 105-member body is down a little from two years ago because of redistricting, which shifted more rural seats to urban areas, said Sen. Jim Patrick, a Republican farmer from Twin Falls.
But agriculture’s representation in key leadership positions is unchanged, he added.
“The numbers aren’t as great … but agriculture is fairly well represented at the legislature because a lot of leadership positions are held by farmers or ranchers,” he said. “That’s a powerful thing.”
The speaker of the House, Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, is a rancher, and the majority leader, Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, is a farmer.
Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, a sheep rancher, returns as chairman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.
Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is a retired farmer, and Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, chairman of the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, is a farmer.
Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, a farmer with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, is chairman of the Resources and Conservation Committee, and Rep. Thomas Loertscher, R-Iona, a farmer and rancher, is chairman of the State Affairs Committee.
On the Senate side, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, a cattle rancher, is chairman of the Transportation Committee, and Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, also a cattle rancher, is chairman of the Resources and Environment Committee.
Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, a retired potato and alfalfa farmer who owned and operated 3,100 acres of farmland near Blackfoot for 30 years, returns as chairman of the Agricultural Affairs Committee.
Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, an agribusiness owner, is chairman of the Judiciary and Rules Committee, and Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, a sheep rancher, is chairman of the Local Government and Taxation Committee.
Ten people from both chambers who are actively involved with agriculture are vice chairmen of committees.
In addition, Idaho’s governor and lieutenant governor, Butch Otter and Brad Little, are both ranchers.
“I think agriculture has good representation in the legislature,” said Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director Travis Jones.
Both chambers’ ag committees are also filled with farmers and ranchers. Nine of the House ag committee’s 14 members are farmers or ranchers, as are four of the Senate ag committee’s nine members.
“There are a lot of ag persons on the committee,” Andrus said of the House ag committee. “Even the ones who aren’t involved with agriculture have had experience on the committee, so they are aware of the ag issues. Ag is very well represented, I think.”