BOISE — The Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts presented Republican Sen. Steve Bair, a retired farmer from Blackfoot, with its legislator of the year award for 2013.
IASCD officials surprised Bair with the award Jan. 28 during a Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee meeting. Bair is chairman of the committee.
Bair, a retired potato, alfalfa and wheat farmer who owned and operated 3,100 acres of farmland near Blackfoot for 30 years, spearheaded a successful effort last legislative session to get the state’s soil districts an additional $50,000 in state funding.
“He was an intricate part of acquiring an additional $50,000 for the soil and water conservation commission’s budget, which in turn goes out to districts around the state,” said IASCD President Kit Tillotson.
The IASCD represents all 50 of Idaho’s soil conservation districts, which are comprised of a large number of farmers and ranchers who undertake volunteer conservation efforts to protect soil and water in their areas.
IASCD Treasurer Steve Becker said $50,000 may not seem like a lot to some agencies that are used to dealing in millions of dollars, but it goes a long way toward helping many of the smaller soil districts with limited resources but real conservation concerns.
“Our total budget for all 50 conservation districts around the state is not even $1 million, so to us it’s very, very important,” he said. “It makes a huge difference in the amount of conservation work that can be performed.”
The IASCD will ask legislators for an additional $50,000 again this year.
After the meeting, Bair said the IASCD is “a great organization and the way we get conservation done appropriately and properly in the state of Idaho.”
The conservation districts play an important role in helping farmers, ranchers and other landowners address soil and water conservation issues, he said.
Bair credited the entire committee for supporting the funding increase last year and added, “It just seemed like the right thing to do to provide a little bit of funding from the state in order to make our environment better.”