BOISE — A bill that would require all beef bulls in Idaho to be tested for trichomoniasis has made it to the Senate floor.
Members of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee voted unanimously Feb. 11 to send the bill forward with a “do-pass” recommendation.
Only breeding bulls south of the Salmon River are currently required to be tested annually for trich, a venereal disease that causes abortions in cattle.
About 80 percent of Idaho’s beef cattle are south of the Salmon.
The issue of expanding trich testing to north Idaho ranchers has been a contentious one that the industry has hotly debated for several years.
Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott told lawmakers that his group decided statewide testing was in the best interests of the industry.
The ICA represents about 1.7 million of Idaho’s 2 million head of beef cattle.
During a public hearing where the legislation was debated, Prescott said a study has shown that if trich is not detected in a herd within the first year, there is a 70 percent chance of that producer going out of business.
“It can spread very rapidly … before the damage is completely known,” he said. “It’s a significant threat to the industry.”
Russ Hendricks, director of governmental affair for Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, said IFBF members decided to support statewide testing during the group’s annual meeting in December.
The issue was completely vetted, he said. “There was a little debate against and a lot of debate for.”
Idaho in 1989 became the first state to adopt a trich testing program and producers north of the Salmon were exempted five years later because it was felt there wasn’t a problem in that area.
Nathan Noah, a rancher in Cambridge, which is south of the Salmon River, testified in support of the bill and said the current rule jeopardizes herds in southern Idaho like his that are tested.
“It puts our operation’s financial viability at risk,” he said.
Without statewide testing, Idaho could end up being an island within the northwest, said Republican Sen. Bert Brackett, a rancher in southern Idaho and a Senate ag committee member.
“Essentially, it is somewhat of an island already,” Prescott said.