By JOHN O'CONNELL
BOISE, Idaho -- The Idaho State Department of Agriculture has decided potato processing waste used as animal feed should remain exempt from state regulations imposed on other feed sources.
The state Legislature, which had always exempted potato processors from feed regulation, decided during the last session to let ISDA make its own rules for exemptions. ISDA published a pending rule in September that would have removed the exemption on potato waste.
"As we went through the rule making, we thought we were hearing a desire by some in the feed industry to register those (potato processing waste) products," said Lloyd Knight, ISDA's administrator of the Division of Plant Industries.
But later this month, Knight said, ISDA will publish a revised rule that restores the exemption, based on concerns voiced during a November public hearing by industry officials representing J.R. Simplot Co., McCain Foods, Idahoan Foods, the Northwest Food Processors Association and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. The new rule, which Knight expects the Legislature to approve early in the coming session, will also add corn waste produced at the Pacific Ethanol plant in Burley to the feed exemption.
"It's definitely not an area of the business where we make any money. If we didn't give (waste) to livestock operators, we'd have to figure out a way to landfill it," said McCain spokeswoman Dierdre Dickerson.
The regulations will also be updated. ISDA has charged some feed producers a $5 registration fee per product, plus additional fees for tonnage, and others a $25 registration fee with no extra tonnage fees. The rule to be presented to the Legislature establishes a $40 registration fee with no extra tonnage fees.
ISDA rules would allow all of the waste produced at a single processing plant during a season to be considered one product. Knight explained the new system will be more efficient, as both ISDA and some companies had full-time workers devoted to "chasing tonnage reports."
Aside from fees, ISDA requires regulated feed to be labeled with nutritional content and conducts random tests to ensure those specifications are met and feed is free of contaminants.
"It's just not possible for us to quantify the nutritional value of potato waste," Dickerson said. "We're not in the business of making commercial animal feed. We don't want to have to be regulated by those kinds of standards because it doesn't apply to what we're doing."
Knight said forthcoming feed requirements outlined by the Food Safety Modernization Act should give the state a better idea of the direction in which federal policy is headed.
During the November public hearing, David Fairfield, vice president for the National Grain and Feed Association in Washington, D.C., said his organization offered a warning to ISDA about granting exemptions.
"We're not against the potato processors getting an exemption," Fairfield said. "Our statement to the department was when considering exemptions as a whole, we ask them to consider what potential lost revenue could be to the program and how that could affect overall funding."
ISDA could not estimate how much revenue the state may lose due to the exemption, or the volume of waste processors move.