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Idaho ag committees filled with real farmers, ranchers


Capital Press

BOISE -- The 2013 Idaho Legislature's House and Senate ag committees are filled with farmers and ranchers who have significant agricultural experience.

"Both ag committees have a group of people that industry can work with very well," Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott said.

Both committees lost several key farmers and ranchers from last year, but their replacements have plenty of hands-on experience in agriculture, said Rep. Ken Andrus, a Republican cattle rancher from Lava Hot Springs who will chair the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.

"As I look at the makeup of the committee, I see some very, very talented and qualified people," Andrus said. "Agriculture will be well represented by both crop and livestock people."

Eight of the 14 members of the House ag committee have direct farming experience.

That includes Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, a rancher who is vice chair of the committee, and Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, an agricultural consultant and retired University of Idaho extension educator.

Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield, is a farmer and rancher who has a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering, and Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, is a former specialty crop farmer in Canyon County who has a bachelor's degree in agricultural business management.

Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, is a retired farmer, Rep. Julie Van Orden, R-Pingree, is an agribusiness owner, and Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, is a retired tree farmer.

The House and Senate ag committees lost a combined seven farmers and ranchers from the 2012 session and Batt was a little concerned about how the House ag committee would look after redistricting, which shifted more rural seats to urban areas.

But the committee ended up having significant farm representation that covers a wide variety of farm commodities, she said.

"I feel really good about the on-the-farm experience that is going to be on the committee," Batt said.

On the other side of the rotunda, four of the nine members of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee have farming backgrounds and a few others have strong tires to agriculture.

Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, the committee chairman, is a retired potato, alfalfa and wheat farmer who owned and operated 3,100 acres of farmland near Blackfoot for 30 years.

Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, the committee's vice chair, is a cattle rancher, as is Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, who has a bachelor's degree in agriculture from UI and is a former president of the Idaho Cattle Association.

Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, is a farmer who has a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics.

"I thought we did a good job of choosing committee members," Bair said. "Even some of those members who are not necessarily ag people have experience with agriculture."

That includes Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier, who grew up on and around farms in Soda Springs in southeast Idaho and works for Agrium's Soda Springs phosphate plant, which produces fertilizer, and Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, who served on the House ag committee for several years.


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