National bean council tries to woo Idaho back
By SEAN ELLIS
GLENNS FERRY, Idaho -- U.S. Dry Bean Council leaders visited Idaho this week to try to convince the Idaho Bean Commission to rejoin the private trade association.
The IBC resigned its 2013 membership from the USDBC, a move that will save the commission up to $30,000 a year, an amount that represents one-seventh of the commission's budget.
Commissioners said the group resigned its membership because they didn't believe Idaho growers were getting a benefit for the money and they believe it can be better spent elsewhere.
The USDBC president and executive director presented a case for why the IBC should rejoin their group during the commission's regular meeting April 23.
USDBC Executive Director Jeane Wharton outlined the council's efforts to market beans domestically and internationally and educate people about their health benefits. Wharton, who is based in Wyoming, said sales of U.S. pintos to Turkey have tripled since the council paid for a workshop on canned bean trials there.
USDBC President Craig Kelley said the council just kicked off a crop revenue insurance program for dry bean growers that is available to council members.
"I think that's a big deal for growers," said Kelley, who works for bean dealer Rangen Inc. in Idaho. "That has not been affordable to them before and I want us to be on a level playing field with other crops."
Kelley said the council is strengthening its government affairs program and will soon have more representation in Washington, D.C. He also said the $25,000 the IBC paid in dues to the council each year was negotiable.
IBC members after the meeting said the cost-benefit question was still the main issue but they also said the possibility their annual fee could be lowered gave them something to think about.
"I was interested to here them say, 'Maybe we don't need $25,000,'" said IBC member Leonard Andrew.
IBC member Bill Bitzenburg said the $30,000 the IBC spent being a member of the council was close to one-third of the commission's discretionary budget and while the IBC's revenue has been flat for several years, expenses continue to rise.
"Craig makes some salient points. A lot of the things they do are important to growers," Bitzenburg said. "But it came down to budgeting. Every year we re-analyze the cost-benefit of the things we are doing and the (USDBC) seemed to be one of the things we could do without."
Discussing whether to rejoin the council will be one of the commission's top priorities during its June 14 meeting, said IBC Chairman Lorell Skogsberg.
The IBC has an open mind on the question of whether to rejoin the USDBC but the cost-benefit question is the main issue, said IBC member Don Tolmie, who said the commission has spent about half a million dollars being a member of the group.
"We have not seen a return on investment to our growers," he said. "We need more for our money."