By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- The Idaho Bean Commission has opted not to rejoin the U.S. Dry Bean Council despite an offer from the national group to substantially reduce the commission's annual membership fee.
IBC commissioners last year decided not to renew their group's annual membership in the USDBC, a private trade association that promotes U.S. edible beans.
The move saves the commission $25,000 in annual dues, plus another $5,000 in travel expenses.
USDBC officials made a face-to-face pitch to IBC members to rejoin their group during the commission's regular meeting in April. The national group later offered to reduce the IBC's annual membership fee to $10,000.
IBC members debated the offer during their June meeting but decided to turn it down because they felt the money could be better spent elsewhere.
"The reason we decided not to renew our membership is it's expensive and we're still debating whether it's the best way to ... get the best benefit out of growers' and dealers' money," said IBC Commissioner Bill Bitzenburg.
The $30,000 the IBC spent being a member of USDBC each year represents about one-seventh of the commission's total budget and close to one-third of its discretionary money, he said.
More than 70 percent of Idaho's bean acres are seed beans and that industry holds such a minority position in the USDBC that they get little benefit from being a member of the group, Bitzenburg said.
"I don't want to beat up on the USDBC; they do a lot of good things," he said. "But we're not ready to commit $10,000 a year to something that we're not really sure we're getting that much benefit from."
Other commissioners felt the same way.
"We're such a seed growing area, I don't see that we get a lot of representation out of it," said IBC Commissioner Dana Rasmussen.
But Rasmussen also said he's sure the commission will revisit the issue and said he would keep an open mind about rejoining.
"It was nice of them to come back and lower the (fee)," he said. "It will be further discussed."
The results of a recent IBC survey showed that funding research aimed at helping growers overcome production challenges was a priority for Idaho dry bean farmers.
"Would that $10,000 go further for Idaho-specific production research than for membership in the USDBC? That's still one of the questions," said IBC Administrator Lacey Menasco.
The membership issue also comes at a time when the IBC is trying to find enough money to fund or help fund a bean breeding program that could develop bean cultivars that grow well in Idaho soil and improve yields.
"We're trying to squirrel away as much money as we can so that if we do decide to fund an endowment, we'd have something there," Bitzenburg said.