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Ag bills rush to pass before Idaho Legislature ends


By SEAN ELLIS



Capital Press






BOISE -- With scant few days remaining in the 2013 Idaho Legislature, some farm-related bills are running out of time. Others ran into roadblocks earlier in the session and are officially dead. And some are trying for a last-minute comeback.



A bill that would have offered producers a state income tax credit of up to $500,000 for adding value to Idaho agricultural products is officially dead, but its sponsor plans to bring it back next year.



After being narrowly defeated in a House committee Feb. 5, the bill was headed for a comeback a few weeks ago but Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, said he opted to hold his bill until next year because it was too late in the session to have a realistic shot of getting it passed by both chambers.



"There were too many other big issues going on and rather than having it get buried in the process, we thought we would wait until next year to bring it back," he said.



A bill by the chairman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee defining torture of a companion animal appeared dead a few weeks ago when the Senate vowed to block it. But the ag committee voted March 26 to reintroduce it with some amendments.



The bill's author, Rep. Ken Andrus, a Republican rancher from Lava Hot Springs, believes adding a definition of torture to the state's animal welfare laws could be enough to prevent animal rights groups from pursuing promised voters' initiatives that seek to further amend the state's animal abuse laws.



The chairman of the Senate ag committee has told Andrus the bill won't be heard in his committee.



Bills that are officially dead include a proposal by wool growers to make it a misdemeanor for sheepherders to walk off the job and abandon their animals without first notifying their employer they are quitting.



Lawmakers opposed to it expressed concerns over making quitting a crime and Idaho Wool Growers Association Executive Director Stan Boyd said its chances of returning next year "depend on what gets done to solve the problem at the federal level."



Legislation meant to protect Idaho fish farmers from being accused of animal abuse will be brought back next year, said its author, Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding. The bill would add fish and other aquatic animals to Idaho's list of production animals.



They were inadvertently left off that list last year when the state passed a law with a felony provision for animal cruelty.



Fish industry leaders need to meet with Idaho State Department of Agriculture officials to develop industry standards on the treatment of aquatic animals, because ISDA would be the agency tasked with investigating any allegations of fish abuse, Pence said.



"We can't have them be asked to investigate something and not have any rules and industry standards to base their investigation on," she said.



Other bills, such as a scrap metal bill designed to prevent metal thefts, a bill that would give farmers a little leeway in meeting highway weight limits, and two bills designed to fund wolf control efforts, are moving quickly but are on the clock.



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