Programs protect goats, but fees only assessed on sheep
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- A bill that would increase the ceiling of Idaho's sheep checkoff fee would also give the Idaho Sheep Commission authority to assess the fee on goats.
How the commission would go about doing that could turn out to be a little tricky.
The bill, which easily passed the House and is being debated by the full Senate, would allow the commission to increase the grower checkoff fee from 6 cents per pound of wool to as much as 12 cents. The increase was supported by Idaho Wool Growers Association members during their annual conference in November.
Half of the commission's budget is used to regulate sheep and goat health in Idaho and the other half is used to help fund state predator-control efforts. Because the ISC can't assess the checkoff fee to goats, the sheep industry is paying for everything, IWGA Executive Director Stan Boyd told lawmakers.
"We do handle the health end of things for goats, (and) wolves, coyotes and mountain lions like to eat goats, too, so they're benefiting from the depredation funds as well," he said.
But because goats aren't shorn and the animals aren't tracked as well as sheep, industry officials told lawmakers they're not sure how they would collect the fee from goat owners if the decision is ever made to assess those animals.
There are a handful of large goat outfits in Idaho but the majority of the animals are scattered throughout the state in small herds, Boyd said, adding that auctions aren't keen on collecting the fee.
"We have no idea who owns them and no idea how to collect from them," he said. The decision on whether and how to apply the checkoff fee to goats "has yet to be debated and yet to be figured out," he added.
Tim Linquist, who owns 300 goats in Wilder, Idaho, said he doesn't agree with applying the checkoff fee to goats because he doubts the industry benefits nearly as much from the commission's existence as sheep producers do.
"I looked at the bill and it's all about sheep," he said. "I think they need more money and they're going to get it from the goat people."
Despite sending the bill to the floor with a do-pass recommendation, members of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee expressed concern that Idaho law doesn't allow goat producers to serve on the commission's board of directors.
"How can we assess goats if nobody on the board is a goat producer?" asked Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood.
Boyd said that if the decision is ever made to assess goats, the industry would return to lawmakers to ensure goat producers could serve on the board.
The bill also changes the name of the sheep commission to the Idaho Sheep and Goat Health Board because the commission receives some general fund support and is not charged with advertising and promotion.