By SEAN ELLIS
A large number of people eager to learn more about proposed federal food safety regulations are signing up to attend the Idaho Water Users Association Summer Water Law and Resource Issues Seminar June 17-18.
The regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration have the potential to impact agriculture in a very negative way and interest in them is helping drive people to sign up for the seminar, said IWUA Executive Director Norm Semanko.
"The potential to have completely unrealistic and unachievable regulations imposed on growers is a big issue," he said.
The proposed food safety regulations, which are related to the Food Safety Modernization Act, would destroy the profitability of many Idaho and U.S. producers and cause them to have to shut down, Boise attorney Scott Campbell said.
Campbell, who specializes in agricultural and water law, will discuss the proposed rules in-depth during a presentation titled, "Pure Water, Pure Food, Pure Disaster."
Campbell said the FDA proposal is fraught with unintended consequences. For example, he said, a proposed regulation on allowable microbial levels in agricultural irrigation water could not be met by most farmers who use surface irrigation.
If the water fails a required weekly test, the farmer can't use it.
"That's not really an option if you're growing a crop," he said.
"The reach of this proposed rule is not understood by many people, even in the agricultural industry," he added. "I'm going to ... try to educate people about exactly what's involved."
The seminar includes several other major topics, including the future of new dams in Idaho, changes to Idaho's irrigation district election laws, what the Columbia River Treaty means for Idaho and an update on bull trout critical habitat consultation.
Marc Thalacker, manager of Three Sisters Irrigation District in Sisters, Ore., will discuss pending federal legislation that could pave the way for a large number of small hydroelectric generation projects on irrigation systems in the West.
The legislation, which has passed the House and a Senate committee, would remove a lot of the regulatory hurdles for these projects, he said.
"There is the potential in the West for thousands of these sites," he said.
The seminar will take place in Sun Valley, Idaho. More information and registration details can be found at the IWUA web site at www.iwua.org or by calling (208) 344-6690.
Attendance at the annual seminar has grown the past two years, from 170 to 180, and 163 people were already signed up this year through early June, with many more expected to sign up at the door, Semanko said.
"The interest in the seminar has grown and a lot of that has to do with the speakers and topics," he said.