Idaho legislature will deal with wolves, wine, soybeans and ag credits

Idaho's Capitol building is shown in this file photo. Several bills that could impact Idaho's agricultural industry will be introduced during the 2018 legislative session, which convened Jan. 8.

BOISE — During Idaho’s 2018 legislative session, there will be an effort to create a moratorium on soybean production in parts of the state where dry beans are grown.

A bill that would extend the life of the state’s wolf depredation control board will also be proposed, as will legislation that seeks to require all high school students in the state to complete at least two agricultural education classes to graduate.

Unlike last year, it appears unlikely there will be revived efforts to change the state’s law on the use of dyed fuel, which is heavily used in the agricultural industry.

The Idaho Bean Commission and Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association will introduce legislation that would ban soybeans from being grown in southcentral and southwestern Idaho, where the state’s dry bean industry is located.

Those groups worry soybean seed could bring in diseases that could harm Idaho’s $70 million dry bean industry. They will conduct a presentation on the issue before the House and Senate ag committees later this month before introducing legislation, said IEOSA Executive Director Roger Batt.

A proposal to continue the wolf depredation control board indefinitely has already been introduced; the board’s statutory authority to exist would end after this year otherwise.

The proposal would trim the amount the state provides to the board from $400,000 to $200,000 annually. The state’s cattle and sheep producers provide $110,000 per year to the board, as do Idaho sportsmen groups.

The money is used by the board to fund efforts to control problem wolves.

“We need that wolf control board,” said Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Cameron Mulrony. “The impact that wolves are having is growing and we need that ability to control wolves when it’s necessary.”

Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale and chairwoman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, has supported efforts to raise money to control problem wolves.

But she told Food Producers of Idaho members Jan. 17 that she doesn’t like the idea of cutting the amount of money the state provides the wolf board in half.

“That’s going to be a controversial (proposal),” she said.

Two bills dealing with dyed diesel, which is tinted red so it can easily be identified and is exempt from state and federal fuel taxes because it is only for off-road use, were defeated last year.

One would have created a dyed diesel enforcement program and the other would have done away with dyed fuel altogether in Idaho and required people eligible to use it to apply for a tax refund.

“We don’t expect those (proposals) to come up this year after they were soundly defeated last year,” said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Director of Governmental Affairs Russ Hendricks.

On behalf of the Idaho Wine Commission, Batt will also guide legislation that would allow custom labels celebrating such events as weddings or anniversaries to be placed on wine bottles. It would also allow restaurants and hotels to team with wineries to put custom private labels on wine bottles.

A bill that would create an income tax credit designed to incentivize the state’s shortline railroads to invest in improving their infrastructure was introduced Jan. 17.

Supporters of that legislation told Food Producer members it would benefit Idaho shippers, growers and food processors by getting their products to market more efficiently and cheaper.

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