News and Commentary
Voice of Idaho Agriculture
The U.S. Forest Service circulated a strongly-worded press release recently stating the cost of firefighting has eclipsed half of the agency’s budget.
The solution recommended by USFS is to throw more money at the problem, which is not a long term fix in our view.
Every federal agency would like more money. What seems to have gotten lost in the Washington D.C. shuffle is the fact that our government is currently running a $17 trillion deficit. As a percentage of our gross domestic product (GDP), the U.S. debt load is about equal to the debt, which is better than Japan or Italy, but lags behind all other developed nations. The report from the Forest Service shows arrogance and a lack of understanding of common sense budgeting. Cutting budgets is what Washington needs to learn how to do rather than throwing money at problems that don’t lead to solutions.
Franklin County, Idaho is on the frontline in a battle with foreign invaders and leaders there are suggesting strong measures to keep the pests and the myriad problems they present – out.
Due to concerns that quagga mussels could be transported from infected Utah reservoirs, several irrigation reservoirs in Franklin County, popular with fishermen as well as water sport enthusiasts, will be closed to boats in mid to late July when funding for a state funded boat inspection program is expected to run out. The owners of the irrigation impoundments simply cannot afford to inspect boats on their own.
Quagga mussels, believed to have been transplanted to the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s in ballast water of foreign ships, have now spread and infected lakes and reservoirs in 28 states. Utah and Nevada are among the latest to make the list. If Idaho fails to protect its water, we can expect to see declining fisheries and clogged water transmission infrastructure that will hinder the ability to deliver irrigation water.
Before throwing caution to the wind and jumping on the “let’s create a new national park bandwagon,” a more thorough investigation of the proposal is needed.
The recent proposal to send a state memorandum to Congress that would change the name of Craters of the Moon National Monument to National Park, was supported by the Butte County Commissioners and State Rep. Merrill Beyeler R-Leadore. There is local support for the change and we believe that is important.
However, the proposal failed after concerns about it were raised by several voices including the Idaho Farm Bureau. We would like to stress that we aren’t here to claim responsibility for killing the idea and we think it should be given time for thorough vetting. So let’s ask the hard questions first and get the answers out in front of all of the stakeholders. If it still seems like a good idea after that then let’s move forward with it.
A bill that would limit the use of eminent domain currently before the Idaho Legislature is an important piece of legislation that is being attacked by misinformation.
Sponsored by Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, the legislation would eliminate the use of eminent domain, or in other words the taking of private property, for the use of recreational pathways. If acceptable uses of eminent domain are not explicitly spelled out by law, it can become a disastrous intrusion on the rights of private property owners.
Eminent domain was established by the federal government to serve the public’s needs. Freeways, electric and other infrastructure transmission lines, schools and fire stations are examples of public needs. Bicycle paths clearly don’t fit in the same category.
The 113th elected Congress in this nation’s history recently came to a merciful end. Historians have labeled it the least productive in history in terms of bills passed with 203 pieces of legislation becoming law. The 113th beat out the 112th Congress in this category by a slim margin.
Whether Congress should be judged based on number of bills passed is open to interpretation. Sometimes it’s better when certain bills don’t get passed. But during the last two sessions of Congress, gridlock has prevailed. The opportunity for statesmanship to trump party politics has never been greater. Going forward we have a Republican congress that is expected to pass important legislation that will move the country forward. The test will be whether the 114th Congress will pass bills that President Obama will sign. Will they choose to find compromises, or stand in front of TV cameras and bloviate about the President’s veto power? We hope they choose the former.
With regard to the 113th Congress, there were three areas of bipartisan cooperation under Democratic leadership in the Senate: A five-year farm bill was passed, reforms were made in the beleaguered Veteran Affairs and, of course, the spending bill to fund the government through next September was agreed upon. But tons of business will spill over into the 114th Congress.
Ballot measures requiring labeling of food made with genetically modified ingredients recently failed in Colorado and Oregon. California and Washington voters rejected similar measures in recent years and now nearly half of all states have considered labeling requirements.
Only one state, Vermont, has passed a law requiring GMO labeling. It’s facing a legal challenge there and is not slated to take effect until 2016.
In Oregon, one of the nation’s most liberal states, the measure lost by a narrow margin. Many pundits thought a labeling bill had a good chance of passing there. In Colorado the measure was defeated by a two to one margin. Millions of dollars have been spent both advocating for GMO labeling and defending the status quo. So what is the takeaway message from this effort to implement state labeling laws?
A website recently launched by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows consumers the benefits of genetic technology in crops. Located at www.fb.org/biotech, the new site provides valuable information on the benefits of biotechnology to our economy, environment and much more.
Biotechnology has proven to be an important tool for better sustainability and food security. It helps farmers grow more food while improving the environment. For example, biotechnology reduces the use of costly inputs and improves weed management, allowing farmers to reduce tillage for better soil, water and air quality. Today, roughly 90 percent of corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the U.S. have been improved through biotechnology, and farmers are choosing biotech traits when growing other crops such as alfalfa, sugarbeets and canola.
Despite rapid adoption by farmers and a strong scientific consensus that biotechnology does not pose health and environmental risks, regulatory burdens are slowing research and innovation of new biotech traits and are starting to reduce U.S. farmers’ international competitive advantage. In addition, activist groups routinely threaten the availability of new traits by blocking science-based regulatory decisions, filing lawsuits and advocating for labeling mandates.
One reason people around the country are angry with the federal government is that unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in federal agencies are increasingly making-up and enforcing rules which destroy our legitimate rights. These agencies are usurping powers they were never given nor intended to have under the Constitution.
Unfortunately this can, and sometimes does happen here in Idaho with our state agencies as well. If we are not vigilant, rules can slip through the process that are not consistent with the intent of the law.