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Capitol Reflections: 2021 Session Issue 3

“The success of the Government does not lie in wringing all the revenue it can from the people, but in making their burden as light and fairly distributed as possible, consistent with the proper maintenance of the necessary public functions.”  - President Calvin Coolidge

Proposal Would Secure Choice for Dairymen

BOISE- This week a bill securing dairymen’s ability to choose between two different, yet equally protective nutrient management methods was introduced into the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.  HB51 is a one sentence bill which states: “The nutrient management standard shall provide dairy farms with the option of a phosphorous-indexing or phosphorous threshold standard for nutrient management plan implementation.”

HB51 is a collaboration between the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, Milk Producers of Idaho and the Idaho Farm Bureau.  When Phosphorus Indexing was approved for use in the state by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), it was determined that indexing was equally effective to the phosphorus threshold method of nutrient management that was then being used.  Unfortunately, ISDA decided to phase out the threshold method so that only the new indexing method was available in the future.  ISDA imposed a five-year sunset after which no dairy could use the threshold method, even though it was still preferred by some dairymen.

IDA, MPI and IFBF have been working with ISDA over the past three years to remove the sunset language through negotiated rulemaking.  ISDA has been reluctant to do that as they don’t want to administer two different programs, even though they recognize that both standards are equally protective.  The legislature is through waiting for ISDA to act, and HB51 will ensure that dairy owners will have the option to use whichever nutrient management method works best within their operation.

We expect HB51 to have a hearing within the next week or so.  IFBF supports HB51.

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Property Tax Budget Limitation Bill Delayed

BOISE - This week the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee was set to hold a hearing on S1021 which would place a reasonable limit on the growth of the property tax portion of a local taxing district’s budget.  Currently, taxing districts such as cities, counties, highway districts, etc. are able to increase the property tax portion of their budget by 3% over the previous year, then add on any new construction, plus any foregone balance, plus any annexation.  This means many budgets grow by far more than 3% in a year.  For instance, Ada County grew by more than 11% a year ago.  At that rate, their budget will double in less than 7 years.

S1021 would limit only the property tax portion of the budget to 3% growth in taxing districts with low growth, and 4% in districts with higher growth.  Keep in mind, property taxes are only a portion of all the revenues that taxing districts receive, and for many, it is not even the majority of the revenues they receive.  Therefore, to place a reasonable limit on just the property tax portion of their budget is not an insurmountable hardship for them. 

S1021 also provides a relief mechanism for the taxing districts.  If there is a legitimate need for the district to exceed the budget growth cap, they can do so after receiving an affirmative vote of the people.  This allows the taxpayers to have more input into how their taxes are being used at the local level, and puts government back to work for the people, not the other way around.

Unfortunately, the day the hearing was to be held, the sponsor, Senator Jim Rice (R-Caldwell) found a technical error in the bill as printed and he pulled the bill from the agenda so a new, corrected bill can be printed.  Once it is introduced, the new bill will have a new number, and will have a full hearing.  IFBF supports S1021 and its successor bill.


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Constitutional Amendment - Psychoactive Drugs

BOISE - This week, the Senate State Affairs Committee considered a proposed state constitutional amendment prohibiting the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of certain psychoactive drugs. Senate Joint Resolution 101 (SJR101) sponsored by Senator Scott Grow (R-Meridian) would essentially enshrine in the Idaho constitution the state’s drug policy. Specifically, the proposed amendment would cite the state’s Schedule I/Controlled Substance List in the constitution; however, it does provide an exception that would allow the legislature to make important distinctions between recreational drugs and federally recognized legal substances (i.e. prescribed medications, industrial hemp, etc.).

On Monday, the committee held a full hearing on the resolution with many hours of public testimony given on both sides of the issue. With so much public testimony and input provided during the hearing, the committee held off on acting on the resolution until later in the week. On Friday, the committee voted along party lines (7-2) to send it to the Senate floor with a do-pass recommendation. 

Any proposed constitutional amendment before going into effect must first pass both chambers of the legislature by a super majority vote (2/3). After that, the proposal will then be put before the people on the ballot of the next general election. If passed by a simple majority of the voters, it is only then the constitutional amendment would be put in place.

Farm Bureau supports Senator Grow’s efforts to further solidify Idaho’s drug policy and protect it from future erosion.  The members of the Idaho Farm Bureau have long held a policy position opposing illegal drugs and drug abuse in the state. This effort may be the key to alleviating concerns expressed by certain legislators and will finally allow industrial hemp to be approved this year? IFBF supports SJR101.

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Perennial Minimum Wage Bill

BOISE - S1028 is this year’s minimum wage increase bill. If passed, this legislation would increase the state minimum wage from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour effective July 1, 2021.  It would then increase incrementally to $12.50 per hour effective July 1, 2022, and then to $15.00  per hour effective July 1, 2023. It would also raise the state minimum tipped wage to $5.00 per hour effective July 1, 2021. Then to $6.25 per hour effective July 1, 2022, and then to $7.50 per hour effective July 1, 2023. Additionally, this legislation would eliminate the lower training wage for teenagers and it would permit counties to set a higher minimum wage if they so desire. The bill was sent to Senate State Affairs Committee.

There are thirteen legislators listed on the co-sponsor list of this legislation: Senator Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise), Senator David Nelson (D-Moscow), Senator Mark Nye (D-Pocatello), Senator Ali Rabe (D-Boise), Senator Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum), Senator Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise), Senator Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise), Representative Muffy Davis (D-Ketchum), Representative John McCrostie (D-Garden City), Representative Colin Nash (D-Boise), Representative Lauren Necochea (D-Boise), Representative Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) and Representative James Ruchti (D-Pocatello).

IFBF policy opposes “any minimum wage within the state that is higher than the federal minimum wage.”  IFBF Opposes S1028.


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ISDA's Weights and Measures Rules Fail to Pass Committee

BOISE - On Tuesday, the House Agricultural Affairs Committee took under consideration two sets of ISDA rules, one pertaining to pesticide applications and the other to the state’s weights and measures program. The committee held a technical hearing and explanation with the Department last week, and on Tuesday, the committee took action on the two sets of rules. The committee passed the pesticide application rules but failed to pass the weights and measures program rules. This action will require ISDA to work with the Governor’s Office and stakeholders to determine how they will proceed forward.

The state’s weights and measures program oversees the inspection of all scales and measuring devices used throughout the state. This of course covers the typical scales used in the agricultural industry (i.e. livestock scales, truck scales, etc.), but also those used daily by the general public (i.e. fuel pumps, grocery store scales, etc.).

The proposed rule would have raised the fees assessed to the owners of the scales and measuring devices inspected and increased the appropriation request from the state’s general fund. Funding for the state program is approximately divided equally; roughly 50% from fees, and 50% from the state general fund.

Click HERE to view rule.

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New State Veterinarian Announced After the Retirement of Dr. Bill Barton

BOISE- Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould announced the appointment of the new State Veterinarian Scott Leibsle, DVM, effective immediately. This announcement was made following the retirement of Bill Barton, DVM, who worked for the ISDA for 14 years. Among Dr. Barton’s successes as State Veterinarian, Barton and his staff efficiently responded to animal disease events, supported service to a growing livestock sector, and worked on behalf of our producers to maintain a functional marketplace in Idaho and beyond.

Dr. Leibsle received his veterinary degree from the University of Wisconsin, School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. Idaho’s State Veterinarian also serves as the administrator for the ISDA’s Division of Animal Industries, which oversees livestock health, dairies and dairy processors, rangeland services and other aspects of animal-related agriculture.

Idaho Farm Bureau hopes to continue to work closely with ISDA and the new state Vet, Dr. Leibsle as Dairy and beef cattle production are Idaho’s largest agricultural sectors that make up over half of Idaho agriculture’s total farm gate receipts.


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