Capitol Reflections: 2023 Session, Issue 2
By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs
Water Users Convention
This week, the Idaho Water Users Association (IWUA) held its 86th Annual Convention in Boise to discuss the pressing water issues of the state and to establish the organization’s legislative priorities. The event is attended by many water system managers, canal/irrigation companies and district board members, policymakers, state and federal agencies, water engineer firms, and other parties of interest.
Topics discussed during the multi-day event included new and emerging technologies to improve water efficiency in delivery systems, government funding for water storage projects, the water supply outlook for the coming irrigation season, and the impacts of population growth on water systems. The convention also provides the opportunity to hear from the Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the Chairman of the Idaho Water Resource Board.
This year, Director Gary Spackman focused a good portion of his comments on the need for the stakeholders of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer to stay at the negotiating table and work out the difficult issues of the water dispute in that basin. He stressed that the outcome of a negotiated settlement between the parties would lead to a better outcome than that of a curtailment order issued by the department.
Among IWUA’s priorities are topics of interest for the Idaho Farm Bureau. Most notable are our mutual areas of support for water infrastructure funding for storage and conservation projects and investment in water quality projects including for CAFOs. Additionally, there is legislation to further emphasize the need to use surface water first prior to utilizing groundwater. There would be a number of practical exceptions to the requirement, but the idea is to limit additional pressures on the state’s groundwater resources.
Farm Bureau policy supports investment in the state’s water infrastructure, funding for water quality projects, and protecting water right holders from any change in the historical use of water that would injure their water right. IFBF looks forward to working with legislators as they prioritize funding for water projects and consider water policy proposals.
Restricted Driver’s License
Conversations continue to happen around the need for a Restricted Driver’s License (RDL) in Idaho. This has been a discussion for a couple of years now, with different versions of a bill being introduced to receive stakeholders’ and legislators’ feedback. This year is no different.
A new draft was worked on during the interim to address concerns brought up in the Senate Transportation Committee last year. Here are some of the big takeaways in the newest version of this legislation:
- Restricted Driver’s Licenses would be issued directly by ITD, or an entity authorized by it. Meaning county Sheriffs and DMVs would only participate if they actively opted in.
- Costs of implementation will be offset by program revenue or be revenue positive through a $50 biannual fee.
- This license is not an endorsement of lawful entry to the U.S. and cannot be used to exercise rights of citizenship (which will also be printed directly onto the card itself).
- The license cannot be used to register to vote or to vote, to buy alcohol, to buy firearms or be used to exercise any right or privileges reserved for U.S. citizens.
- To receive an RDL, the individual will be required to go through the same training and testing as required by any other Class D license holder in the state.
Idaho Farm Bureau policy number 133 states “we support legislation granting driving privileges to all persons residing in Idaho who pass the required traffic and driving testing, pay the required licensing fees, and provide proof of automobile insurance. We support this type of legislation only if driving privilege cards cannot be used as a form of identification.”
It is understood that there is need for immigration reform and more secure borders, which is also in Farm Bureau policy. However, those issues must be addressed on the federal level by Congress and the past few years little has been accomplished to move the needle on these fronts. The most recent was the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that, while many hours were put into negotiations, ended with nothing moving forward at this time.
At this point, it is recognized that there are undocumented workers already in Idaho that are driving on Idaho roads. Without federal reform, there is little that can be done to address this on a state level. It still poses the issue of safety on Idaho roads for all Idahoans and there is something that we can do on the state level about that. The RDL would ensure trained drivers are on the roads as well as provide the necessary driving history and tracking to be able to purchase insurance. In general, an Office of Performance Evaluation study found that accidents with unlicensed drivers are 3x deadlier than accidents with licensed drivers and unlicensed drivers are 9.5x more likely to flee the scene of an accident. Restricted Driver’s Licenses will hold them to the same standard as citizens, permanent residents, and lawful visitors by ensuring the safety training and insurance are in place that are currently required. Having an RDL program means a higher rate of licensed, insured and trained drivers on Idaho roads, which means overall safer roads for all Idahoans.
When discussing an RDL program, it comes down to a safety issue for the state, not an immigration issue that can only be solved by the Federal government. This type of program is good for Idaho as it provides employees with the training and insurance they need to contribute to the workforce (through multiple industries), it provides employers with employees who have had training and the assurance that they can be covered by the company’s insurance, and it provides safer roads to all Idahoans with fewer unlicensed and uninsured drivers.
Idaho Farm Bureau will continue to work with stakeholders and legislators to further the discussion on a Restricted Driver’s License program in Idaho and see what can be accomplished here at our Statehouse. We will also continue our diligent work in cooperation with American Farm Bureau to push for much needed immigration reform from our federal government.
Ag Rules Review
This week both the House and Senate Agricultural Affairs Committees reviewed rules presented by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. None of the rules were new, they were being reviewed under Governor Little’s Zero Based Rules Executive Order, which sets up a regular schedule for every rule to be examined on a five-year rotating basis. Each agency is supposed to trim unnecessary wording where possible and remove any language that is already included in statute, or in another related rule. Below is a description of several of the rules that were reviewed.
The private feeding of big game animals rule was proposed for repeal since Idaho F&G has a substantially similar rule, making this rule in ISDA redundant. Idaho F&G is responsible for any regulations dealing with big game animals, and ISDA was primarily concerned with livestock/big game interactions and the possibility of disease transmission. All of the items in the ISDA rule that were not already contained in the Idaho F&G rule have been added to the F&G rule, so there will be no reduction in protection. Idaho F&G will still work closely with ISDA to ensure that big game are not congregating nor mingling with livestock in any feeding grounds that are authorized by F&G.
There were no substantive changes proposed to the Idaho Preferred Promotion Program. Idaho Preferred is a voluntary program that Idaho-based businesses can use to promote their locally produced or processed agricultural or food-based products. Most changes were removing redundant or unnecessary language. The most significant change was made at the request of program participants, which was to change the program fee renewal due date from June 30 to Dec 30.
The Artificial Dairy Products rule is only one paragraph long. It explains how ISDA would enforce code sections prohibiting the labeling of artificial dairy products with common dairy product names. There were some minor edits to remove extraneous words.
The changes proposed to the Beef Cattle Animal Feeding Operations rule were primarily edits to make the text more concise and specific. However, the primary substantive change was to include the option for any CAFO required to have a nutrient management plan (NMP) to choose between using the current phosphorus threshold or the new phosphorus indexing method when determining appropriate rates for applying nutrients to land owned by the CAFO. This is now giving the beef producers the same option that was implemented in the dairy rules a couple of years ago and simply gives more flexibility to producers to use the system that works best for them.
The rules governing Dead Animal Movement and Disposal included a few new items at the request of industry stakeholders. One was the addition of parameters to be used when composting dead animals to ensure that pathogens were properly eradicated. Another was the requirement that the owner of any animal known to have been infected with a prion disease (BSE, Scrapie, CWD, etc.) must notify the ISDA administrator prior to disposing of the carcass in case ISDA wants to take any samples, etc. Finally, there are currently strict rules about how far away a carcass may be buried from any surface water feature. However, a new addition clarifies that this setback does not apply if the water feature is elevated or up-gradient from the burial site.
One change in the rules governing Trichomoniasis (trich) is that domestic bison are no longer subject to annual trich testing. The two reasons offered were that bison appear to be naturally immune to trich, as well as much more difficult to collect samples from, thereby creating a serious safety hazard for vets. Additionally, the 45 day waiting period following testing and prior to turn-out has been removed. Now, as long as you have a negative test result in-hand, you can turn out. This is primarily due to the much more rapid PCR testing which can return results within 24 hours in most cases, which are highly accurate.
In the rules governing apple grading and sorting, ISDA, at the request of industry stakeholders, incorporated by reference longstanding national grading standards. They also removed duplicative language.
The rules governing organic food products were completely reviewed last year, but unfortunately, when the rules were published as final rules, there were a number of changes that had been made that were inadvertently omitted. Therefore, the organic rule had to be resubmitted. There were no changes from what was reviewed and approved last year. The major change approved last year was an increase in the fees for certification of food products by ISDA as organic. The organic growers in Idaho had petitioned ISDA to increase the fees. The program is fully funded by producer fees and the department did not have the capacity to inspect everything that was being requested by producers under the old fee structure. The higher fees will allow for additional inspectors who will be able to better service the requests under this voluntary program.
Finally, the plant diseases and quarantines rules were presented primarily with edits to remove duplicative and redundant language. One substantive change was to remove the limits on the amount of cull potatoes or cull onions that could be fed to livestock. The current limit was very high, 53 lbs per day for sheep or goats, which was probably never exceeded due to the limited ability of the animals to consume that much. However, it was removed since ISDA had no way of checking or verifying the amount that was fed, so it was deemed an unnecessary part of the rule. Several other items related to plant pests which are no longer considered a threat by producers were removed as well.
The House Ag Committee approved all rules that were presented, while the Senate only listened to the presentations by ISDA and will take a vote on the rules next week. It is anticipated that the Senate Ag Committee will also approve the rules as presented.
If you would like to review any of the rules that were presented, you can see them on the ISDA website HERE.
Legislative Freshman Luncheon
On Tuesday, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation hosted its Legislative Freshman Luncheon for newly elected legislators. There were twenty-seven freshman legislators in attendance. The luncheon provides an opportunity for incoming legislators to become familiar with Farm Bureau and learn what the organization is about.
Lunch began with a quick welcome from Idaho Farm Bureau VP, Richard Durrant. During the meal an ISDA video was shown highlighting the many commodities grown in Idaho. A video was then shown of IFBF President, Bryan Searle, with a personal message to the freshman legislators. He explained that Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization and that our policies work their way up from the local county members to the state level before they can be voted into our policy book. This was followed by a few words from Zak Miller, CEO, and an introduction of the IFBF Governmental Affairs Team. Each legislator received a printout with Idaho agricultural facts along with how many Farm Bureau member families are in the counties they represent and their County Presidents’ contact information.
There was great conversation had throughout the lunch hour as well as opportunities for new legislators to get to know Farm Bureau staff and Farm Bureau board members. Vice President Durrant ended the lunch by thanking the legislators for their commitment to serve the people of Idaho and the hope that Farm Bureau can be a resource for them as they do.
Idaho Farm Bureau thanks the legislators that were in attendance and is looking forward to working with all of them throughout the session.
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