Capitol Reflections: 2024 Session, Issue 5
By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs
“A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.” Thomas Jefferson
Farm Bureau Members Participate in Legislative and Commodity Conference
The commencement of a new legislative session marked another highly successful Legislative Commodity Conference, providing Farm Bureau Members with a unique insight into the organization's grassroots policy implementation in Boise. The event, which kicked off on February 6, began with a lunch featuring Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson. Congressman Fulcher underscored the importance of dams in the power sector and raised concerns about the potential negative implications of the recently announced settlement by the Biden Administration, which could lead to dam breaching. Meanwhile, Congressman Simpson addressed the significance of labor reform, specifically focusing on the H2A program and its crucial role in meeting the needs of the Idaho agriculture workforce.
The day unfolded with a panel discussion featuring administration from the University of Idaho's leadership. Dean Michael Parrella and Associate Dean Mark McGuire highlighted exciting research endeavors at the new Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (CAFE). Dr. Phil Bass delved into the hands-on opportunities for students at the Meat Science and Innovation Center, and Associate Dean Barbara Petty shed light on the extensive extension program present in nearly every county across Idaho. Emphasizing the University of Idaho's affordability and its status as a top-tier research institution, all four panelists reinforced its role as the state's premier land grant university.
Continuing the day's momentum, discussions shifted to policy matters. The IFBF Governmental Affairs team delved into topics identified by counties as areas of interest and provided updates on current events in the Statehouse. Commodity committees then convened to discuss recommended updates to the policy book for the upcoming year, with presentations from IFBF and experts such as Dr. Scott Liebsle, the state veterinarian, who shared insights on new USDA rules regarding interstate hauling of livestock and health inspection and identification standards.
The day concluded with our annual legislative dinner, where legislators were able to visit with Farm Bureau members from their districts to visit about issues in a relaxing evening with no formal program. Conversations ranged from bills crucial to the Idaho Farm Bureau to issues impacting counties and communities. Attendees praised the value of these exchanges, while legislators expressed gratitude for the feedback and opinions of Farm Bureau members, recognizing their pivotal role in guiding policy decisions.
At breakfast the next day, members received insights from Idaho Fish and Game Director Jim Fredricks, commending Farm Bureau for collaborative efforts with landowners and producers. Topics included the department's desire for a full-time grizzly bear depredation manager in the panhandle and two general depredation managers on the eastern side. An update on Chronic Wasting Disease reported 45 cases in white-tailed deer, 8 in mule deer, and 1 in elk from 2021 to the present.
Subsequently, the group moved to the Capitol Building for various committee meetings, accompanied by presentations from speakers like Will Hart from the Idaho Consumer Owned Utilities Association, who discussed Idaho power demands and changes, including the implications of dam breaching. David Anderson from American Farmland Trust emphasized the significance of H473, the agricultural protection areas bill being considered by the legislature. Dr. Liebsle highlighted the shortage of large animal vets and the importance of encouraging students to pursue large animal veterinary medicine.
The group then converged in the House gallery for a spirited debate on the judiciary maintenance budget. Members and staff took up every chair available. Representative Melissa Durrant (R-Kuna) secured a privileged motion to recognize Farm Bureau members to the members of the House of Representatives.
The conference concluded with phone calls from Senator Mike Crapo's staff and Senator Jim Risch, both stressing the need for labor reform, the importance of dams, and addressing the compounding national debt.
Uniform Terms and Conditions on State Land Leases
H434 was recently introduced into the House Resources and Conservation Committee chaired by Rep Ron Mendive (R-Coeur d’Alene). H434 seeks to provide consistent terms and conditions on all state leases or other land use agreements, regardless of the intended land use.
The text of H434 is quite short. It reads: “All leases, land use permits, or other land use agreements of state land entered into by the state board of land commissioners shall provide standard terms and conditions for maintenance and repair of the land by the lease, permit, or contract holder during the term of the agreement and shall also include provisions for remediation by the contracting party to address any damage to state lands that exceed the agreement's terms and conditions at the completion of the agreement.”
The IFBF Beef Committee recently reviewed H434 and voted to oppose it. The committee members believe that state grazing lessees could be charged for damages that were not caused by cattle, but potentially by campers, or other recreational users on state lands. Under H434, the grazing lessee would then be contractually bound to pay for or mitigate the damage.
Grazing is different than recreation. Recreation is different than mining. Mining is different than timber harvesting. Each of these activities that occur on state lands is unique and therefore the terms and conditions for state land leases or permits should be unique to the circumstances of the activity that is being permitted. IFBF opposes H434.
Pesticide/Consumer Protection Bill Advances
On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee passed a bill regarding pesticides and the Idaho Consumer Protection Act on a 5 to 3 vote. S1245 clarifies in the law that existing regulations of pesticide labels shall be sufficient to satisfy any requirements of warning regarding the health or safety of products. These labels are strictly regulated by both state and federal laws under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
Most people understand that the agricultural industry uses such products on a regular basis in their operations. Farmers and ranchers are trained to use these chemical products according to the required manufacturer’s label. When used according to the label, potential issues/harms to human health and the environment are averted.
When it comes to labeling requirements, Farm Bureau advocates for consistency and clarity. The public and industry are best served by certainty in regulations rather than a patchwork of differing requirements depending on jurisdiction.
Farm Bureau policy supports the availability of these licensed products for agricultural producers. Agricultural chemicals are important in continuing to supply consumers with an abundant, safe, nutritious, high quality, and reasonably priced food supply. We are committed to continuing the use of agricultural chemicals in a safe and judicious manner so as to protect the health and safety of producers, employees, families, communities and the environment.
The full Senate will likely take up the bill next week for consideration. IFBF supports S1245.
H485 Creates Large Carnivore Depredation Fund
In the first week of Capitol Reflections, we highlighted a proposed initiative for a state-wide large carnivore depredation bill. Collaborating with individuals and stakeholders, including Idaho Farm Bureau, Rep. Sonia Galaviz (D-Boise) learned of the inadequacy of funding sources for both grizzly bear and wolves, with agriculture struggling with both kinds of depredation. The outcome of these insights was the introduction of H485 in the House Resources and Conservation Committee. The inspiration for this bill came from Trew Lammers, a member of the Boundary County Farm Bureau, when she testified before the House Resources and Conservation Committee on her and her sister losing their 4H lambs to a grizzly bear. Rep. Galaviz was moved by this testimony, leading to the drafting of this bill.
H485 proposes a $225,000 annual fund to manage conflicts involving grizzly bears and wolves. Of this amount, $150,000 is allocated for validated claims of depredation, while the remaining $75,000 focuses on prevention measures and education. Any remaining funds at the fiscal year's end may be used for 'probable' claims. All claims, regardless of status, will be paid on a pro-rated basis should the funds be insufficient to pay out entirely. If there is money in the fund at the end of the year, the money will accrue interest, but the fund cannot exceed $400,000.
Currently, grizzly bear compensation relies on the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), managed by the USDA and is dependent on the county where the depredation took place. Wolf depredation compensation is granted through federal funds administered by the Idaho Office of Species Conservation (OSC). Idaho only received $24,058 of federal funding for confirmed wolf kills in the next funding round. The expectation of this bill is that the fund would be depleted before paying out confirmed kills from this new fund.
The Office of Species Conservation (OSC) is responsible for administering these funds, in collaboration with Idaho Fish and Game and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. OSC is unique in that they are not a state agency but are part of the Governor’s Office, so they aren't governed by administrative rules. Because of this, the bill requires them to submit a yearly policy determining how claims are deemed validated or probable and how they plan to administer funds for prevention and education. This allows stakeholders to give input on what did and didn’t work the previous year and to make changes without having to take the policy for approval by the legislature. Idaho Farm Bureau intends to take an active role in creating that policy.
IFBF Policy # 72 states, “we support establishing a new state depredation fund that compensates large carnivore (wolf and grizzly) depredations.” IFBF supports H485.
The bill is scheduled for a full committee hearing on Thursday, February 15th. Rep. Gerald Raymond (R-Menan) is carrying the bill. Members affected by depredation, particularly by grizzly bears, are encouraged to testify, either in person or virtually. For guidance on testifying, please contact IFBF Governmental Affairs Representative Dexton Lake at 208-333-7086. If you cannot testify, please contact your legislators in the House and encourage their affirmative vote.
State Grazing Permit Bill Advances
Federal grazing permits are automatically renewed at the end of the term so long as the rancher has followed all the rules. This renewal feature provides surety that the rancher will be able to graze there into the future and that security has a value. In fact, banks use federal grazing permits as collateral on loans and the IRS even taxes your estate when the owner of the federal permit passes away. This ability to renew is called the federal grazing preference right in the Taylor Grazing Act. A federal grazing preference right is recognized in title 25, chapter 9, Idaho Code as a property right.
There is no such feature in state grazing leases. At the end of the state grazing lease, no matter how well you have followed the rules, the grazing lease goes up for public auction. If another person is willing and able to bid more than the current lessee, the lease is transferred to the highest bidder. Unlike a federal grazing permit, there is no guarantee a state lessee will be able to continue to graze on that state land into the future, which brings uncertainty to the viability of future operations.
Once in a while, the state and the federal government determine it would be in both of their interests to exchange lands. When this happens, pre-existing encumbrances that exist on the federal land continue to be recognized by the state after the exchange. For instance, an easement or right-of-way for a power line will still exist after a land exchange takes place. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for grazing.
Even though a rancher has a legally recognized property right to renew their federal grazing permit, once that land becomes state land, the state no longer recognizes that right and their new state grazing lease in then subject to public auction at the end of the term. S1243 was proposed to provide a mechanism for the state to continue to recognize that right to renew following an exchange with the federal government.
After an exchange, the state grazing lessee could apply to IDL to convert their grazing lease into a state grazing permit where the land had previously been federal land. The same rules and fees would apply to a state grazing permit as a state grazing lease. The one difference is that the permit will be renewed at the end of the term so long as the rancher has followed the rules. This allows the state to continue to recognize the pre-existing legal right to renew that is recognized in Idaho Code.
Some have claimed that S1243 is unconstitutional as it does not require this very narrow set of state grazing leases to go to public auction. However, the Idaho Constitution is very clear on this point. It states: “the general grants of land from congress to the state shall be subject to disposal at public auction.” The constitution specifically requires those lands received from congress at statehood to go to public auction. However, land received through an exchange is neither a “general grant” of land, nor does it come from congress. Therefore, such land is not required to go to public auction under the plain language of the constitution.
This week, the Senate Resources Committee agreed. They approved S1243 on a voice vote and sent it to the Senate floor with a “do pass” recommendation. It will be considered by the entire Senate early next week and will then be sent to the House for a hearing in the House Resources and Conservation Committee. IFBF would like to thank Senators Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs), Todd Lakey (R-Nampa) and Jim Guthrie (McCammon) for sponsoring the bill. IFBF policy #46.8 states: “we support legislation to ensure that none of the valid existing private rights are lost in any land exchange between Idaho and the federal government.” IFBF supports S1243.
Constitutional Amendment Advances
After citizens recently amended the Idaho Constitution to allow the legislature to call itself back into session under narrowly crafted circumstances, it was discovered that the time limitation that applies to extraordinary sessions called by the Governor, do not apply to special sessions called by the legislature.
The legislature is now proposing an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that would ensure the 20-day limit that applies to extraordinary sessions called by the Governor will also apply to special sessions that the legislature calls.
Senate Joint Resolution 104 would place on the ballot the question: "Shall Section 23, Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended to provide that no extraordinary or special session of the Legislature shall continue for a period longer than twenty days?"
The Senate approved SJR104 on a vote of 25-10. It will now be considered by the House State Affairs Committee before moving to the House floor for consideration. SJR 104 is sponsored by Senator Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs) and Rep Kevin Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs).
To amend the constitution, the resolution must be approved by a 2/3 majority of the members of both the House and the Senate. Once approved by the legislature, the language would appear on the ballot in November where, it must be approved by a simple majority of voters.
IFBF policy #128 states: “All special sessions should be limited to 20 days.” IFBF supports SJR 104.
Resources Available to Follow During Session:
Legislative Website Homepage: HERE
2024 Legislative Session Bill Center: HERE
List of Senate Committee Assignments: HERE
List of House Committee Assignments: HERE
Current Senate Committee Agendas: HERE
Current House Committee Agendas: HERE
Watch Committee Meetings and Floor Sessions Live: HERE
Governor’s Bill Action and Legislative Communications: HERE
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