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Capitol Reflections, Issue 8

By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs



“We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more laws, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.”  - President Calvin Coolidge

Regional Managers Take on the Capitol for the Week



BOISE- This past week, Regional Managers Naomi Anderson (District 4) and Cam Hammond (District 2) had the opportunity to intern with Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s Governmental Affairs team. Both have been with IFBF as Regional Managers for a while now and were excited about this opportunity. It was a great experience for them to be in the shoes of our Governmental Affairs team for a week.

Throughout the week, they were able to shake many hands, have great conversations about things that are concerning to our members, and learn the process that a bill must go through. They found it interesting to be with our Governmental Affairs team as they worked with our legislators and many different associations/groups, truly being IFBF’s voice for agriculture. One of the biggest takeaways gained from this week was learning different ways to advocate for our members, and they plan on relaying the information to our members.

For anyone interested in being an intern with the Governmental Affairs team, they would highly suggest you do so. Not only is it a great way to learn the process and understand the hard work that goes into advocating for agriculture, but it is a great way to shake hands with legislators and other groups to create a relationship that otherwise may never happen.





State Land Exchange Bills Stall



BOISE- Farm Bureau has been working for more than a year to clarify existing Idaho laws that were put into place to ensure the legally recognized rights of Idaho citizens are not taken without just compensation.  In the past, the state was not allowed to enter into land exchanges with endowment lands.  Over time, Idaho laws were created which provided a framework for state lands to be exchanged with either private parties or the federal government when it was in the best interest of the state to do so. 

When private property is involved, there is less concern since the state and the private owners can look after their own best interests and ensure they are protected in any deal they may wish to enter.  However, when the state enters an exchange with the federal government, there are situations where Idaho citizens have legally recognized private rights that exist on federal lands, but they do not have any say in whether the exchange moves forward.  Even worse, sometimes the state has chosen to no longer recognize those rights that existed legally on federal lands prior to the exchange once the lands become state lands.

To rectify this situation, the Idaho Cattle Association and the Idaho Woolgrower’s Association worked together to implement two changes in Idaho law many years ago.  First, they inserted language requiring the written consent from state grazing lessees before that state land could be exchanged, so the lessee had the opportunity to object.  That was great for the state lessees, but it unfortunately left out the federal permittees who essentially have no say in the exchange.  Then, later ICA and IWGA worked together to codify a provision which recognized federal grazing preference as a property right.  The minutes of the hearing at that time record that a representative for the livestock associations declared that “ranchers want to be compensated for (a loss of their) legal rights.”  That law was passed in 1998 with support from Farm Bureau.

Unfortunately, these laws have not had the effect that was intended. Just a couple of years ago, a Farm Bureau member who held federal grazing preference rights objected to an exchange.  The exchange went forward and his preference rights were extinguished by the state after a land exchange with no compensation.  The state, through the Attorney General’s office declared that the law does indeed say that preference rights are property rights in Idaho, but it does not say that they are compensable property rights, so therefore no compensation is due. 

To address this situation, S1251 and S1252 were introduced this year to ensure that once the state receives land from the federal government in an exchange that the state will continue to recognize the preference right, or that the permittee will be compensated for the loss of that right.  These were essentially the same bills as drafts we had shared with the Idaho Cattle Association last year, but they were never introduced when ICA expressed some concerns and wanted more time to review and share with their members.  We have had numerous conversations with them over the course of the year and had hoped to secure the support of our fellow livestock organizations this year. 

Unfortunately, with time running out in the session, there has not been an agreement with stakeholders on how to move forward.  IFBF will continue to work with all parties involved.  We know that most people understand the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the citizens, not to take away those rights under a loophole created by legislation that has not been enforced as intended when enacted years ago in Idaho.   

IFBF policy #33.5 states: “We support requiring any entity which acquires property from the federal government to compensate grazing preference holders on the former federally administered lands for the loss of their property rights if that entity does not continue to maintain and protect those rights.”

IFBF policy #33.6 states: “We support the enactment of legislation to ensure that none of the valid existing private rights are lost in any land exchange between Idaho and the federal government or in the transfer of federal lands to Idaho.”

We encourage all members to visit with people they know within other livestock organizations to encourage them to continue working closely with Farm Bureau to find a workable solution that they can fully support. 




Washington’s Tax on Exported Fuel

BOISE- Recently a proposed $16.8 billion transportation funding measure was being pushed in Washington state by their legislators. The proposed bill included a 6-cent per gallon tax on fuel exported from the state of Washington. A fair amount of fuel is processed in Washington and is then transferred to surrounding states, such as Oregon and Idaho, which means it would fall on the citizens of these states to pay the 6-cent fuel tax proposed. The argument surrounding the tax, was that other states should share the environmental burden caused in Washington by having fuel refineries in the state.  

There are obvious issues of a state trying to impose a tax on citizens outside of their state. The most glaring issue is the Constitution’s prohibition on taxing any articles exported from any state. Other concerns include the burden it would place on the citizens of surrounding states in a time when inflation is continuously growing, the cost of inputs is high across the board for businesses and there is uncertainty surrounding markets, especially oil, with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

IFBF strongly opposes Washington’s efforts to tax our members through the fuel that they buy. IFBF has signed onto letters sent from business groups and association groups to Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee expressing the concerns of the groups and asking for a veto if the bill were to make it to the Governor’s desk. The Idaho legislature also wrote a joint memorial addressed to Gov. Inslee, expressing the unconstitutionality of the tax and the state’s strong opposition of the tax, including the willingness to take any actions necessary to block this taxation without representation on our citizens. HJM5 passed out of the House unanimously and a copy was delivered to Washington Republicans on the House Transportation committee, where the bill is currently residing.

Oregon and many other states were vocal in their push back on the proposed Washington fuel tax. Currently, the bill seems to be dead and they will try to formulate alternative ways to fund the package, without the fuel tax. This came after Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma) who was a key player in the proposed bill, pulled his support and is no longer backing the bill.

IFBF policy supports HJM5 in voicing opposition to WA’s tax on exported fuel.





Changes to IDF&G’s Depredation Fund


BOSIE- This week House Resources held a hearing on H702. The bill was presented by the Director of Fish and Game, Ed Schriever. It was unanimously approved by the committee and will now be referred to the House floor with a do-pass recommendation.

H702 is the outcome of a move to boost the amount of money in the Fish and Game Depredation Fund. This fund is used to pay landowners who suffer damage from wildlife depredating on their property. There is an expected trailer bill that will increase the funds in the account to $2.1 million from the current $1.1 million. This is to ensure there is enough money in the account to compensate landowners for damages while avoiding having to pro-rate reimbursements.

A couple of years ago, legislation was passed that capped the amount a claim could receive from the account. This cap arose due to a $1 million claim for harm to an organic potato farm. With only $1.1 million in the depredation fund, this single claim would have wiped out the entire account.  The legislature’s solution was to cap the amount a claimant could receive to 10% of the account, which made the cap $110,000. According to Fish and Game, this cap does not prevent them from paying claims to the full amount of damage done. This is shown by the fact that 99% of claims the department receives are under the $110,00 amount.

With the account modification this year, the ceiling would now be raised to $210,000 under the previously authorized legislation. This is problematic because the goal of the account is to cover as many claims as possible without prorating. H702 replaces the prior legislation’s 10% cap on the amount of money a depredation claimant can get with a fixed cap of $125,000.

IFBF is monitoring H702 and any trailer bills that follow.  





Water Infrastructure Projects



BOSIE- The legislature continues to take action and discuss the needs of water infrastructure projects throughout the state. This week, the budget committee appropriated funding to the Idaho Water Resource Board and Department of Water Resources to continue in both the advancement of water projects throughout the state to achieve a stable water supply, and the administration of water rights and claims. Additionally, other committees held more informational hearings to learn about specific water projects that are being discussed and pursued in the state.

For those interested in water projects on the western side of the state, namely Cat Creek Pump/Hydroelectric Project, Treasure Valley groundwater recharge efforts, and the Lost Valley Reservoir dam raise, click on this link to see the presentation heard by a Joint House Committee on Wednesday, March 2,2022.

For those interested in an update from the Idaho Water Resource Board and the different water issues they are seeking to address, and to hear a presentation from the Idaho Water Users Association regarding the current and future demands on Idaho water, click here to see Thursday’s Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee Meeting.





Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Bill Stalls in Committee



BOISE- On Thursday, the Senate Ag. Committee heard a bill regarding a proposed state veterinarian loan repayment program.  Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) worked with officials at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to aid in the drafting of the legislation.

S1344 would create the “Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program” in Idaho code. Money allocated to the program would pay education debts for veterinarians committing to provide care primarily to agriculture production animals in rural areas of the state. The bill establishes a payment cap of $25,000 per year up to a maximum of $75,000 per qualified applicant. Any candidate already receiving another loan repayment award would be excluded from participating in this program. The legislation would also allow for private donations and federal funding to be contributed to the program. To oversee the distribution and allocation of funding, a seven-member review board would be established to conduct the grant process.

The bill was ultimately held in committee on a split vote, with several members of the committee expressed concern with the proposal of using public funding to support the specific needs of private industry. Most of the committee members expressed the understanding and need for more rural, production agriculture vets; however, the majority expressed concern with the state’s role in providing public funding for such efforts.

IFBF Policy #111 supports efforts to incentivize vet students studying large food animal medicine to practice in Idaho. Farm Bureau will continue to work with industry, educational institutions, and policymakers to identify practical ways to incentivize more interest in food agriculture veterinarians.





JFAC Corrects ISDA’s Budget



BOISE- On Wednesday, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) reconsidered ISDA’s proposed operating budget for the fiscal year 2023. Last week the committee set the budget; however, in the process ten proposed new employees to work in the state’s invasive species/watercraft inspection program and the needed funding for those positions was not included. Farm Bureau and other stakeholders worked with JFAC members to identify the issue and worked to correct it. With the committee’s actions on Wednesday, ISDA will have five new employees to work within the program and additional funding to hire other temporary employees as needed to carry out the work of watercraft inspections and other functions.

IFBF Policy #55 supports adequate state funding for inspections of all watercraft and other vessels to prevent the spread and infestation of quagga/zebra mussels in Idaho waters. Farm Bureau supports the additional personnel and funding for this program.






New Construction Roll Clarification Advances


BOISE- H673 clarifies what is appropriate to include in the new construction roll which is used by local taxing districts to expand their budgets. 

Most people understand that local taxing districts (cities, counties, mosquito control, cemetery districts, etc.) can increase their budgets by 3% per year.  What most people don’t think about is the districts can also increase their budgets by the value of new construction.  The idea is that when new buildings are constructed, the taxing districts provide services to new locations which will require more expenses. 

Unfortunately, for many years the new construction roll has also included the increase in value of land when the zoning is changed.  That makes no sense since there is no need to extend services simply because the land has been rezoned.  This has allowed budgets to grow faster than necessary, which is then compounded by up to 3% growth in subsequent years. 

H673 simply removes the change in land values from the new construction roll so it properly captures actual construction when determining new budget growth.  H673 is a taxpayer friendly bill which will help keep local taxing district budgets in line with the actual needs of the district into the future.  Under H673 each property will still pay taxes based upon its assessed value.  The new construction roll only determines the ability of the taxing district to expand their budget.

This week, H673 was heard in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee which is chaired by Rep Steven Harris (R-Meridian).  The committee approved the bill on a unanimous vote and it will now be sent to the House floor for consideration before moving to the Senate.  Senator Jim Guthrie (R-McCammon) and Rep Steven Harris are the bill co-sponsors.  IFBF policies #78 and #86 support H673.