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Farm commissions still working to support producers

Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson, top center, leads an IWC meeting last year. Like Jacobson, leaders and employees of the state’s farm commissions and agriculture-related organizations are still working during the coronavirus lockdown, but mostly from home.

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Just like the farmers and ranchers they serve, Idaho’s agricultural commissions and organizations are plowing ahead with their normal activities.

That includes programs and efforts to promote the commodities they represent, educate producers and fund important research projects.  

“We may not be at the office, but everyone I know is working,” said Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Laura Wilder. “We’re just working remotely and we all have plenty of projects and programs going to support our growers.”

Even during a pandemic, “agriculture doesn’t stop and that includes all of the people who are working hard to add value to what growers do,” she added. “Nothing’s stopped; we just have to work a little differently.”

Like Wilder, other farm organization leaders are working mostly from home but stop by the office occasionally to pick up mail.

“We’re still rolling,” said Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Cameron Mulrony. “We’re working remotely, from home, and I’m going to the office on a limited basis when I need to.”

He said the ICA is still moving forward with planning for the association’s annual summer meeting in late June, although that could change depending on how the state’s COVID-19 response plays out.

While working remotely, farm organization leaders and employees are doing a lot more conference calls.

“So many conference calls,” said Idaho Wine Commission Executive Director Mora Shatz-Dolsby.

While the Idaho Wheat Commission’s other three employees are working from home, executive director Blaine Jacobson is still working in his office inside the wheat commission building that also houses several other farm-related organizations, including ones that represent barley, bean, wine and milk producers.

The two-story building in downtown Boise is often times the epicenter of meetings and activities among Idaho’s agricultural community but right now Jacobson is about the only person working in the building.

“The office is pretty well deserted,” he said. “I see people come by occasionally to pick up mail … but for the most part, it’s an empty building.”

Idaho Potato Commission employees are working hard to try to resolve the many issues the potato industry faces right now due to the COVID-19 outbreak, said IPC President and CEO Frank Muir.

“We are basically all guns blazing to try to address this problem,” he said. “This is such a fluid situation (and) we are working around the clock on this issue.”

Shatz-Dolsby said that farm organizations are trying their best to continue serving producers while at the same time being socially responsible and doing their part to help prevent spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re trying to do our part,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’re just grateful we still have our health.”