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Idaho wheat assessment goes from 3.5 to 4.5 cents per bushel

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – The Idaho Wheat Commission has raised the state’s wheat grower assessment from 3.5 cents per bushel to 4.5 cents per bushel.

That means the state’s 3,500 wheat farmers will pay 1 cent per bushel more for the wheat they produce starting July 1.

The increase from 3.5 cents to 4.5 cents will generate a little more than $900,000 per year for the wheat commission, which is funded by the grower assessment.

The commission’s budget for fiscal year 2024 is $3.2 million, which is an increase of 1 percent over fiscal 2023.

The Idaho Wheat Commission, which was formed by the state’s wheat farmers in 1959, is tasked with helping to market Idaho’s wheat crop, funding research important to the industry and communicating with and educating growers.

About a third of the commission’s budget goes toward market development, a third goes to research and a third to grower communication.

The IWC’s five commissioners, all of whom are wheat farmers, discussed raising the grower assessment during their regular meeting May 30. They voted to raise it during a special meeting June 7. 

Rapidly rising costs were at the center of the discussion.

“Inflation is real. It’s pretty obvious that costs are up,” said “Genesee” Joe Anderson, who represents wheat farmers in North Idaho. “I think the timing is right for us to increase the assessment.”

The vote to raise the assessment was 5-0.

Burley farmer Wayne Hurst, an IWC commissioner who represents southwestern Idaho wheat farmers, said he is a fiscal conservative who hates the thought of raising taxes.

“But I think it’s time to raise the wheat assessment,” he said. “As a grower, the return I receive from funding the commission is pretty significant. An assessment increase is certainly defensible. I hate raising taxes but I think it’s justified at this point.”

IWC Chairman and Ririe farmer Clark Hamilton, who represents wheat farmers in East Idaho, said the decision to raise the assessment wasn’t an easy one and “it doesn’t come lightly. To growers, it’s a big deal.”

“I don’t like the increase but it is what it is and it’s justified,” he added. “To keep all of the commission’s programs going – marketing, promotion, research, education – there had to be an increase.”

IWC commissioner and Rockland farmer Cory Kress, who represents East Idaho wheat farmers, said the increase is easily defensible.

“I firmly believe that the investments IWC makes with grower assessments result in positive net return for the farmers that pay them,” he said. “Unfortunately, those investments are costing more, but the benefits should also increase in tandem.”

The commission partners with other organizations, including Idaho Grain Producers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Grains Council, to market Idaho wheat and every one of them is asking for more money, commissioners said.

Idaho farmers typically harvest about 1.2 million acres and 100 million-plus bushels of wheat each year and half of that grain is exported to other countries.

The commission’s industry partners help develop and maintain international and domestic markets for that wheat.

“To maintain the mission of the wheat commission and continue the programs for growers and industry, we had to raise the assessment,” said IWC Executive Director Britany Hurst Marchant.

The Idaho wheat assessment was last raised in 2012, when it went from 2 cents to 3.5 cents per bushel. Before that, the assessment was last raised in 1992, when it went from 1 cent to 2 cents per bushel.

“Obviously, dollars today just don’t go as far as they did in 2012,” Marchant said.

Idaho’s wheat growers brought in an estimated $706 million in revenue in 2022, which makes wheat the state’s No. 5 agricultural commodity in terms of total farm-gate revenue.

Wheat is grown in 42 of Idaho’s 44 counties and is an important rotation crop for most of the state’s farmers.

Idaho typically ranks No. 5 or 6 in the nation in total wheat production and is one of the very few states that produces five of the six classes of wheat.

Besides increasing funding to cover rising costs, commissioners also discussed the IWC’s plans for a new building.

The commission’s current 7,500-square-foot building in downtown Boise was constructed in 1945 but significant investments are needed just to maintain it at a functional level, according to IWC officials.

They say the building, which was purchased by the wheat commission in 2003, has provided a return on investment for wheat growers because several other ag groups pay the IWC rent to reside there, but the cost of maintaining the building is eating into that investment.

The commission has been studying plans for a new building for several years and the cost is something the commissioners considered when discussing the assessment increase.