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The Legislature and Idaho Agriculture 2022


On January 10th Governor Brad Little gave his State of the State address to the Idaho Legislature. One of the highlights was his announcement of a record $1.9 billion budget surplus.

Along with his plans for income tax relief and increases in education funding, the Governor’s budget also proposes investments in state water infrastructure projects for agriculture and natural resources to ensure a dependable water supply ($75 million from the General Fund and $250 million from the American Plan Rescue Act or ARPA). The Department of Water Resources will manage these funds for projects like raising the Anderson Ranch dam, water recharge infrastructure on the Upper Snake River Plain, and replacing aging infrastructure for irrigation districts and canals.

That’s welcome news for people like Representative Clark Kauffman, Chairman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.

“There’s money available for infrastructure and the one where I’m mostly interested in is the water projects,” said Kauffman.

Projects like new water infrastructure in the Bellevue Triangle, improving the irrigation system in the Clover area of the Magic Valley, and updating the New York Canal in the Treasure Valley.

“This is a lot of one time money, and we’re going to spend it one time projects, things that don’t have an ongoing need, so that’s the caution we have to have is one time money on one time projects, but it’s enough money that we can actually get something done,” said Kauffman.

Representative Kauffman gave a presentation on January 12th for the Food Producers of Idaho.

“We do that every year so that the people here at Food Producers, which are all ag people, mostly all ag or have a connection to ag, kind of know what’s coming with the upcoming session, if there’s any bill’s that they need to specifically be aware of or if they want to ask questions or bring bills…. You know just make a connection with the food producers of Idaho,” Said Kauffman.

Senator Van Burtenshaw, Chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee also spoke with the Food Producers, and said he needs their help to let him know what kinds of legislation can help with the needs of Idaho agriculture.

“It’s hard for us to look at a business and say we need to change this in your business. We need them to come to us so that we can help them as their legislative arm,” said Burtenshaw.

Burtenshaw also has ideas for projects he’d like to see funded in this year’s budget.

“Well, I’d like to see more recharge. We’re putting about 500,000 acre feet in the ground every year, it’s not quite enough. It sustains our aquifer but if we have a dry year our aquifer level falls. So, it’s sustainable but we need more of that, I’d like to see that happen,” said Burtshaw. “In the Mackay Reservoir, that dam it was built in 1949 it looks like it was put together with railroad ties and gravel, it needs to be replaced. That’s a $10 million project. That will help ag and industry.”

“It’s the foundation of our economy,” said Kauffman. “There’s a lot of different moving parts and parts of the economy in Idaho but agriculture is the base. The ancillary things that come from agriculture, and production agriculture is far reaching across the state,” said Kauffman.

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture, I’m Paul Boehlke.