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Wheat and Grain Producers hope to change Database rules

Fort Hall— Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson nervously sat in the Idaho Farm Bureau’s House of Delegates at the Annual Meeting last month in Fort Hall.

The Commission wants grain elevator operators to provide mailing and email addresses of producers at the point of sale to the Idaho Wheat Commission.

The executive director of the Wheat Commission has worked non-stop on a commission rule change for years and needs approval from Idaho's largest farm organization.

At the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, December 5th, The House of Delegates discussed, voted and passed the resolution that will allow the Wheat Commission to build a producer database and Jacobson breathed a sigh of relief.

“We’re quite pleased with the resolution passed by the House of Delegates because that grassroots support from Idaho farmers will help us when we take this issue to the Statehouse this year,” said Jacobson.

In a time of high-tech communication, nonprofit organizations live and die with the strength of their database. Other groups might think it inconceivable that the Idaho Wheat Commission hasn't had a complete member database in years.

“When the Wheat Commission was originally organized we had that capability but by mistake, it got removed from our administrative rules at one point. Our rule change is simple it just puts the database requirement back in the rules,” said Jacobson. "Nothing more, nothing less."

When a referendum comes up or a vote on check-off dollars the Wheat Commission has only a partial database and many members are left out of the process and that's frustrated Jacobson for years.

“If we are going to be accountable back to the wheat grower then we need to know who the wheat growers are so we can include them in the periodic referendum. We also have a statutory responsibility to educate the grower and to develop research grants to respond to their needs,” said Jacobson.

So by having the grower database, the Commission will be able to educate growers and react to their concerns. Growers will have a voice on how checkoff dollars are used. Jacobson says the rule change ultimately will help the Commission be more efficient with grower dollars.

The database issue is not a new one and in fact, the proposed rule change had been delayed for more than two years. Jacobson will now go to the Idaho Legislature armed with grassroots support from the Idaho Farm Bureau and the Grain Producers.

In November the IWC and Idaho Grain Producers Association sat down and agreed to go forward with the proposed rule change, that came after the Idaho Attorney General’s office encouraged the Commission to fulfill their statutory responsibility and get a complete mailing list.

“The next step for the Commission is to take the proposal to the House and Senate Ag affairs committee and with their vote put it back in the administrative rules. So when we go forward in January we will have producer support," said Jacobson.

Other farm commissions have the ability to collect grower names and contact information in their administrative rules and the IWC rule change would give the commission the same tools that other commissions have had for years.

The IWC first brought the proposed database rule change up during the 2016 legislative session. But when grain elevator operators voice concerns the commission voluntarily pulled the proposal. Last session the operators asked the commission to hold off submitting the rule during the 2017 session after more questions were raised.

Since then the Idaho Wheat Commission has been through a total of six negotiated rule-making meetings.  IWC Board and Jacobson thinks the commission has answered all concerns that elevator owners and lawmakers raised the past two years. He thinks he can find a consensus at the Statehouse this legislative session.

One of the main issues raised by elevator operators and producers is that they didn't like the grower's information open to the State public records law. Exhaustive legal research by IWC revealed that it’s not.

Some elevators were also concerned about how the database would be used, so the IWC adopted a policy that specified that grower names and addresses will only be used by the Idaho Grain magazine and to conduct the periodic referendum, according to Jacobson.
With legislative approval, the Idaho Wheat Commission can finally build a grower database. According to the Commission, they’ll finally be able to educate producers and react to their concerns like other commissions.