TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Idaho’s state and congressional legislators are back on the job in Boise and Washington, D.C., and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association has lined up the issues it will focus on this session.
It looks to be light lifting this year on the state front, but bigger issues loom on the national stage, Rick Naerebout, IDA’s CEO, told dairymen during a district meeting on Jan. 9.
IDA anticipates pushing only one piece of legislation in Boise, changing the standard for nutrient management plans from a phosphorus threshold to phosphorus indexing.
The existing 1999 standard is outdated, and indexing standards are being used in other major dairy-producing states, he said.
Indexing is based on assessing the potential for phosphorus loss to the environment on individual fields and targets management on high-risk fields with best management practices, he said.
It provides the environmental protection dairy consumers expect and gives dairymen the flexibility needed to manage their operations, he said.
“For the most part, it’s pretty straightforward. We’re feeling pretty confident it’s hitting the mark,” he said.
It has already gone through the rulemaking process with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Because it doesn’t involve additional funding, it only needs approval from one body of the Legislature, he said.
IDA will also be working with the Department of Agriculture regarding third-party receivers of manure. The department is looking at that rule and the potential of dairymen dividing their land base and putting a piece of land in a family member’s name for the purpose of receiving manure, he said.
That would be a circumvention of the intent of rule, and IDA has a stake in upholding the integrity of the rule for dairymen and making sure bona fide third-party receivers aren’t harmed, he said.
Another issue IDA is supporting is the University of Idaho’s plan to proceed with the Center for Agricultural, Food and the Environment. IDA anticipates the university will ask the state for another $5 million to fund the proposed research center and that the governor will be on board, he said.
The $45 million facility would flesh out some of the issues the dairy industry faces from an environmental standpoint. The state and the dairy industry have already committed funding, but the university has to raise its portion before that money will be released, he said.
The project has had trouble getting off the ground since the 2009 recession and has been through a few iterations since.
“Realistically, UI is working on a one-year deadline or it will lose support. This is the last hurrah,” he said.
On the national front, the farm bill is getting a lot of chatter, and the reality is there are budget constraints. There won’t be much change in the Dairy Margin Protection Program, but IDA will be working to lift the cap on the Livestock Gross Margin insurance program for dairy, he said.
It will also be focused on getting a fix for the visa program for foreign agricultural workers and maintaining foreign markets, particularly Mexico, he said.