BOISE — The state’s dry bean and seed industries are on the verge of introducing legislation that would ban the production of soybeans in southcentral and southwestern Idaho.
During a presentation to lawmakers, researchers and industry experts highlighted the potential impact that soybeans could have on the state’s dry bean, seed and sugar beet industries.
Soybean acres in Idaho have fluctuated between a couple dozen to a couple hundred over the past decade but some people believe it’s only a matter of time before they are grown on a large scale here because of the state’s large and growing dairy industry.
The concern is that the crop could bring in soybean cyst nematode and other diseases which can also impact dry beans, sugar beets and other crops grown here, said Roger Batt, executive director of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association.
“Our industry obviously is very concerned about soybean cyst nematode,” he told members of the House and Senate agricultural affairs committees. “We don’t want it here in the state of Idaho, not only because of its devastating impacts to our bean industry but also to our other crops.”
Batt said a bill would soon be introduced that would place a moratorium on soybean production in the Magic Valley and Treasure Valley, where the state’s dry bean and seed industries are centered.
The bean and seed industries asked the Idaho State Department of Agriculture last year to initiate a rule that would accomplish that but the idea was nixed. An ISDA letter explaining the reason for the denial said that “current rules are in place to sufficiently prevent disease and that banning a crop is not an appropriate role for an ISDA rule.”
“We actually respectfully disagree with that,” Batt told legislators. “We as a last resort are coming to you for help.”
There are several types of dry bean nematodes in Idaho now, but “we can manage those nematodes,” said University of Idaho nematologist Saad Hafez.
But soybean cyst nematode could severely reduce dry bean yields, he said. “That’s why we have to be careful not to bring a new problem to our bean industry. It can be very devastating to yields for our bean industry.”
There are sugar beet cyst nematodes in Idaho but those, too, can be managed with chemicals, said Amalgamated Sugar Co. Plant Pathologist Oliver Neher.
But the sugar beet and soybean cyst nematodes can hybridize and growers are concerned about that possibility, he said.
“Yes, we have tolerant varieties for cyst nematodes but depending on which direction the hybridization goes, we might lose that tolerance,” Neher said. “There is no known resistance to soybean cyst nematodes in sugar beets. So if you have a hybrid that is more related to the soybean cyst nematode but it still affects sugar beets, we are going to have no chance to control that.”
Idaho’s dairy industry is “examining what the potential impact of the legislation will be on the dairy industry,” said Bob Naerebout, governmental affairs director for the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.