Lawmakers Pass Bills Boosting Agriculture Industry

March 28, 2014 10:17 AM

Idaho farmers, ranchers and producers say they're happy with the outcome of the 2014 Legislature.

A lot of things went right for the agricultural industry during the 74-day session, when numerous industry-boosting bills found a foothold, The Capitol Press reported.

Among them was the Agriculture Security Act, commonly known as "the ag-gag law," which makes it a crime to interfere with or secretly film agricultural operations. Lawmakers backed the bill despite opposition from animal rights activists who said it would limit free speech and allow animal abusers to go unpunished.

Gov. C.L. Butch Otter signed the bill into law last month.

Roger Batt, an agricultural lobbyist, called it a "monumental" piece of legislation and argued the law is essential to shield farmers from those who plot against them.

"There are so many anti-agriculture folks out there right now that are trying to do things to disrupt (farming) operations," Batt said. "We need to protect our farmers and ranchers the best we can because that's exactly what they deserve."

Other industry-approved bills that made it through the Legislature included a bid to use inmates as field laborers during the fruit-picking season and setting up a wolf control board with a $620,000 budget.

The wolf control measure will result in Idaho's wool assessment increasing from 8 cents to 10 cents a pound. Cattle producers will also have to pay $125 every five years to renew their brand, a 25 percent increase. But those in the industry say the added cost is worth it to keep wolf populations under control.

The Legislature also handed over $15 million in state money to fund water supply improvement projects in Idaho, and dedicated money to an initiative aimed at increasing agricultural education programs.

Bills dealing with bees, elk ranches, statewide trichomoniasis testing, dairy commissioner pay, taxes on food donations, wineries, scrap metal, horses, soybeans and farm equipment all had little trouble in the state House or Senate. Industry heads say they're pleased by the session's results.

"I can't think of any major (farm-related) bill that was defeated," said Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association. "I think all in all, it was a pretty good session for agriculture."

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