2018 Legislative session
2018 Legislative summary / for our clients
The 2nd Regular Session of the 64th Idaho Legislature convened on January 8 and adjourned on March 28.The legislature had met for a total of 80 days. During that time there were 799 draft proposals, 561 pieces of legislation introduced, with both houses passing 355 bills. During the 2018 Session, AMG lobbyists attended all meetings of the Ag Lobbyist group (each Tuesday) and represented clients at Food Producers of Idaho meetings (each Wednesday). Food Producers of Idaho hosted legislators for lunch each Wednesday. These lunches provided an opportunity to interact with legislators on important issues related to the agriculture industry. Benjamin Kelly participated in the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry’s (IACI) weekly legislative meetings representing Food Producers of Idaho and the Idaho Cooperative Council. During the 2018 Session, Patxi Larrocea-Phillips, a third-year U of I law student, served as an intern for Food Producers of Idaho and Abigail Dixon, daughter of Representative Sage Dixon, worked alongside Roger Batt during the Session.
The groups for which AMG lobbied during the 2018 Session included:
Rick Waitley/Benjamin Kelly/Patxi Larrocea-Phillips:
Food Producers of Idaho
Idaho Alfalfa & Clover Seed Growers Association
Idaho Cooperative Council, Inc.
Idaho Hay and Forage Association
Idaho Honey Industry Association
Idaho Onion Growers’ Association
Idaho Weed Control Association
Nezperce Prairie Grass Growers Association
Northwest Farm Credit Services
Roger Batt/Abigail Dixon:
Idaho Eastern Oregon Seed Association
Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers
Idaho Heartland Coalition
Idaho Mint Growers Association
Idaho-Oregon Seed Pesticide Council
Pacific Seed Association
Treasure Valley Water Users Association
Western Equipment Dealers Association
Key 2018 Legislative Action:
PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS: Perhaps one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in the 2018 Session for Idaho agriculture dealt with private property rights. The legislation was written twice and maintained its fundamental structure all the way through the process. The first bill ran into a roadblock with an attorney general’s opinion that challenged the composition of the proposed law. The second bill, H658, addressed a number of those issues and was sent through the legislative process with amendments added in the Senate, voted on twice by the House, and finally arrived on the governor’s desk. The Senate-amended version of the anti-trespassing bill passed 29-6 on a party-line vote. H658a passed the House 51-18-1 on the last day the legislature voted on bills.
Most of the disapproval we heard were criticisms of existing law and had little to do with the proposed legislation. Proponents and opponents agreed that Idaho trespass laws were broken, resulting in widespread confusion about what constituted a trespass and what was required for posting fenced or cultivated lands. The definitions and penalties were inconsistent and scattered throughout the Code. The trespass laws were confusing, contradictory and not well understood by law enforcement, landowners or the public.
H658a creates a consistent definition of trespass; increases fines and penalties for individuals convicted of criminal or civil trespass; specifies that criminal trespass requires that the individual “knew or had reason to know” he was on private property; specifies posting requirements for landowners; closes current loopholes which allow individuals to trespass until asked to depart; clarifies that both written and oral permission are permitted; and leaves Fish & Game fines and penalties in place. Some of the arguments in committee meetings were intended to mislead the public as well as those that made it into newspapers. The new law does not criminalize innocent behavior; does not eliminate posting requirements; does not criminalize the Girl Scouts, missionaries, door-to-door salesmen, or business customers; and does not provide a mechanism for landowners to bring unsubstantiated lawsuits against others.
The amendments that were approved by the Senate clarified that oral permission is allowed; defined “remains” as it pertains to the meaning of trespass; specified that investigation costs must be reasonable and approved by the court; allowed for the prevailing defendant to recover attorney’s fees for actions brought without foundation; protected tenants’ rights to trespass claims; reduced a first-time offence to an infraction with a $300 penalty rather than a misdemeanor if no damage was done; retained law enforcement’s authority to cite an individual if they refuse to depart; and specified that all Fish & Game remedies apply to recreational trespass.
On the final day that the governor could sign legislation, he indicated that he might veto the measure over a controversy surrounding a charter school bill. In the end, the governor chose to let the bill become law without his signature. The legislation was sponsored by a coalition of agriculture, natural resource and business entities in Idaho. Those who comprised the coalition included the following:
Bold - AMG clients in coalition
This list represents the hundreds of thousands of your constituents and fellow Idahoans who support the fundamental right to own and protect private property.
WATER FUNDING: The Treasure Valley Water Users Association (TVWUA) worked closely with members of the legislature to obtain appropriations for flood management and agriculture BMP’s. On March 14, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) unanimously passed a $1 Million appropriation to fund river channel maintenance and bank repair statewide due to the damage caused by flooding in 2017. (This appropriation was later assigned H712, passed the House and Senate, and was signed by the governor). The funding helps areas of the state, such as the Treasure Valley, to remove gravel beds and debris from the river allowing it to flow better and to reduce potential flooding. The funding will go to the Idaho Department of Water Resources and be overseen by the Idaho Water Resource Board. Applications for projects would be submitted to the board for a 50/50 match grant for use in 2018.
The TVWUA also worked with JFAC to acquire an additional one-time funding amount of $290,000 for fiscal year 2019 to add to an existing baseline of $500,000 statewide to fund water quality programs for farmers and ranchers to meet agricultural best management practices (Senate Appropriation Bill 1378). These funds will go through the DEQ’s budget and monies will be given to Basin Advisory Groups (BAGs) who submit projects that are found to reduce pollutants such as phosphorus and sediment. Projects would be submitted for a 40/60 match grant.
Potato Research FACILITY: The University of Idaho campus has been host to the Nuclear Seed Potato Research Lab for a number of years. Research in this lab has produced new potato varieties and information for growers not only in Idaho, but also in neighboring states in the western region of the U.S. When Dean Michael Parrella arrived on campus and toured the facilities, he was told about the Nuclear Seed Potato Research Lab and he anticipated being met with a state-of-the-art facility because of the status of potatoes as one of Idaho’s leading commodities. Instead, the facility on campus in Moscow was not up to the standards of modern science and Dean Parrella set out to change that. Through numerous meetings with the Idaho Potato Commission and potato growers throughout the Gem state, the machinery was put in motion to raise funds to establish the facility on campus. Now other states (Colorado) have observed the interest in a new facility and are considering buying into the Idaho lab should it become a reality. This year the project got an injection of energy when the legislature allocated $3 million to the Permanent Building Fund earmarked for the lab. This amount, along with contributions from the Idaho Potato Commission, individual potato growers, Northwest Farm Credit Services, seed potato growers and individual donors make the possibility of a new lab a reality in the near future.
HOP EQUIPMENT TAX EXEMPTION: H594a will allow hop producers to exempt their hop production machinery and equipment from property taxation. Currently, machinery and equipment used in all other parts of agriculture, including the production of field crops and livestock, is exempt. H594a went into effect retroactively (January 1, 2018) and covers equipment for this tax year. It also includes provisions to sunset in two years to allow the legislature to reevaluate the exemption. The legislation will broaden the current exemption in Idaho Code and include stationary picking machines, drying kilns, fans and burners, baling equipment, conveyors and other equipment to move hop crops, rhizomes, bines, leaves, stems and cones.
Equipment Dealer PROTECTION STATUTE: H526 adds clarity to Idaho's Equipment Dealer Statute to ensure farm equipment dealers are on a level playing field with farm equipment manufacturers. As it stands today, equipment manufacturers have far greater bargaining strength compared to farm equipment dealers because of adhesion contracts dealers have to sign with the manufacturer in order to stay in business. These contracts are take-it-or-leave-it, non-negotiable contracts where the dealership assumes the risk.
H526 clarifies that a farm equipment manufacturer is not allowed to “substantially change an equipment dealer's competitive circumstances” without good cause or create a serious material or detrimental impact to a dealer. The language guards against an equipment manufacturer who already has a contract with a dealer, to place another dealership within the existing dealer’s contracted retail area. These circumstances could be used to put a dealer out of business. The legislation ultimately sets a standard of review for a court to consider whether or not a substantial change in a dealer's competitive circumstances took place, even if the contract of adhesion says it can. The application of this legislation is only for new contracts and only covers contracts that are renewed on or after July 1, 2018.
PRODUCE SAFETY LAW: Food and safety inspections fall within the jurisdiction of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) whose job it is to inspect food processors. Presently, the FDA contracts some of these inspections and food safety procedures out to the State of Idaho and with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Part of H537 will transition the contract with Health and Welfare to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). H537 will allow the ISDA to administer the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to the extent that it does not exceed the federal standards. ISDA has already been the lead agency in Idaho on FSMA and has been working with growers, associations and processors to help them through some of the major changes the act contains.
SEED INDEMNITY FUND: A proposal for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) to review the net worth of seed buyers had been made early in the session. S1207 was created in response to the Seed Indemnity Fund Advisory Committee’s recommendation to use much of the same language under which the Commodity Indemnity Fund operates. S1207 also clarified the criteria under which a seed buyer licensee will be approved or renewal denied by ISDA. Members of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association had concerns about the legislation and Food Producers of Idaho members held off on taking a position on the bill until they received input from the seed industry and growers. Senator Rice met with the interested parties and presented S1207a in Senate Ag Affairs with proposed changes for the committee to consider. The bill did not include the requirement to send an audited financial report for review by ISDA to determine the net worth of seed buyers.
S1207a gives the director of ISDA the authority to renew or deny a license to a seed buyer after a public hearing and based on set standards. If the applicant did not repay prior claimants after they were involved in a warehouse failure or if the applicant misrepresented information on the renewal application, they would not receive clearance by the department. S1207 also gives cause for denial if a seed producer provides material fact or can demonstrate that the seed buyer should not be approved. The industry paying into the indemnity fund can also raise objections as long as there is proof that an applicant should not be approved.
WINE LABELING: The Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission tried to pass legislation that would allow an Idaho hotel or restaurant to work with an Idaho winery or out-of-state wine producer to have a special label (Customized Private Label) on a wine container that has the restaurant’s or hotel’s logo or brand on that label. The original Legislation (H545) was passed by the House State Affairs Committee and later amended on the House floor due to a compromise between the industry and beer and wine distributors. When the bill was transferred over to the Senate, it was denied a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee due to acquiring and attorney general’s opinion on the legislation. The grape and wine industry plans to bring this proposal back to the legislature during the 2019 Session.
AGRICULTURAL COMMODITY TRANSPORTATION: Transporting agricultural commodities in, around and out of the state is critical for producers and processors. Idaho is an area that grows a vast amount of agricultural products, but shipping those products has become a problem with the United States Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. SJM104 requests a permanent exemption from Congress for Idaho livestock and agriculture commodity transporters. In 2017, seven national agricultural commodity organizations and other agriculture-related organizations received waivers for several months for a transition period. From the start, the regulation has been a problem for many different industries and there seems to be few to no workable solutions when transporting some commodities.
The ELD mandate was intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier to accurately track, manage and share records. However, it has decreased efficiency and put agricultural producers in detrimental positions. Examples were cited of livestock haulers who could be near their destination to offload cattle, but due to the mandate they would be required to stop or risk being in violation. This can lead to stressful and harmful situations and potential death for livestock if conditions are extreme. Other examples were provided related to perishable products and the movement of live honey bees from Idaho to points for pollination.
Workforce Development Council: The Idaho Workforce Development Council was established to provide direction and oversight of Idaho's workforce development system. The council members represent businesses, workers, education, state and local government, and community-based organizations. The primary role of the council is to advise the governor and the State Board of Education on strategies designed to yield a high-quality workforce. H432 will result in making the Workforce Development Council more responsive to the needs of Idaho employers. Vocational agriculture classes are one of the areas that the Workforce Development Council supports and is a critical component to educating students to be prepared in the agriculture industry. H432 changes the status of the council from an advisory position to one that makes strategic decisions addressing the training for the upcoming workforce. It also allows the council to use the Workforce Development Training Fund for outreach on career education and training opportunities. Work-based learning opportunities are a practical way to learn skills that can be coupled with education and can include internships, externships and apprenticeships.
PHOSPHORUS INDEXING: New dairy rules have been implemented that change the standard for nutrient management plans from a phosphorus threshold to phosphorus indexing. In many cases, the phosphorus threshold standard has become outdated since its enactment in 1999. Indexing will be based on assessing the potential for phosphorus loss to the environment on individual fields. These standards are being used and are working efficiently in other states with significant production. The process still provides high-quality environmental protection but allows dairymen the flexibility needed to manage their operations and will focus management on high-risk fields with approved best management practices.
The Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA) initiated the process with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) for negotiated rule-making last summer. Other dairy, agricultural and environmental organizations had their opportunity to weigh-in and no opposition surfaced during the hearings during the legislative session. Many committee members had questions pertaining to the change and a few were directed at the differences between crop land that is part of a dairy operation and crop land that is not. IDA will also be working with ISDA regarding third-party receivers of compost from dairies and the possibility that some dairymen may be dividing their land base with family members for the purpose of receiving compost.
Columbia River Treaty: A Joint House and Senate Memorial (HJM11) has been passed that urges the U.S. Department of State to support negotiations with Canada regarding future implementation of the Columbia River Treaty. The U.S. and Canada enacted the Columbia River Treaty in 1964 to control flooding in Portland and Vancouver and the U.S. agreed to pay Canada to build an Upper Columbia reservoir system for added flood capacity to be used in conjunction with eight U.S. reservoirs. In 2024, the Canadian flood-control rights the U.S. received for its investment will expire, and Canada will be entitled to payment on a case-by-case basis for providing flood control “as called upon.” Canada has argued the U.S. should be required to exhaust all options to free its own space for flood control, possibly including Upper Snake reservoirs, before seeking their help. U.S. officials maintain the “as called upon” language refers only to the eight reservoirs specifically mentioned in the treaty. There have only been a few times when the U.S. infrastructure would have been insufficient to accommodate flood control but in other years it may have been close.
HJM11 states that the legislature supports eight key positions in negotiations with Canada regarding any modification or future implementation of the Columbia River Treaty: (1) Recognize and protect the authorized purposes and water rights for storage projects in Idaho, including irrigation, recreation, hydropower and local flood control; (2) Advocate that only storage projects specifically authorized by Congress for system-wide flood control may be required to provide such benefits under the treaty, with no increased flood control burden placed on projects in Idaho; (3) Recognize a need to review and rebalance the Canadian Entitlement; (4) Recognize the ecosystem benefits that have already been provided by storage projects in the United States pursuant to the other federal laws and refrain from advocating for additional ecosystem contributions from U.S. projects; (5) Recognize that ecosystem restoration, as that term has been used by some proponents of modernization, is intentionally vague and if incorporated into an international treaty could be used as a vehicle to override and infringe upon existing federal environmental laws and usurp state sovereignty over water; (6) Require any treaty modification to recognize the primary authority and state sovereignty of Idaho and its sister states over their respective water resources; (7) Reject any attempts through the treaty modification process to incorporate the reintroduction of anadromous species (fish) above Hells Canyon or Dworshak, as such efforts are outside the scope of the treaty purposes; and (8) Protect navigation so that adverse flows do not impact the transportation channel or block system operations.
The Trump administration has pressured Canada to renegotiate a flood-control treaty with the potentially drastic ramifications for Upper Snake River water users. The Coalition for Idaho Water has been working closely with the Idaho congressional delegation and Trump administration to help advocate Idaho’s position. The coalition was reactivated last summer and includes a large number of agriculture grower organizations and industries. Several AMG clients are members of the coalition.
FEDERAL TAX CONFORMITY: The governor’s income tax and conformity proposal was signed into law and offers a substantial tax cut to Idahoans. Unlike many legislative sessions where education, health and welfare, or transportation issues dominate budget setting, in 2018 the executive and legislative branch have had to be quick on their feet to help blunt the federal budget changes that were passed only this last December. H463 received significant debate on the floor with the majority of republicans arguing for the many benefits of a fiscal policy that would cut over $201.9 million from the state tax roles. Otter’s budget called for conforming Idaho’s state income tax code to federal-level changes that will actually grow state revenues by $97.4 million. But at the same time, the proposed $201.9 million in tax cuts will encompass the $97.4 million increase in revenue and leave a $104.5 million reduction in the state general fund.
The highlight of the tax cut is the reduction in the state’s income tax rates (at 7.4%) by 0.475% and proponents argue it will make Idaho more competitive and attractive for business with the new rate of 6.925%. The total of $201.9 million reflects a $144.5 million reduction in the individual income tax rate, a $15.1 million reduction in the corporate income tax rate and $42.3 million for a child tax credit of $130 per child. Though all the republicans in the House ultimately voted in favor of H463, some argued that they would rather implement the grocery tax credit that was approved by the legislature last year, but then was vetoed by the governor. House Majority Leader Moyle agreed that he would also have liked to implement the grocery tax credit but noted that the impact of federal tax changes on Idaho’s income tax system would mean a big tax increase for Idahoans, particularly those with large families, because of the loss of the personal exemption for dependents. The $130 per child tax credit was included in H463 to help offset the loss of the exemption on the income tax.
Parma Research & Extension Center: The University of Idaho College of Ag and Life Sciences (CALS) held a Visioning Session in March to discuss the direction for the Research and Extension Center in Parma. Faced with recent and pending retirements, Dean Parrella enlightened the group of over 80 participants from a wide variety of industries, organizations and commodities as to the history and purpose of the center. Dean Parrella assured that group that past and pending retirement positions at the center will be filled. Those attending addressed three important areas of the center’s future including: 1) what research needs to be conducted to meet the needs of agriculture in the area; 2) what facilities and faculty needs to be in place to meet those identified needs and 3) what industry and agribusiness is willing to invest to accomplish of these goals. Several positions at the center are important to all commodities such as entomologists, weed scientists, plant pathologists, and others, not to mention the importance of research in water, new cropping systems and efficiencies in production. It was recommended that an industry-wide advisory committee be considered to give direction. The Dean heard about the importance of salaries, giving employees a positive work environment with high-quality equipment, and staff that understand farming procedures and that will apply good practices on research plots. It was recommended that an Idaho agriculture endowment be created that would allow large and small commodity groups to contribute funds annually to assist in endowing additional research chairs. The CALS administrative staff plans to take the input from the Visioning Session and begin to lay the groundwork for budgets and direction going forward. Similar Visioning Sessions are planned for the other R and E Centers located around the state.
IDAHO CENTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND THE ENVIRONMENT (CAFÉ): Dean Michael Parrella and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) staff have conducted listening sessions in the Magic and Treasure Valleys related to CAFÉ. Dean Parrella has been dean of CALS for two years and has spent considerable time in recent months coordinating efforts related to the CAFÉ project. Idaho agriculture is a large contributor to the states’ GDP contributing nearly $7.5 billion in 2017. Of the total cash receipts for 2017, dairy represented over one-third of the contribution, followed by cattle and calves. Dean Parrella was quick to note that this project will encompass more than just the research of dairy production.
The dairy industry has made significant growth and advances since the mid-1900s. Since 1944, dairies have been able to produce 59% more milk with 64% fewer cows. Even though efficiencies have advanced, dairies in Idaho and in this region face a great number of challenges that can range from water and nutrient problems to immigration issues. CAFÉ is meant to research and uncover solutions for these challenges by embracing a facility with the newest technology to conduct research. The facility will be located in the Magic Valley and will house university faculty, staff and collaborators, research laboratories and classrooms. The key is to create a dairy facility to simulate the challenges faced by both large and small dairies.
CAFÉ will address agronomics, dairy production and food processing. Dean Parrella explained that the central theme of CAFÉ will be water - a limited resource in the state of Idaho - both ground and surface water. The dean noted that improving the water efficiency in forage production would have a definite impact on the water supply. The center will provide a teaching, outreach and extension component and perhaps the opportunity for students to receive a bachelor’s degree. The College of Southern Idaho and BYU-Idaho have expressed an interest in creating a relationship with the University of Idaho for educating students receiving agriculture degrees. The center is meant to be a place to provide education for students and the public and the goal of CALS is to generate $10 million by June 2018 from food processors, individuals and the agriculture industry. Some funds may be generated through the sale of existing university property.
2017 AG ALL STAR AWARDS: Industry leaders from around Idaho gathered Wednesday, January 10, to recognize 81 legislators who had a voting record in favor of the 2017 Food Producer policies related to agriculture, natural resources, water, transportation, and taxes. Those recognized with this honor include:
Underline denotes freshman
80 LEGISLATIVE DAYS: Legislative sessions tend to run longer in non-election years. Leadership had aimed for March 21st as the going-home date this year, but even with 80 days, we were nowhere near as long in session as 2003's record-setting stint which was 118 days or 2009’s session at 117 days.
Below is a comparison over the last 24 years:
PROGRESS REPORT: It seemed like things moved very slowly for the 2018 session, but a check on legislation progress indicated we were not too far off track from previous years:
RETIRING LEGISLATORS: At the close of the 2018 session, Food Producers of Idaho held a retirement luncheon for legislators who are retiring or those who are running for another office and will not be returning to the 2019 Legislature. A total of 14 legislators were honored:
CLOSING: We hope you have found the communication related to legislative issues complete and valuable to understanding what happened in Boise from January through the end of March. Our weekly Capitol Review is designed to inform you each week about issues that impact the agriculture industry and special events and people involved with these issues. If you have specific questions related to legislation discussed in this report or between legislative sessions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
Feel free to explore this website to learn more about our services and the clients we serve at Association Management Group.