As Agriculture Committee chairwoman, what’s your view of the hemp legalization bill that didn’t quite make it over the finish line in this session? What particular problems should be solved before that passes?
As the House Agriculture Chairman, I arranged for our committee to have two years of informational hearings to educate legislators and the public on hemp. We learned, unlike marijuana, hemp cannot get people high with its federal definition of .03 or less THC, of the many products made with hemp (including building supplies and CBD oil), and the various opportunities for Idaho farmers to enter this new market. The original House bill 122 both legalized hemp in Idaho and would have allowed farmers to begin growing hemp in the spring of 2020, giving enough lead time to become familiar with this unique and often difficult crop. Unfortunately, the Senate completely rewrote the bill to allow control and veto power of an ag commodity by the Idaho State Police by inserting ISP into the Ag section of Idaho Code and did not legalize hemp. Over 30 House sponsors, including myself, withdrew our support from the bill and it failed. H300 attempted to allow for interstate transportation but again the Senate rewrote the bill and placed this ag commodity and a proposed state hemp plan completely into the ISP section of Idaho Code and did not legalize hemp. Again, the House did not concur and the bill failed.
The 2018 Farm Bill did legalize hemp production and directed USDA to write federal regulations which states must follow and USDA to write a federal plan coordinated with the US Attorney General which states can adopt. States can develop their own state plans but those must follow federal regulations, can be more restrictive than the federal plan, and be signed off by the top state law enforcement officer. In Idaho, a state plan would again give veto power to ISP. The federal regulations and plan will be completed by Fall 2019 which states can then choose to adopt which would be less expensive and take less time than developing a state plan. Also, the state Board of Pharmacy is required to concur with all new federal changes to the restricted drug list within 30 days which will also be late Fall 2019, thus making hemp legal in Idaho.
Did the Agriculture Committee grapple with any other difficult issues this session?
Yes, the Potato commission rules which had divided the industry for several years and potato contracting to ensure fair treatment for growers.
Pending administrative rules in Agriculture appear to touch upon a wide range of concerns, everything from sheep and goats to raw milk, to trichomoniasis in cattle. Does it worry you that the Legislature went home without adopting the rules, leaving the task to the governor?
I have full confidence that the Governor and his staff will take a hard look at all the rules. There are currently over 8,200 pages and 736 chapters of rules which carry the same force and effect of law. The Governor said early on that he wants to eliminate two rules for each current rule. Some rules are obsolete, redundant, unnecessary, or just do not work in the manner intended. The germane legislative committees usually spend the first four to six weeks reviewing new agency rules but seldom have the time to review old ones unless they are brought to our attention by a constituent. Citizens will have an opportunity to review all the remaining rules when the June Administrative Bulletin is published. That can be found on the legislative, Governor, and specific agency websites, local papers, and libraries. I hope citizens will take this opportunity to review rules affecting their businesses and personal lives and bring any needed changes to our attention.
You and fellow Dist. 9 Rep. Ryan Kerby were among only 12 representatives to vote against the depredation payments revision, S1151. What were your own chief reasons for opposing it, and do you feel the state needs to be directing more funds to compensate producers’ losses inflicted by wildlife?
S1151 limits depredation payments to landowners who suffer property damage due to wildlife. Property owners already must pay a “deductible” of $750.00 for damage and now the remaining payment will be limited. Idaho’s elk herds have learned there is safety from predators and easier living on the private lands. In many areas, the damage is occurring year around instead of just the winter to fields, crops, and irrigation equipment. Damage to pivots, bedded fields, and crops should not be on the backs of property owners. One field of onions condemned due to elk manure can many times over exceed the new limit. S1151 is not a solution for property owners and neither are late winter depredation hunts. I am working on a better solution for both wildlife and landowners.
Was there any issue, either resolved or unresolved this legislative session, which you thought was highly important but which didn’t get much public attention?
There are always more issues than can be resolved in a three month session which is why there are interim committees, working groups, task forces, and regular committees meeting through the summer and fall. Some examples are continuing work towards a new school funding formula, study where federalism is and is not working between the state and federal government, long term transportation funding, and develop mechanisms for an Idaho hemp industry. Governor Little appointed me to represent the House in a new Regional Government Efficiency Working Group headed by Lt Governor McGeachin. Our 18 month charge is to travel the state to identify inefficiencies at regional state agency offices and recommend improvements in customer service. I am also serving as chairman of the Western Legislative Forestry Task Force to study forestry issues on federal land in the West. Idaho has 62% federal lands which the management of affects our economy, tax base, livelihoods, watersheds, air quality, recreation, wildlife, health and safety. Idaho needs to take an active role in these lands.
As a long-serving member of the Legislature, are you satisfied that Idaho government has its spending priorities right? If not, in which areas would you propose reducing funding and where would you like to see those resources go instead?
Each year there are new or different issues which require funding. We do our best to find money and solutions just as citizens and businesses must do with their budgets. Legislators have their own priorities but realize there are limited dollars to do what is best of the entire state.