Monthly Archives: November 2017

Idaho Panel Supports Financial Disclosure for Incumbents, Candidates

Idaho lawmakers serving on the interim committee studying campaign finance reform voted during a November 27 meeting in favor of legislation proposed by Iona State Rep. Tom Loertscher that would establish a financial disclosure requirement for elected public officials and candidates.

Loertscher said the bill would not require the disclosure of income amount or assets. The bill would require disclosure of information such as employer and occupation/job title.

Idaho is one of two states without such a requirement.

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(Photo: Meeting of the interim committee on campaign finance reform. Graham Zickefoose photo, November 27, 2017)

Among other proposals approved by the panel: lawmakers voted to require more frequent reporting of campaign finances, and approved a proposed upgrade to the technology used in Idaho’s campaign finance reporting.

The panel also agreed to look further at the idea of legislation prohibiting campaign contributions from lobbyists or political action committees while the legislature is in session, both for incumbents and for candidates. No final action was taken on this proposal. Burley State Rep. Fred Wood initiated the proposal and is heard in this audio clip:

The full Idaho State Legislature will consider all of the proposals during the upcoming 2018 session.

Posted November 27, 2017

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Feeding the Hungry in Idaho

Work continues to feed the hungry in Idaho. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley has more on that. (:52)

The Idaho FoodBank says more than 232,000 Idahoans, including more than 76,000 children, are food insecure, meaning they live at risk of hunger.

The Foodbank says Idaho’s hungry are falling short by nearly 6 meals every week– two full days.

Around the country, the USDA says 42 million people, including 13 million children, were food insecure in 2015.

And so the work to raise awareness and to provide food continues. Just in the past couple of weeks here in Idaho , the Albertsons stores and their customers donated more than 2,600 full turkey dinners to the Idaho Foodbank, Micron employees donated 1,800 turkeys and hams, and the Stinker stores raised more than $81,000 between November 3-13, that’s enough for almost 409,000 meals.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted November 23, 2017

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Idaho Climate Summit Draws Over 500

The two-day ‘Idaho Climate Summit’ Nov 16-17 drew more than 500 people at locations around the state, including the University of Idaho in Moscow, Boise State University, Idaho State University, and at the Henry’s Fork Foundation in Ashton.

Presenters included voices from academia, business, tribes and environmental interests; one of the general themes heard was a need to come together to identify solutions to challenges posed by climate change.

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(Graham Zickefoose photo, Boise)

Here are some of the voices from the conference, as various panels and discussions centered on Forests and Wildfire, Infrastructure and Built Environment, Health and Quality of Life, Agriculture and Rangeland, Recreation, Fish and Wildlife.

UI President Chuck Staben told the Boise location Thursday that collaboration is needed to help meet the climate change challenge.

Boise PW Director Steve Burgos, presenting on water related-issues, said, “It’s all one water…Get past stormwater. Get past wastewater. Get past irrigation…We need to start integrating the management of those resources.”

This is Kira Finkler of Trout Unlimited:

 

On Friday, Rich Berger, VP of Engineering, Food Supply for Clif Bar & Company, spoke about choosing Twin Falls:

 

The summit was titled “Safeguarding Idaho’s Economy in a Changing Climate,” and several speakers said the state’s economy is being impacted by climate change, by longer fire seasons and the fight against invasive species, among other examples.

Posted November 19, 2017.

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Idaho Climate Summit: Challenges and Solutions

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Blog notes from the Idaho Climate Summit’s Boise location, Nov 16-17, 2017

by Graham Zickefoose

Idaho Public Radio

State Capitol Bureau

Starting off the 2017 Idaho Climate Summit on Thursday morning, the keynote speaker encouraged Idaho businesses to take risks on investing in renewable energy resources in order to combat climate change and stay competitive in the global economy.

Keynote speaker Kate Gordon, Senior Advisor at the Paulson Institute and Founding Director of the Risky Business Project, praised the economic advantages that the Northwest US has in renewable energy, such as a reliance on hydroelectricity and geothermal power.

Following Gordon’s address, Heather Kimmel, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Idaho, and Bryant Kuechle, the Northwest Area Manager for the Langdon Group, gave a presentation on how rising temperatures are affecting water, land, and human health. They explained that the duration of the fire season has increased over time, going from 5 months to 7 months from the 1970s until now as a result of increasing temperatures, and how water temperatures in rivers have risen for the same reason.

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Rising temperatures are a problem for businesses that rely on cool temperatures in the rivers, such as trout hatcheries.

The impacts on human health from climate change have ranged from exacerbation of existing heart and lung conditions from wildfire smoke to an increase in susceptibility to West Nile Virus a few years ago, since mosquitoes have benefitted from increased temperatures.

After the presentation, there were panel discussions on the effects of drought and increased water temperatures, and the impact of wildfires on Idaho’s environment, as well as possible ways to combat both problems.

Panelists discussed energy efficient methods for cooling down rivers by planting trees along the river, preventing power lines from being affected by wildfires by removing vegetation beneath the poles, and fueling hydroelectric generation through cloud seeding.

Other discussions topics included wildfire prevention on rangeland and methods for making water usage more efficient.

The second day of the summit on Friday began with panel discussions as well, which focused more on business opportunities and innovations in the face of climate change, and presenters included representatives from Clif Bar & Company, the J.R. Simplot Company and Hewlett Packard.

Representatives shared ways in which they had developed business plans that were more environmentally friendly and resource efficient.

Both days concluded with breakout sessions over various topics relating to Idaho businesses and climate change, which went on into the evenings.

(Graham Zickefoose, reporting and photos)

Posted November 18, 2017

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Idaho and NAFTA– Part III

by Graham Zickefoose

Idaho Public Radio

State Capitol Bureau

 

The Trump administration has not backed down from its controversial stances at the NAFTA negotiations, which have some in Idaho agriculture worried about the possibility of increased costs to export Idaho agricultural goods and the possibility of job losses in farming and food manufacturing.

President Trump has not publically changed his mind about possibly withdrawing from NAFTA and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer continues to push hardline stances at the negotiating table, like the sunset clause, which would terminate NAFTA unless all parties agree to keep the agreement in place every five years.

The concern is that this proposal, as well as the threat of withdrawal, creates uncertainty for businesses and discourages trade and investment between the NAFTA parties, worries which extend to Idaho agriculture.

Withdrawal from NAFTA is the biggest worry for those working in Idaho agriculture right now, according to Laura Johnson, the Marketing Bureau Chief at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA).

“I think our number one priority in the NAFTA renegotiations is to preserve what’s working and do no harm to Idaho agriculture as a result,” said Johnson.

Dr. Rita Du, an agricultural economist at the University of Idaho, also advocates for staying in NAFTA.

“I think more than 90 percent of economists will agree that we are benefitting from NAFTA,” said Du.

Skylar Jett, an ISDA trade specialist, says that if the US exited NAFTA, U.S. tariff rates with Mexico could go back to World Trade Organization (WTO) levels.

As an example, per pre-NAFTA standards, there would be a 20 percent tariff on frozen French fries exported from Idaho to Mexico.

According to ISDA data, Mexico is the destination of 24 percent of Idaho’s agricultural exports.

Trade with Canada, Idaho’s next largest trading partner for agricultural products, could be affected differently because of a bilateral trade agreement between Canada and the US.

NAFTA was built partially on this agreement, and Jett says that while it is conceivable that the US could fall back on this agreement with Canada if it exits NAFTA, the action is not for certain.

About 23 percent of Idaho’s agricultural exports go to Canada, and together with Mexico, exports to NAFTA partners make up nearly half of all Idaho’s agricultural exports.

According to Johnson, exiting NAFTA is not simply a matter of tariffs, however, as US withdrawal would mean disrupting entire supply chains as well.

“The supply chains are really quite integrated,” said Johnson, “we grow a lot of canola seed, it’s cleaned in Eastern Idaho, it goes to Canada, the raise canola and then it comes back here as oil.”

Withdrawal from NAFTA could affect consumers and producers alike, as rising costs caused by rising tariffs could lead to increased prices on produce not grown in Idaho, such as avocados or tomatoes.

Withdrawal could also cause job losses, since rising costs of exports could mean that farmers and employees of food manufacturers could be at risk of losing their jobs.

Food manufacturing makes up about 14 percent of all manufacturing jobs nationwide, but in Idaho that figure doubles, making up 28 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the state, according to the American Farm Bureau Association.

Rising costs could also lead some employers to automate parts of production that would have been done by a human workforce.

Johnson says this trend is already evident in Idaho, as the J.R. Simplot Company just built a state-of-the-art French fry plant in Caldwell, Idaho that is largely automated.

“They’re still buying the same amount of potatoes from farmers, but they closed three (plants) and consolidated it into one with less employees,” said Johnson, “Automation…is a bigger reason why we have less jobs, not because of NAFTA.”

While in the short term, Idaho may experience consequences if the country exits NAFTA, Du believes in the long term Idaho will be fine.

“(Idaho has) that comparative advantage to produce agricultural products,” said Du, “so we should not be worried about…the future of the agricultural sector.”

The NAFTA negotiations are still ongoing and it is unknown what the outcome will be.

“I’ve never been so nervous,” Johnson said about the negotiations, “this to me is the biggest threat that I have seen in my career.”

The fifth round of negotiations will take place in Mexico City on Nov. 17 and the overall process will extend into early next year.

 

Graham Zickefoose- UI McClure Center for Public Policy Research, UI JAMM News Service

Posted November 18, 2017

Staben on ‘State of the University’

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben says the university has passed $109 million in research expenditures. Staben delivered his ‘State of the University’ address Friday afternoon. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (1:02)

Listen:

On the day the university held its Veterans Day ceremony, Staben opened by recognizing the university’s military traditions, veterans, those on active duty, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Next was a statement about his candidacy for president of the University of New Mexico:

Chuck Staben: “I want to acknowledge the distraction that I caused over the past couple of weeks as a candidate at another institution. I don’t want to spend much time on that today except to say that this university is the work of many people, not one. Any distraction from our success and your hard work, I regret.”

Staben was one of five finalists for that position, but wasn’t chosen.

He announced that the UI reached $109.5 million in research expenditures in FY ’17, a 7% increase over last year’s total of $102 million.

Staben said the UI aspires to hold the door open for more students, to conduct research and scholarship at the highest levels, and make an impact for the economic prosperity and the public good in Idaho and beyond.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted November 10, 2017

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Idaho and NAFTA– Part II

by Graham Zickefoose

Idaho Public radio

State Capitol Bureau

 

The contention that surrounded NAFTA 23 years ago still permeates today’s government, as more stakeholders and Congress members voice their concerns about the ongoing negotiations and how they will affect trade with Canada and Mexico.

NAFTA virtually eliminated tariffs on raw and processed agricultural goods, eliminated tariffs on manufactured products such as automobiles, and created protections for intellectual property rights between the US, Canada and Mexico.

The elimination of tariffs on agricultural products has been important to Idaho’s economy, as food and agriculture was Idaho’s second largest export sector in 2016, at 15.4 percent of total exports.

Laura Johnson, Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) Marketing Bureau Chief, reaffirmed agriculture’s importance to Idaho’s economy.

“We’re very export dependent. In agriculture, we export more than we import…we produce more than we can eat here,” said Johnson.

According to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Idaho is among the top ten producers of 30 agricultural products in the US, and arguably the most important are dairy products, potatoes, wheat, and barley.

Dairy products, 18 percent of Idaho’s total agricultural exports, are Idaho’s biggest agricultural export sector, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Idaho ranks fourth in dairy production in the US.

Mexico is Idaho’s largest dairy export market, a connection important enough for cheese producers based in Idaho to have full time representatives in Mexico, noted Johnson.

The center of Idaho dairy is the Magic Valley region, which holds 57 percent of the dairy farms and 72 percent of the dairy cows in the state, according to the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. The remaining dairy farms are in the Treasure Valley and Eastern Idaho.

Another important agricultural export from Idaho is potatoes. Idaho is the largest producer in the US, and potatoes account for most of the fresh and processed vegetables produced in Idaho, according to Dr. Garth Taylor, an agricultural economist at the University of Idaho.

Skylar Jett, an ISDA trade specialist, reaffirmed the importance of potatoes to Idaho’s agricultural economy.

“Potatoes are such a huge industry for Idaho…if the tariffs go up and the quotas go up, that’s a huge loss for us instantly,” said Jett.

Potato production in Idaho occurs mostly in and around Bingham County, which has nearly twice as much potato farming acreage as the next ranked county, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Wheat is the third most exported agricultural product in Idaho, accounting for 14 percent of agricultural exports in 2015.

50 percent of wheat exported internationally, according to Johnson, and the two epicenters for production are in the Palouse Region and in Bingham and Power Counties.

Idaho is also a prominent exporter of barley, which makes up a majority of the fourth most exported agricultural product in Idaho, feed and feed grains.

Barley trade is particularly important with Mexico, said Johnson, because significant portions of Idaho barley, farmed in many eastern counties, is malted and put in beers manufactured in Mexico, like Corona.

The importance of international trade to Idaho’s largest agricultural industries indicates that the NAFTA negotiations are important to the state.

In the next installment, how the negotiations might alter the economy of Idaho will be discussed.

 

Graham Zickefoose- UI McClure Center for Public Policy Research, UI JAMM News Service

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