Author Archives: idahopublicradio2014

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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Idaho and NAFTA: Part I

by Graham Zickefoose

Idaho Public Radio

State Capitol Bureau

 

Idaho agriculture, which accounts for 20 percent of the total economic output in Idaho, could be in for changes as President Trump leans towards scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and as renegotiations continue between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

NAFTA is a free trade agreement that began in 1994 between the three largest economies in North America that, among other things, largely eliminates tariffs on goods and services traded across their borders.

Between 1993 and 2016, the value of agricultural exports to NAFTA partners has increased from $7 billion to $11 billion. That increase is important in Idaho, where $2.2 billion worth of agricultural products were exported internationally in 2014.

The idea to get rid of NAFTA struck a chord with voters during the presidential election in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states characterized as once having manufacturing as an instrumental part of their economies, and who had all voted for democratic presidents in the recent past before voting for Donald Trump in 2016.

This shift in support from one party to another is reflected in the history of NAFTA, which began in the Reagan administration.

Trade deals with Israel and Canada during the 1980s laid the groundwork for thinking in terms of international free trade in the United States.

Then, during the Bush Sr. administration in 1990, negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Mexico began. Canada joined the negotiations the following year in order to ensure that the United States would not be the only country in North America with tariff-free access to the whole continent.

The deal, which became NAFTA, was signed by President Bush, the prime minister of Canada and the president of Mexico in late 1992.

Governor Bill Clinton, as a presidential candidate, said he would be willing to support NAFTA during his presidency if there were supplementary agreements that standardized environmental and labor regulations for the three countries.

These agreements would satisfy his democratic constituency, many of whom were wary of the deal’s potential to hurt American jobs and the environment.

However, this did not satisfy the Democrats in Congress, many of whom feared that ratifying NAFTA would lead to a loss of American jobs to Mexico, where labor was cheaper and environmental regulations were less strict.

After Mr. Clinton was elected president, he pushed Congress to ratify NAFTA. Congress narrowly voted in favor of ratification in November 1993, but with heavy opposition from Mr. Clinton’s own party in both the House and the Senate.

NAFTA came into effect in 1994, the year after it was ratified in Congress, and NAFTA has continued, largely unchanged, until this year.

As the negotiations have continued, many involved with the agricultural industry have voiced their concerns regarding overhauling NAFTA. Many of these concerns are relevant to some of the top agricultural exports in Idaho, which will be discussed in the next installment.

(Graham Zickefoose- UI McClure Center for Public Policy Research, UI JAMM News Service. First in a series.)

Posted October 30, 2017

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Football: It’s Idaho and Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in Moscow

Football: It’s Idaho and Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in Moscow. Idaho Public Radio’s Kavita Battan reports. (:45)

Listen:

Idaho returns home to take on Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday at the Kibbie Dome, and coach Paul Petrino says he has great respect for ULM’s coaching staff and how hard their players play:

Paul Petrino:

The Warhawks won their first three Sun Belt games, but have dropped their last two against Georgia State and South Alabama.

The Vandals hope to snap their three-game losing streak. Idaho is 5 and 3 all-time against ULM, including wins each of the last two seasons.

I’m Kavita Battan reporting.

(Audio via Sun Belt Conference teleconference, October 23, 2017)

Posted October 27, 2017

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Latah County Voters Have Decisions at Polls

It’s a busy election season in Latah County.

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When voters go to the polls on November 7, they’ll be making decisions in local political races all across the county.

City council seats are on the ballot in Moscow, Genesee, Kendrick, Juliaetta, Bovill, Deary, Onaway, Potlatch, and Troy.

Mayoral races are on the ballot in Moscow, Onaway, Genesee, Bovill, and Kendrick.

In addition, Genesee voters are considering a fire station bond, and voters in Deary are voting on proposed water system improvements.

Polls will be open from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on November 7.

Posted October 26, 2017

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