Idaho Reshapes Agriculture Department

Recent votes in the Idaho legislature have reshaped the role of the Idaho Department of Agriculture and local environmental regulators in monitoring animal production and environmental regulation. The power of the Agricultural Department in Idaho has been reduced, to a large extent, and their ability to regulate farms limited. In addition, environmental protection laws have been reshaped in order to attract further agricultural development.

Most recently, the Idaho House passed a law transferring regulation of poultry farms from the state Department of Environmental Quality to the Agriculture Department. The expansion of animal production in Idaho in recent years has led to concerns over animal waste and environmental pollution. This transfer of power, legislators hope, will avoid similar debates with regard to poultry farms.

The Idaho legislature has recently passed similar environmental laws over the role of animal waste in dairy farms. Until recently, waste disposal and management on state dairy farms was reported to the Agriculture Department and was a matter of public record. Last week, the Idaho House passed legislation making this information private, pleasing dairy farmers who fear that anti-agricultural activists could twist waste management information, and concerning environmental groups who fear further animal pollution.

Finally, the Idaho Senate recently approved legislation transferring control of animal abuses cases for companion animals (such as horses) from the Department of Agriculture to local law enforcement officials.

All in all, state legislators hope that these agricultural reforms will help protect Idaho farmers and will help attract agricultural production from states with significant regulation.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer