Leadership Idaho Agriculture – Boise Session

The final session of Leadership Idaho Agriculture took place last week in Idaho’s capitol, Boise. While the other sessions took place Monday-Thursday, this session was a full week, and packed full of activities. The Boise session is heavily focused on public policy, and is held during our state’s 90-day Legislative session.

The Boise session kicked off Monday evening with the Strolling Supper. At the beginning of the month, each of my classmates and I had sent invitations to three legislators, inviting them to the dinner. Then, we have the opportunity to meet and chat with them at the event. This dinner is attended by hundreds of people in the ag community,  many legislators, and, of course, LIA Class 34. I invited long-time Senator Patty Anne Lodge, Representative Gayle Batt, and Representative Rick Youngblood. I had the chance to speak with Senator Lodge and Representative Batt,  but missed Rep. Youngblood. Although there was definitely schmoozing going on, it was a relaxed, fun dinner. Lots of good food, too!

On Tuesday, we attended the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit, which focused on research, science and technology this year. We learned a lot about how Idaho is leading the nation in various projects, including finding new ways to farm fish, and is increasing efforts in ag technology to keep our agricultural community thriving. We

The Governor’s Award Luncheon was held in conjunction with the Ag Summit, during which 5 awards were given in the following categories: Education and Advocacy, Environmental Stewardship (Neil Rimbey), Marketing Innovation, Technical Innovation, and Lifetime Achievement. The recipients of these awards have dedicated their lives to the field of agriculture, and work to continually excel in their fields. Quite an inspiration!

After the Ag Summit, we headed back to our hotel to review the letters we had written regarding food stability in Idaho. We had written these letters before our Twin Falls session, and they had been analyzed by Pat Barclay of the Idaho Council on Industry and Environment for readability. In a business letter, such as a letter to a legislator, you want the reading level to be around grade 4. This sounds bad, but when you consider the large number of letters a legislator receives, you want to make sure your message gets across easily. Using shorter sentences and shorter words, and keeping the letter to a page allows the reader to quickly get the point of the letter in one reading, and increases comprehension and retention of the message. So the sentence I just wrote = perfect example of what NOT to do! :/

Tuesday evening was the LIA annual meeting, with alumni from around the Treasure Valley attending. We enjoyed a talk on conservation programs in Idaho by Toni Hardesty, State Director of The Nature Conservancy.  She told us about the work they do to preserve Idaho’s beautiful spots, as well as ensuring that any working lands they acquire remain in active farming or ranching use. The Silver Creek Preserve, Box Canyon State Park, South Fork Preserve, and the Cougar Bay Preserve are among the projects that The Nature Conservancy has brought about in Idaho.

Wednesday morning was a session with several attorneys from Moffatt Thomas Barrett Rock and Field Chartered, a law firm in Boise. Each attorney gave a short presentation on topics such as estate planning, employment, water law, business entities, and tax law. The information they gave provided valuable insight into some of the various tools and practices available for farmers and ranchers to correctly care for and protect their businesses.

After lunch on Wednesday, we trucked on over to another hotel to help get ready for the big LIA fundraising auction. Since our session in Pocatello, we had been working on gathering donated items for the auction, selling tickets for the grand prize, and working to pull together a big class prize to raffle off. Alumni were also asked to help, so there were hundreds of items for the life auction and silent auctions. We got everything set up that afternoon, then had about an hour to ourselves to relax before the big night.

This totally constitutes "setting up"

This totally constitutes “setting up”

Wednesday night was the LIA Gala Buffet and Auction. It was a fun, dress-up event, and hundreds of family members, ag community members and LIA alumni were there. Our class had worked hard to get a big class prize together, and it was quite a hit. Our auction committee got Huseby Custom Boots, of Bonners Ferry, to donate a pair of custom boots! We also got $500 in cash donated to cover travel expenses, or to add some more glitz to the boots they chose. There were only 100 tickets sold for this raffle, and I drew the winning number – held by one of our classmates! The evening raised almost $90,000 for future LIA scholarships and programming. Beat that, Class 35!

TheWeeLaddie at the auction.

TheWeeLaddie at the auction.

Thursday was a long, but good, day at the Capitol. We first attended the Senate Ag Committee hearing, where the Idaho Dairy Commission was giving their annual report, and where Representative Erpelding proposed instituting an Idaho Invasive and Noxious Weed Week to increase awareness about the weeds that are invading Idaho’s lands.

Our Capitol Building Taken by Walter C source

Our Capitol Building
Taken by Walter C

Following the Senate hearing, we went on a tour of the Capitol building, and learned about its history and interesting facts. For example, since Idaho was a frontier state when the Capitol was being built, the bottom portion of the outside of the Capitol has rounded bands mimicking a log cabin. Also, lobbyists are kept in the vaults. 😉 The Capitol building was restored and expanded several years ago, and is a beautiful, beautiful building. There are so many things to see, so if you are ever in Boise, definitely take the opportunity to take a tour!

Idaho’s state seal

When our tour was over, we headed up to Governor Butch Otter’s office, where four of our classmates had the opportunity to present the speeches they had spent a month preparing for him. The topic they spoke on was “What Would I Do to Help Idaho Agriculture if I Were Governor?” Travis Lammers, of Northwest Farm Credit, would implement an Idaho Ag Week; Blake Johnson, a CPA with Cooper-Norman, would bring more stability to Idaho tax code; Carly Raska, with the University of Idaho – College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, would encourage more agribusiness incubators; and Sarah Baker, an extension agent with the University of Idaho, would prevent the Federal government from turning the Boulder-White Clouds area into a national monument without hearing input from the State. Governor Otter had many good things to say about each speech and speaker, and our class certainly enjoyed listening as well.

After a quick power-walk back and forth from lunch at Yen Ching, we settled into the House hearing room to listen to testimony on the controversial S1337 Agricultural Security bill. This bill, to put it briefly, would make it a crime to enter an agricultural facility through misrepresentation or without permission with the intent to cause harm, either by physical damage or to record video or pictures. I will be writing a separate post about this bill within the next couple days, but suffice it to say that testimony both for and against the bill was compelling and somewhat emotional, as it was a polarizing topic.  The crowd was very civil, with only a little crazy coming out. And we were all very relieved that the majority of the 150+ people signed up to testify only stood and stated their support or non-support of the bill, instead of taking the full 3 minutes. Even with that, the hearing lasted almost 4 hours!

After 3 1/2 hours of testimony. But we're happy!

After 3 1/2 hours of testimony. But we’re happy!

Thursday evening was our Last Supper, and yes, there were tears and lots of laughter. We had a great meal at Louie’s, an Italian restaurant in Meridian, followed by sharing of the highlights of our time together, and the things we have taken away from the course. At the first session in Moscow, we were all asked to write some goals we had for the course. We got those goals back, and were surprised at how similar everyone’s goals were! And I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how the main thing we all accomplished was the strong sense of community and friendship we had developed over the 17 days we had spent together.

Foosball is serious business, people!

Foosball is serious business, people!

These relationships are really what LIA is all about. It’s an experience we went through together, and our class supported several members through some additional personal tragedies that really solidified the relationships we established. I now have 29 wonderful people as new friends, and upon whom I can call for any reason. I’m sure every class says “Oh, let’s not loose touch! Let’s get together!”, but our class is totally different, of course. We’re actually going to do it. Camping, anyone?!

Friday morning was our last session, with the big Pro/Con public policy presentation. We had planned on doing this Thursday afternoon, but when we found that the House hearing would be that afternoon, we bumped the pro/con. My group was assigned the “Con” side of the presentation, and the topic was “Food Security in Idaho.” So, my side had the difficult task of arguing that there is no problem with food insecurity in our state. The two other presenters and I actually did a good job with this task, creating an argument that there is an abundance of food in Idaho, but because of policies that encourage food waste, a lack of local distribution and access points, and a need for increased outreach and education on how to get food assistance, the people who needed food the most were not getting it.

After pro/con, we had some time to relax and meet our families for the graduation luncheon. It was a very nice luncheon, with several awards presented, including one for “most improved” to classmate Dane Higdem of Glanbia.  Then, walking the line to receive our certificates as our fearless leader Rick Waitley said nice things about each of us. And then it was over. Lots of hugs and promises to stay in touch given, and then we all trickled out to head home and back to reality, but with a new sense of pride and purpose.

LIA Class 34 Good lookin' bunch!

LIA Class 34
Good lookin’ bunch!

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