IASCD Directors David Ascuena and Rick Rodgers, along with Balanced Rock SCD Vice-Chair Rick Pearson and Ada SWCD Vice-Chair Lynn McKee sat down with Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) at 9:30am this morning. After introductions, Rick Rodgers said that when Idaho has strong farms, the state will have a strong economy. Senator Risch agreed, and said he’s one of the only members of the US Senate or House who actually own a cow. He then gave the group an overview of the challenges he is facing in the US Senate. Over the next two weeks, Senator Risch expects the Senate to hold lengthy debates on the national debt and the need for spending cuts.
Rick Rodgers stated that Balanced Rock SCD uses federal EQIP funds to help conserve water, save energy, and better utilize land. In fact, thanks to the many water conservation projects in the Magic Valley, the water run-off into the Snake River is next to nothing.
Lynn McKee discussed the urban and suburban issues the Ada SWCD faces, and described their work with Ada County on land easement maintenance. Ada SWCD also teaches natural resource conservation to those in urban areas, and a has variety of urban conservation projects that improve the environment.
Both David and Rick Pearson brought up projects in their districts. David told Senator Risch about a wheel line irrigation project that uses no energy to run, and Rick said he used EQIP funds to convert from gravity irrigation to a water and energy saving pivot system. Since no water leaves Rick’s farm, it helps keep the Snake River clean. David stressed the importance of federal conservation dollars, and how programs don’t make the farmer rich. Rather, funds are invested in vital projects that increase productivity on the ground. Next, David discussed Resource Conservation and Development Program funding and the work done in southwest Idaho leveraging these funds to obtain more outside funding.
Rick Rodgers thanked Senator Risch for his co-sponsorship for S. 249, and asked the Senator his thoughts on possible Endangered Species Act reform during this session of Congress. Senator Risch said reform will be tough, but he was confident we would win the gray wolf issue. The Senator stated the importance of turning over management of the gray wolf for the state to manage.
Special thanks to Brad Hoaglun, the senator’s communications director, for the photo!