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Roundtable Discussions

Darrell Bolz, reported:

Legislature:  The issue of transportation has yet to be resolved by the legislature.  This is an issue that affects all of Idaho, urban and rural.  The transportation infrastructure is a critical component of Idaho's economy.
Caldwell:  According to most Caldwell would be considered urban, but I feel it still has a rural aspect.  The Caldwell Chamber of Commerce and the city brought in Roger Brooks and are going through a "re-branding" of Caldwell.  The plan is to make downtown Caldwell more vibrant and bring people to downtown.  This is an issue with not only Caldwell, but also many other communities in Idaho, both large and small.   The plan includes a downtown plaza which will have an agricultural focus, particularly using the wine industry.
Both the Caldwell and Nampa Chamber of Commerce's are very proactive in advocating for agriculture and being able to sustain its prominence in Canyon County.


Barbara Petty, University of Idaho - Extension, reported:

It’s a great day to be a part of University of Idaho Extension, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and University of Idaho.  During the past year, 70 county Extension educators located in 42 of our 44 counties and 46 specialists made 359,622 direct teaching contacts addressing topics in agriculture, natural resources, health and nutrition, community development and 4-H youth development.  We leveraged the support given to us be the federal, state and county governments by being awarded $9,193,953 in grants.

Specific highlights include the work of our UI Extension specialists who deliver important and timely information.  Late blight, which infects potato tubers and causes considerable loss due to tuber decay in storage, plagued eastern Idaho potatoes in 2014. The novel use of phosphorous acid as a post-harvest application for late blight control was initiated and developed by UI Extension specialists.  It has now become a standard recommendation for late blight and pink rot control in Idaho and in the US, and can decrease potential potato tuber infection by late blight infection by 90%.

Beginning Master Gardener classes were delivered serving 19 Idaho counties in 2014. Extension professionals also contributed to the founding of a dozen new community gardens, including a garden on the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation that supports 16 active family garden plots.   In one county alone, Master Gardeners contributed more than 1,500 hours of community service, much of that in association with community gardens that combined to contribute more than 60,000 pounds of produce to low income residents in 2014.

The 4-H Food Smart Families pilot project in Idaho engaged youth through 28 different educational venues including healthy living camps.  The Food Smart Families project was also delivered as a major youth component of Eat Smart Idaho.  Eat Smart Idaho includes both of the Low-Income and Underserved Audience projects (EFNEP and SNAP-Ed) delivered through UI Extension.  Eat Smart Idaho delivered approximately 900 educational classes reaching more than 47,000 contacts in 30 counties.  More than 27% of Eat Smart Idaho learners were identified as Hispanic and nearly 7% as Native American (the state population is 11.8% Hispanic and 1.7% Native American).


Art Beal, Idaho Resource Conservation and Development Association, reported:

We held our spring meeting via teleconferencing with over 27 people around the state and two from Washington DC.  It was a new venture for us and not without some problems as we all had a learning curve.  Despite all it went rather well.

Two of the Councils in Idaho have retired and let other councils support the areas: Panhandle Lakes and Three Rivers councils.  The other councils are doing well.

The South West Idaho RC&D has over 40 different projects going.  Among those are in the wildfire arena, the Snake River Water Trail, Southwest Idaho fire workshop May 4, 2015, at the Barber Events Center.  You need to preregister by April 15th.  Southwest Idaho is also working with Idaho Power to plant tree shade on the west side of dwellings in Ada and Canyon counties to help reduce overall cooling power requirements in the summer months.

The Clearwater RC&D is working with the BLM on mitigation of the Wildland Urban interface to reduce fire risks.  They are working on energy audits.  They are in the process of hiring a new Executive Director.  They also have a wildlife restoration project involving tagging and tracking of elk with the US Forest, Fish and Game, and the Rocky Mountain Elk foundation.  Overall they have processed over $1 million in projects this last year.  They have an annual sustainable forests tour in the Clearwater Basin in conjunction with the Clearwater Basin Forest Collaborative.  They are also working with the Clearwater Conservation Program, much like the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The Mid Snake RC&D (Twin Falls Area) has a strong Fire Wise Program.  With this program they are working with the schools to present information related to making the home defensible.  They are in the process of developing a fire wise garden area with the expectation it will be showable by the end of summer.  In the garden they will feature species resistant to fire as well as good spacing.  They maintain along with Twin Falls County, an invasive species station south of Twin Falls to help prevent the spread of weeds and quagga mussel.  They have several coordinated weed management areas and a No Till Drill in conjunction with local conservation districts. 

In Wood River RC&D long-time supporter of RC&D’s Buck Ward retired.  He will be missed.  He believed in conservation and economic development being a working partnership.  Wood River is working on wine trail in the Sun Valley area.  Another interesting project is working with horse therapy and veterans.  They are hoping to secure a grant to train the trainers in this project. 

In the West Central Highlands RC&D we are working with two US Forest collaborative efforts.  In the Boise Coalition we are currently working with the area between Boise and Idaho City called Clear Creek Robie Creek area.  There is a lot of urban interface and a huge potential for tremendous property loss through fire.  Most of the residents live and work in Boise and are just there on weekends.  It makes it interesting to get involvement in finding solutions to landscape mitigation.  We are also working on woody biomass, as I have mentioned in the past.  A new take on this is working with the juniper initiative and the sage grouse habitat areas.  With the new directive from Sally Jewell, Secretary of Department of Interior, on fire control and endangered species.  We may get more help in eliminating 600,000 acre fires in Southern Idaho.  The Payette River Basin Water Trail has established a budget and is busy collecting site data. 

On the conservation side of the program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service is getting a new state conservationist, Curtis Elke out of South Dakota replacing Jeff Burwell.  We appreciate the excellent job Travis Thomason from Utah has done in the interim.  On the legislative side we got closer to the 2:1 legislative match.  On the ground we are learning how to grow year around crops in various areas of the state.  We are working toward productive soils without additives such as fertilizers.  We are also learning about herbicide resistance prevention and how to get the most out of water application.  Water is a scarce commodity.

Erik Kingston, Idaho Housing and Finance Association, shared these links:

Here’s a link to the presentation on housing and homelessness.


And a link to the brief overview of housing needs assessment and terminology


Housing roundtables will be conducted starting next week in Nampa, Pocatello, and Twin Falls.  This creates an opportunity to share information with businesses and planners.  Recently the calls on the Hotline are more about housing listings than eviction notices.   


Roni Adkins, USDA – Rural Development, reported:

The states of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington are forming a partnership which will enhance support to rural populations throughout the three state regions.  Idaho will receive $50,000 over a two year period for assistance in the following: funding assistance for regional rural summit each year, additional assistance for the Community Review Program over two years, and funding to support the collaboration meetings, teleconferences, and reports.  Each state will also use a portion of its share of funds to enhance ongoing programs and to begin new initiatives which have been held back for lack of funding.  The Under Secretary, Lisa Mensah, approved the funding request.  Mike played a key role in getting this done.

This is Roni’s last meeting as she is retiring from the USDA – Rural Development.  Lisa Allen will be the new housing director.  Good luck Roni and thank you for your contribution to the Partnership. 


Jim Werntz, Environmental Protection Agency, reported:

Idaho Pollution Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) Program Development:    EPA continues to work with Idaho DEQ as part of the negotiated rulemaking process, to develop an authorization application for the IPDES Program.   This is an enormous effort, led by Idaho DEQ with significant stakeholder input.

EPA Budget and Staffing Update:   EPA Region 10 is offering early buy-outs to help accelerate staff reductions in-line with budget cuts that the Agency has experienced since 2010.   Further reorganization is anticipated, to improve the efficiency of program delivery by EPA.


Candy Moore, USDA – Farm Service Agency, reported:

The Farm Service Agency has been able to increase their staff and add temporary staff to assist in processing applications for new farm bill programs.  FSA has $430 million to distribute to Idaho’s farmers and ranchers.


Pat Barclay, Idaho Council on Industry and Environment reported:

Their annual Earth Day art contest has the theme, “What Things are Made.”  It is directed towards 7-12 grades.  They will be judged on their artwork and on how much they adhered to the theme with awards being presented on April 23rd.  The grand prize is a $125.00 art certificate. 


Harty Schmaehl, Idaho Development, reported:

Kamiah now has three operating lumber mills in the area.  Twice a week the railroad has cars going to market full of logs.  The challenge the employers are now facing is hiring workers who want to work and continue working.


John Meyers, US Department of Housing & Urban Development, reported:

The Idaho HUD office (Brian Dale, Jerry Roster, and John) will be moving to a new location off of Vinnell Way where several other federal agencies are located.


John announced the dates of the upcoming Fair Housing Trainings:

  • Moscow workshop – April 9th
  • Lewiston workshop – April 10th
  • Boise Fair Housing Conference – April 14th
    • Webcast of above – April 14th
  • Boise Section 3 & AFFH Event – April 15th
    • Webcast of above – April 15th
  • Idaho Falls workshop – May 6th


Jess Byrne, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, reported:

DEQ received funding for three additional positions to assist with the development of the Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) program that they are in the process of requesting authorization for from the EPA.  They also received three positions last year.  There is an estimate of approximately 27 positions needed to fulfill the requirements of that program across a timetable of roughly six years.  There were three bills introduced by DEQ in this year’s legislature but two of them did not make it through.  All three were relatively minor in nature, however, DEQ plans on doing more outreach in the future in hopes of having better success.  Water quality issues such as IPDES, are dominating their workload right now with air quality second.  In air quality, the Crop Residue Burning Program in rural areas remains to be an education issue and will continue as such.  EPA has proposed to reduce the national ozone standard, which will likely limit farmers’ ability to burn their crop residue during certain times of the year more than it already does.  DEQ is also working with some rural Idaho communities with elevated particular matter levels. Particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Sources of particulate pollution include woodstoves, fires, wind-blown dust, automobiles, and industry.     


Joe Herring, Region IV Development, reported:

Last week Region IV Development submitted an application to the Economic Development Administration for designation as a Manufacturing Community for the six counties in Magic Valley.  Those counties have a very high number of manufacturing jobs and if that designation is awarded, that would be substantial for all of Southern Idaho.  The designation would put a national spotlight on manufacturing in Southern Idaho and that would help attract industries and employees.  This would show the nation that Idaho is really a major food basket and there are lots of opportunities.

The Idaho Department of Transportation will contract with the six Economic Development Districts for Mobility Management Services beginning May 1st.


Rod Grzadzieleski, Small Business Administration, reported:

The SBA is having a banner year compared to FY2014.  Guaranteed loans are up 55% and 504 loans are up 22%.  This represents the first 6 months of their fiscal year.  We aren’t sure of the reason.  It could be because of a bunch of little things like the credit scoring has changed and the economy is getting better.  Small business balance sheets are improving.  There will be a micro lender in the Boise Valley.  The Small Business Person of the Year was awarded to the Weiser Classis Candies located in Weiser.  The Idaho Small Business Development Center received an additional $300,000 in funding from the legislature which will be used for an additional half time staff member in each of the six regional offices.  We are not fully aware of the impact sequestration will have on our agency.


Maureen Grisham, American Planning Association – Idaho Chapter, reported:

The chapter’s annual conference will be held October 7-9th in Sandpoint.  This year’s theme is Rural Spaces in Urban Places.  We are celebrating the rural communities in Idaho.  She would like to encourage any of the board members to do a presentation at the conference.  This would be a great opportunity to get connected with rural communities. 

Maureen’s other role is manager at the Ada County Highway District Commuter Program.  She handed out flyers explaining a new campaign that will take place during the month of May. Get your organization involved in May in Motion and then you and your co-workers can ride, walk, vanpool, piggyback and ride the bus to work.  Get your company recognized in the community as an organization that goes the extra mile to make our roadways and environment in the treasure Valley a better place to live.  More information contact: nstern@achdidaho.org or call 208-345-7665.   


David Olson, U.S. Forest Service, reported:

The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program extension expired on September 30, 2014.  The program was not reauthorized by Congress.  The House has now passed a resolution tied with the Medicare Bill that would extend it for two years and it is now in the Senate.  The Senate is looking at it as a three year extension with Senator Crapo as one of the key sponsors.  This would definitely bring additional revenue to the rural counties.  If it does pass, which there is some degree of optimism it will, it would likely become retroactive for this year and possibly farther.  Resource advisory committees could move funds to the rural counties for specific projects once they start meeting again.

In early March there was an Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership meeting in Boise where eight different collaborative groups from around the state met showing everyone they could agree on timber sales and forest restoration activities.

There is a forestry component in the Farm Bill that could produce 8-9 million board feet of timber and insect and disease reduction.  This is located outside of Banks along Highway 55 and another similar project is in the Panhandle National Forest.    


John Russ, Idaho Department of Labor, reported:

Director Ken Edmunds will be scheduling and conducting community events to inform business and education on the changes to the Workforce Development Training Funds.  He also wants to hear how Labor can better serve rural Idaho. 

Labor is currently working on a delivery model to train students in school on the soft skills employers are asking for.  In most cases employers are telling Labor it is not the technical skills they need, they need people with soft skills and they will train.    


Barry Daniels, Elwood Staffing Service, reported:

Last year across the United States Ellwood Staffing handed out 115,000 W2’s.  Usually Ellwood Staffing is on the front end when the economy is growing and then they are on the front end again when things are going down.  It has been a slow progression but industry is filling in the gaps.  It is always a challenge to find workforce and have them sustainable.  Some companies use Elwood Staffing as a vehicle to find employees and then hire them permanently.  This cuts the employer’s time and expense in training as the employee has been already trained by Elwood Staffing.