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Idaho Farm Bureau tackles new policy issues

By Kaitlin Loukides
Published On: Dec 10 2012 08:51:23 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 11 2012 09:11:12 PM CST
POCATELLO, Idaho -

Time is ticking down for Governor Otter as his deadline to reach a decision regarding the state healthcare exchange policy, and one group representing the state's farmers is raising its voice in opposition.

While the Idaho Farmers Bureau Federation is well-known for being a prominent figure in agricultural economic policies, this time it is taking a stand when it comes to healthcare policy. The bureau's Director of Information John Thompson said the reason they got involved with an issue such as this one, is because he feels the bureau acts as the voice of the people and wants their opinions to be heard.

“What this shows is that it's a family organization because people brought this to the forefront and believe it's a serious matter,” Thompson said. “They believe it's very important to Idaho that Idaho needs to fight back. In this case, against the federal government.”

Farmers and ranchers from across the state met this past week at the Bureau's annual delegation in Boise to discuss pertinent issues regarding any policy changes to the 2013 policy handbook.

The possible adoption of the state's healthcare exchange policy caused quite a stir as the prominent issue at the meeting, with some bureau delegates arguing constituents in their districts are calling it an attack on their independence. Thompson said people felt that by being forced to pay for health insurance, it is an intrusion on their state sovereignty.

“They believe this issue is really a time, chance, or even an opportunity to put their foot down and say that state sovereignty is important and it's time. The line has been drawn,” Thompson said.

Some argue the upside of having the state draw-up its own healthcare policy is allowing the state to give people healthcare options that are more tailored to the state's needs. If the state decides against forming their own policy this week, Idaho will be mandated to revert back to falling under the federal healthcare policies put in place by the Obama Administration.

Thompson said with a significant portion of the tax money earned from the new healthcare law going toward programs such as Planned Parenthood and issues surrounding abortion, this has been more of a personal, religious issue with those opposed to the healthcare exchange instead of the concern surrounding being required to pay for the insurance itself.

He also said the bureau just wants to see a fair playing field for everyone who will be forced to decide on an insurance plan. Thompson argued every state should be able to choose from the same healthcare insurance policies across the board, and not just the select few that are offered according to each state.

Also at the meeting, delegates voted against an increase in brand inspection fees to offset the costs associated with wolf management in the area. Thompson said the initial proposal was to increase the amount farmers and ranchers had to pay the government per cattle by 50-cents. That money would then go toward taking care of wolves in the area that pose a threat to their livestock.

One other hot-button topic discussed at the meeting was the issue over protecting sage grouse management policies. Thompson said this is now an endangered species and since it is becoming a larger issue than the spotted owl concern years ago, we can expect to see this becoming more prominent in the near future.

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