Idaho’s joint budget committee this morning unanimously approved funding for a new field-burning regulatory system in Idaho, to go along with legislation that passed unanimously yesterday to allow field burning to resume in the state with a new regulatory system that focuses on public health (you can read my full story here from today’s Spokesman-Review). “This has been a contentious issue in my district as well as other areas,” said Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover. He praised both the opponents and supporters of field-burning, who came together to reach the compromise. “They worked very hard in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality to come up with an agreement that I think is a win-win for everybody.”
The funding, contained in a trailer bill to HB 557, totals $606,400, and includes two new full-time staffers, seasonal workers, new air quality monitors, and a new web-based system to alert people to upcoming burns. The state Department of Agriculture will revert $209,000 that it now has for field-burning regulation to the general fund, offsetting some of the new funding. A $2 per acre fee on farmers who burn their fields also will pay for part of the program, offsetting another $200,000 or so.