September 5, 1997 in Nation/World

Some Grass Growers Feel Betrayed By Sale

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Growers reacted with everything from shrugs to anger Thursday at the news that the company pushing for an end to field burning now is selling out.

On Aug. 1, Jacklin Seed Co. announced it was leading a coalition of growers in a 10-year phaseout of torching of grass fields. At the time, Don Jacklin said the phaseout was the right thing to do, based on public opposition to the practice.

On Thursday, the company announced it is being sold to J.R. Simplot Co. for an undisclosed amount of cash. The transaction should be completed next month, subject to approval by federal antitrust regulators.

“If I had agreed to it, I would feel as if I had gotten screwed,” said Don Beck. “They were saying, ‘We’re looking at the long-term picture.”’

Instead, the Jacklins were preparing to check out, Beck said. And no one said a word about it when the company was pushing for the burning ban.

Beck was listed as one of eight growers joining the Jacklin coalition. However, he says he never agreed to have his name on the list.

Wayne Meyer, a state legislator and a grass farmer, also is suspicious of the Jacklin announcement. Meyer refused to join the grass-burning agreement, saying he didn’t believe it was being portrayed honestly in terms of how much burning would be reduced for the first five years.

Thursday’s announcement by the Jacklins shows “they have no interest in this area, except the land they own, and they want to develop that land,” said Meyer.

Two of the Jacklin brothers, Don and Duane, are leaving the company when the sale to Simplot is completed this fall. They will run the family real estate development and hospitality enterprises.

That includes considerable acreage along Idaho Highway 41, between Post Falls and Rathdrum, that the Jacklins have been trying to get rezoned for commercial development for at least two years.

Simplot’s entry into the grass-farming picture simultaneously leaves Meyer feeling “like it might leave me holding the bag,” he said. “If they get more and more acreage going in southern Idaho, that’s more competition, and that keeps the price down.

“I have to have a certain price to pay my bills.”

Other farmers see the Jacklin sale to Simplot as a natural event, given the outcry over burning grass fields. Field burning is used to increase yields and get rid of pests and diseases, but it annual provokes from residents.

“It’s one of those inevitable things as grass growing gets pushed out of here,” said Ed Jacquot, whose family joined the burning phaseout. “They’ve got more to lose than most people with that big plant over there.”

Jacklin Seed has a grass seed processing plant in Post Falls.

It’s the seeming inevitable end to burning that persuaded Jacquot to agree to the phase out. “It was the sensible course,” said Jacquot, adding that an alternative to field burning may be found.

“If not, maybe we won’t raise grass.”

, DataTimes


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