October 7, 2012 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Wal-Mart, Idaho reach cheesy arrangement

By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – Though Idaho is the nation’s third-largest producer of cheese, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture says Idahoans who want to join the “locavore” movement have often had trouble finding Idaho-made cheese to buy. The reason: Most Idaho cheese is sold to food companies that put their own brand on the package and distribute their products nationwide, with no mention of where the cheese originated.

Now, however, retail giant Wal-Mart is signing on with the department’s “Idaho Preferred” program, selling Idaho-made cheese under an “Idaho Cheese” brand decorated with a blue image of the state’s shape and the blue-and-gold Idaho Preferred logo.

“This project has been in the works for a long time,” said Leah Clark, manager of the Idaho Preferred program, who worked with Wal-Mart. “They were very persistent in their efforts to encourage Idaho cheese companies to find a way to identify local cheese in their stores.”

The new Wal-Mart Idaho brand cheese is provided by Nelson-Ricks Creamery near Rexburg, which will produce some of the varieties in its own plant and buy others from other Idaho cheese producers, including Glanbia in Twin Falls. The varieties include mild and medium cheddar, Monterey Jack, colby jack, pepper jack and mozzarella.

The Idaho cheese went on sale at Southern Idaho stores this week, with plans to extend distribution to North Idaho stores later this fall. The initial order from Wal-Mart for Idaho cheese: 40,000 pounds.

Fish and Game backs amendment

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has come out in favor of HJR 2aa, the constitutional amendment on the November ballot guaranteeing a right to hunt, fish and trap.

“Recent surveys confirm that a strong majority of Idahoans continue to support these outdoor activities,” the unanimous seven-member commission wrote in an endorsement letter. “However, opposition groups in other states have sought to hijack wildlife management by restricting or eliminating these activities. It’s important for Idahoans to act now to ensure future generations an opportunity to experience Idaho’s sporting heritage.”

Word change ensures probation system

There’s a little-noticed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot in Idaho regarding misdemeanor probation services. SJR 102 adds one word, felony, to the section in the Idaho Constitution on management of adult probation in the state to reflect current practice and clarify that counties manage misdemeanor probation, while the state Corrections Department handles felony cases.

Dan Chadwick, executive director of the Idaho Association of Counties, said the change is needed: “Ballot measures don’t have to be controversial to be important,” he said.

Chadwick said the amendment would preserve a system under which Idaho counties now employ 108 probation officers to supervise 14,000 misdemeanor offenders, ensuring that “misdemeanor probation services in Idaho don’t get swallowed up by the state of Idaho.” He added, “Just about every lawmaker, judge and county commissioner that I’ve talked with supports SJR 102.”

Otter wants more logging, grazing

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is blaming federal land management policies for this year’s destructive wildfires and calling for change; in a guest opinion sent out to Idaho newspapers late last week, Otter said the answer is more logging and grazing to reduce flammable fuels on federal lands.

“Despite the best efforts of our congressional delegation, Idahoans and all Americans will continue paying in many ways for the lack of direction – or misguided direction – that federal laws and policies provide public land managers,” he wrote. “And while our exceptional firefighters put their lives on the line, the challenges they face on the ground are aggravated by litigious single-interest environmental groups devoted to economically undermining such traditional industries as ranching and forest products.”

He concludes, “It’s time for a new dialogue and a new approach to federal land management.”

Tax revenues exceed September forecast

Idaho’s state tax revenues beat forecasts in September, driven by a month of strong individual income tax collections. The total revenue for the month of $248.1 million was 3.7 percent, or $8.8 million, over the forecast; individual income tax receipts, which had missed forecasts in both July and August, came in $12.5 million above the forecast for September. Sales taxes came in slightly ahead of forecasts, while corporate and miscellaneous taxes dipped below.

The strong month put the state’s year-to-date revenues back on track with forecasts, running 0.5 percent ahead. State tax revenues overall are running 5.7 percent ahead of last year; forecasts anticipated a 5.2 percent increase.

Andrus: She should’ve been guv

The Lewiston Tribune reported this week former four-term Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus once tried hard to convince longtime Idaho Sen. Marguerite McLaughlin, D-Orofino, to run for governor, and regrets he didn’t succeed. “I thought she was better prepared than any other person to be governor,” Andrus said. “Had she run and been elected she would have been one of the top two or three governors the state has ever known.”

McLaughlin served two terms in the Idaho House and nine in the Senate, retiring in 2000.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at (208) 336-2854 or betsyr@spokesman.com. Follow the blog, Eye on Boise, at spokesman.com/blogs.

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