The Farm Bureau found itself in the unusual position of opposing most of the state’s agriculture groups on the deal. “It was very divisive, even among our membership,” Thompson said. Though the organization’s delegates voted 48-19 to oppose the deal, six of its largest county organizations later decided to dissent.
Judy Bartlett, the lobbyist who led the fight for the Farm Bureau and a former aide to Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, was dismissed from the Farm Bureau two weeks ago after three years with the organization. “We don’t talk on the record about internal personnel matters,” Thompson said. “She was let go, I can confirm that.”
Thompson said the Farm Bureau “definitely lost some credibility” in Boise over the Nez Perce deal, but he said, “In hindsight, we couldn’t really take any other position than the one we took on the Nez Perce agreement. We’ve got a lot of active members in North Idaho who if we had decided to support it, they would’ve been just as mad as the irrigators down here were. So there was no happy place for us to be on that whole deal.”
The landmark agreement, which was approved by both the Legislature and Congress, settled the Nez Perce Tribe’s claims to all the water in the Snake River, allowing water rights claims by farmers and other throughout the Snake River basin to be settled as part of a long-running adjudication.