WEISER, Idaho — It's no secret that the state of Idaho is growing, especially the Treasure Valley as new developments, sprawling subdivisions and growth are leading to farmland disappearing.
The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation has adopted a new policy that supports preserving farmland statewide and this initiative started with Tristan Winegar who lives near Weiser.
"I’m a fourth-generation Treasure Valley farmer," said Winegar who grows forage crops like alfalfa, triticale and bean seeds. "I can’t imagine living anywhere else, I love the Treasure Valley.”
So as the Washington County Farm Bureau Director Winegar wanted to start a conversation about preserving farmland in Idaho and on December 1 the Idaho Farm Bureau voted to approve this measure even though a specific plan has not been put into place yet.
"The things that make Idaho great are the things that we are destroying right now and that is the agriculture, wide-open spaces and the pretty country," said Winegar. "Once you turn that into a house, a shopping center or a parking lot there is no going back.”
The value of land in Idaho has gone through the roof and if the next generation doesn't want to continue the family business a farmer can set himself up for retirement by selling his land, this policy will not affect that right.
"Private property rights are going to be first and foremost so we are trying to come up with a solution that doesn’t infringe on private property rights so the farmer that has all this land and nobody to pass it onto has the right to sell it to somebody that is going to develop it and he has a right to all that money," said Winegar. "What we are trying to do is close the gap so younger farmers such as myself might have an opportunity to farm that ground."
So the Idaho Farm Bureau approved this policy and will come up with ideas to incentivize farming to give them direction and a seat at the table to get something passed in the legislature.
"They wanted our support and they wanted us to lead the battle in trying to save farmland," said Winegar. "Legislators told us we had support from both sides of the aisle."
Details of what comes out of this policy remain to be seen and while growth may be inevitable, the future of what Idaho looks like will depend on the actions of today.
"It’s not sustainable and Idaho is not sustainable without farm ground," said Winegar.
Winegar also told us they have to work on solutions that work for the farmers, the developers and the citizens of Idaho and that will be a challenge, but a challenge he's looking forward to.