Saturday, September 5, 2009

Farm Bureau Editorial

Comments, Hunt Evoke Controversy for Idaho
by President Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau

The September 1 opening of the first wolf season in over 50 years, coupled with an off-the-cuff statement from a gubernatorial candidate, resulted in Idaho taking a beating in the national media not felt in several years.

Many of us don’t care if the editors at the New York Times think Idaho is full of hicks, rubes and racists. We live here and we know that’s not true. But the outpouring of degrading messages on the newspaper’s website, along with the snowball effect created by other forms of mass media, gives us reason for concern.

The biggest concern is a nationwide call to boycott Idaho potatoes. When the wolf season dates and quotas were set in mid-August, the animal rights group Friends of Animals, based in Massachusetts, called for a boycott of Idaho potatoes.

Then this week after gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell made an asinine and threatening remark about President Barack Obama, the New York Times published an editorial and a column by Timothy Egan. The editorial suggested that Idaho’s wolf hunt is misguided, premature and that the region’s wolf population has not yet reached a sustainable level. Egan’s column, which drew nearly 400 responses on the newspaper’s website on the morning it ran, connected the anti-Obama rhetoric with wolf hunting and other long-held, negative outside perceptions about Idaho.

Idaho’s Republican leadership denounced Rammell’s comments. “Reckless and inflammatory statements like these gravely damage confidence in the political process and the good citizens who serve the public. As Governor, as an Idaho Republican and as a citizen of our state, I reject and condemn this kind of rhetoric,” said Gov. Butch Otter. “There is no place for it in Idaho.”
Joking about shooting the President or anyone for that matter isn’t funny. It’s poor taste. Here’s a sample of some of the comments received on the NYT website:
“Idaho seems to be an attractive venue for the stupid.”

“Does anyone know about an organized boycott of all products/services coming out of Idaho, including tourism (even these yahoos must be able to make more than potatoes). We need a list of EVERYTHING coming from Idaho, and a major campaign against them, including, for example, any fast food restaurants (e.g., McDonalds) that buy Idaho potatoes.”
“I had a boss who flew into Boise, considering it for a new plant. He spent one night there. The plant was opened in Arizona.”

“Idahoans like Rex Rammell should know that people have a choice when they shop for potatoes and onions. Boycotts are an easy and peaceful way to communicate a zero tolerance policy when it comes to violence-against-Obama-speech, and the hatred that lies beneath such “humor.’”
If you want to know more about Idaho’s wolf population, seek out a credible source like the Idaho Department of Fish and Game or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – not an east coast newspaper or a candidate vying for political office.

In spite of what the New York Times’ editors think, it’s clearly a stretch to argue that allotting 220 tags will have much if any consequence on our overall wolf population. In our opinion it’s unlikely that all of the 220 tags will be filled. We believe there should be more tags but it’s clearly a hot political and emotional issue. With the number of deep-pocketed animal rights groups out there ready to file lawsuits, it’s a miracle we got a hunt started at all. We hope that hunting wolves makes them more wary of humans and helps keep them away from livestock.

Although it’s an even bigger stretch of logic to think a potato boycott will change how Idaho manages its wolf population, this kind of media attention could be detrimental to the potato industry which creates in excess of $700 million in farm gate revenue each year and generates millions more in total revenue that thousands of Idaho families depend on.

This turn of events was a gut-punch for Idaho’s image. We hope it doesn’t deliver a similar blow to the state’s economy. Idaho exports 73 percent of its agricultural products. We need to remember that those folks out there who don’t always agree with our way of thinking are also our customers. We need to be able to continue to hunt wolves. We also need to keep a civil tongue.

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