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HB 51: Dairy Phosphorous Bill – 2021

Summary: HB 51 reduces existing water quality protections by modifying rules for application of dairy manure.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Law

Issue Areas: Agriculture, Clean Water

Official Legislative Site

3-23-21 UPDATE: Governor Little Issues Transmittal Letter

On March 23, Governor Little signed HB 167, but issued a Transmittal Letter. His letter cited concerns with the challenges of implementing both HB 51 (signed on March 17) and HB 167. Gov. Little stated that “this bill, combined with House Bill 51, could put the [dairy] industry under increased scrutiny … I do have concerns that these pieces of legislation may increase the likelihood of agency rules being challenged in court. ”

The Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA) introduced House Bill 51 to modify the process of disposing of dairy byproducts (aka cow manure) on agricultural fields. As ICL has reported, surface and groundwater conditions in the Snake River Plain have deteriorated as a result of excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. With over 50 million pounds of manure generated on a daily basis in the Magic Valley region, the logistics of managing this waste are equally monumental. Dairy waste contains high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen and careful disposal is warranted to protect ground and surface water.

In 2017, the IDA proposed a shift from the antiquated Phosphorous Threshold Method (PTM) to a more scientifically-proven and protective Phosphorus Site Indexing (PSI) method. ICL supported this transition in order to improve testing protocols to limit excessive phosphorous levels in the soil. PSI was officially adopted during the 2018 Legislative Session, and dairies had 5 years (by June 30, 2023) to switch over to the new method. 

Now the IDA is proposing a bill to remove the June 30, 2023 “sunset clause” for the PTM. If this bill passes, the current (and ineffective) implementation of PTM would continue indefinitely, which will lead to a degradation of water quality.