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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 14 - 20, 2001


Ketchum senator shares views on rural Idaho

Express Staff Writer

Solutions to breaking out of rural Idaho’s economic doldrums must come from individual communities, Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, said.

"You can’t just be the same as you used to be," he said.

Stennett didn’t attend the Andrus Center for Public Policy’s rural Idaho conference in Caldwell last week, but, as a legislator, he wrestles with potential solutions to rural Idaho’s decline on a regular basis.

Another of the keys to helping rural Idaho overcome this transitional time, is for the state legislature to allow local taxation, Stennett said.

"What we as a Legislature need to do is allow for funding mechanisms, home rule, so communities can fund the projects they need to," he said.

But, he pointed out, "local control ends at the Boise Capitol steps," for many of the state’s political leaders.

"Home rule has proven itself all over the country. You just have to trust local people to make good decisions and tax themselves based on their unique circumstances."

Stennett also said the commercialization of agriculture, including moves to concentrated dairy and hog farm operations, is dealing a heavy blow to small, rural farmers and ranchers.

"This industrialization and this concentration of power has killed rural Idaho," he said. "If we are really going to create a sustainable food system, long-term, we have got to forge a stronger connection between farmers and consumers. When people know where their food comes from, they’ll pay more for it, and they’ll support rural Idaho farmers and ranchers."

Stennett said Idaho’s small number of organic farmers have established a model that seems to work.

Carey and Fairfield, two cities in Stennett’s legislative district, are also moving in the right direction, he said.

Carey has acknowledged that it is a bedroom community between two resorts, Sun Valley and Craters of the Moon National Monument, and is developing plans to take advantage of that, he said.

A group of farmers in Fairfield is working to develop an industrial kitchen to process and sell sustainable crops, so they "won’t be at the whim of the market."

"We need to encourage education among producers and consumers and do whatever we can, lead collaborative processes," he said. "We need to get people talking about what they want their communities to look like."

"It’s happening, slowly."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.