Idaho is looking to change its outdated rural development programs by implementing a more sustainable model.
The state has put together a model that includes a requirement for a 20% share of income from landowner income for rural development projects, and that would help address the rural development gap in Idaho.
“We’ve put a lot of focus on this problem, and there are a lot more rural development opportunities now than there used to be,” said State Senator Steve Kosti, a Republican from Idaho Falls.
“This is a good example of a good, efficient way to do it, and it’s a way that we can do it right.”
The Idaho Rural Development Authority is a program of the Idaho Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Under the program, landowner’s income from farmland and other properties is used to pay for the rural expansion projects.
The landowner can receive up to 20% of the development project’s costs, which could include a loan or tax credits.
Kostie said it’s important to get a fair amount of development financed in a fair way.
“If it’s not going to make a significant impact on the development process, then it’s just not going be successful,” Kosties said.
“It’s the way that you go about making sure that there is an appropriate amount of revenue, so that you’re not going into a situation where you have to put the taxpayer on the hook for a significant portion of your cost,” Kowalski said.
The new system would be different than what is already in place in Idaho, which requires a 20-percent share of landowner incomes for rural projects.
Idaho’s current system has some problems, including a high percentage of landowners paying a disproportionate share of development costs.
Kowalki said he hopes to change that by using a formula that looks at a property’s value, the number of properties owned, and the amount of money a landowner has to make to support their land.
He said the program would be easier to administer, as there is less paperwork involved.
“Our goal is to make it a model for all the other states that are moving forward,” Kowe said.
State Senator Steve Gans said that is important because there is a large portion of the population that does not own land and is in need of development assistance.
He pointed to a rural Idaho with an average income of $42,000 per person, and many who are working at minimum wage or lower.
“That’s a lot less money to spend on a small community,” Gans told ABC News.
“It’s really a very small community, and so it’s really the most vulnerable people that are being hit the hardest by these problems.”
Gans is also pushing for the state to increase the share of agricultural land used for rural expansion to 20%, so that farmers and ranchers in rural areas would be eligible for the subsidy.
He noted that Idaho has a lot to gain from making landowner contributions to rural development a priority, and is also trying to expand the program to other rural areas.
“What we’ve found is that a lot people in rural Idaho are looking at it as a way to get money, and they’re not even considering the landowner contribution,” Gan said.
“They think it’s going to be a great way to pay the bills.”
Kowalsky said Idaho has also been making some changes to its rural development regulations.
He hopes to take the model to the next level, and has been working with legislators on how to make that happen.
“The key is to be smart about it and make sure we have a system that is really transparent, and fair to all parties,” Kowa said.