Looking forward: What will stay in the news in 2023
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The city of Twin Falls is evaluating proposals for ways to spend nearly $9 million dollars of federal COVID money. A committee of city staff and officials, along with other members of the community, have heard presentations from more than 20 projects looking for funding.
The committee is now in the process of selecting projects that meet federal criteria and will benefit the most members of the community. Recommendations will be presented to the city council in late January or early February.
The Bureau of Land Management is expected to release the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lava Ridge Wind Project in mid-January. The EIS was originally scheduled to be completed in 2021 but the scoping period was extended several times to include several environmental factors in the studies.
Commissioners in Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Cassia counties have stated that they cannot support the project in its current form.
Numerous bills are expected to be introduced early on when the Idaho legislative session gets underway Jan. 9.
Legislators will have to agree on what to do with the $491 million for education funding that was approved during the September special session. There is still pressure to create some kind of property tax relief, which has come up over the last several sessions. Lawmakers will also likely face several bills addressing social issues, such as a ban on drag performances where minors may be present and discussions about birth control.
Twin Falls is working to have its public transportation system rolling this spring.
Some residents, including those using wheelchairs, have been stuck in a transportation gap since September when the Trans IV bus system, operated by the College of Southern Idaho, shut down as the city moved into a “small urban” classification of 50,000 people and Trans IV was no longer eligible for funding.
Mandi Thompson, assistant to City Manager Travis Rothweiler, said the city’s micro-transit system will be similar to an Uber, allowing someone to make a call or use an app to summon a ride and wait around 15 minutes for that ride to show up.
The city released a request for proposals on Dec. 2, and so far there’s been interest from multiple companies who provide public transportation, Thompson said.
The bus system was projected to start running in April, but now that time frame has been pushed back to early May as the deadline for companies to submit proposals for the bus system was extended.
The transportation system won’t be strictly wheelchair lifts, but smaller vehicles will be in the mix as well, Thompson said.
The elderly and low-income populations are expected to be the primary users of the system, but it will be available to everyone.
Idaho farmers will reap high prices on many commodities in 2023, ag officials say, but they will still face the strain of inflation, bumped-up interest rates and higher input costs.
Potato prices are expected to fall, partly due to a projected jump in acreage, while wheat prices are expected to stay high due to tight supplies, University of Idaho Extension speakers said at the annual Ag Outlook Seminar in December.
Idaho farm cash receipts soared 28% in 2022 from 2021 levels, officials say.
The $11 billion in receipts is a phenomenal number, University of Idaho Extension Specialist Garth Taylor said. But can farmers keep the trend going?
Leading indicators are strong, Taylor said, but the 2023 outlook will depend on drought, inflation and export strength.
Wheat stocks are expected to remain tight, keeping prices for that commodity high, said Norm Ruhoff, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Idaho. The U.S. wheat stocks-to-use ratio is the lowest since 2013, and there has been a dramatic 25% decrease in that ratio since 2017.
Potato prices, according to a model used by assistant professor Patrick Hatzenbuehler, could drop significantly and acreage nationwide could jump about 100,000 acres to 1,017,000 acres.
Brett Wilder of the University of Idaho Extension expects higher beef prices in 2023, as many areas of the country, including high beef-producing areas of Texas and Oklahoma, have been hit with severe drought, causing farmers to send more cattle to slaughter.
Contraction of the U.S. beef herd will be felt in a minor way in 2023, with the full impact coming in 2024.
While fertilizer prices have hit farmers hard, associated professor Xiaoli Etienne said she expects fertilizer prices to decline slightly this year, providing relief to producers who saw prices double during the 2022 growing season.