TWIN FALLS — Idaho’s dairy industry has a new leader. Rick Naerebout is now heading up the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.

IDA President Tony Vander Hulst announced the change Wednesday.

“Rick has proven to be an industry leader during his 15-year tenure with IDA, and particularly throughout the changes IDA has undertaken these past few years,” Vander Hulst said in a statement. “He has been integral in identifying, hiring and managing the highly qualified staff that have been added, and our board has full confidence in his leadership capabilities to meet the changing needs of our industry.”

Naerebout, 38, is the son of Bob Naerebout, former executive director of IDA. Both have been with the organization since 2002.

Bob Naerebout will continue his work for IDA on sustainability and governmental issues. Handing over the reins to his son will allow him to focus on immigration reform, which, he said, is an issue that must be resolved. About 90 percent of jobs on Idaho dairies are filled with foreign-born labor, according to IDA.

“The economic viability of Idaho stands on the shoulders of foreign-born labor,” he said Thursday.

Bob Naerebout, 65, said the organization’s executive director position no longer exists; it was a contracted position when he held it.

Rick Naerebout is now responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities operations of IDA, as well as the Independent Dairy Environmental Action League Inc. and IDA Consulting Services — both independent entities under the IDA umbrella.

The IDA board recently created three new positions and hired three new employees, which necessitates a larger role for the younger Naerebout, his father said.

“It seemed like a good time to make the change,” Bob Naerebout said.

Rick Naerebout grew up on his family’s dairy farm in McBain, Mich. He moved west with his family after the dairy was sold in the late 1990s and studied at College of Southern Idaho and Idaho State University. He has been married to his wife, Angi, for 17 years. They have three daughters and live in Twin Falls.

In 1924, IDA formed to develop and sustain an economically viable Idaho dairy industry, which has grown to one-third of the state’s agricultural sector and supports nearly 40,000 jobs.

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