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Farmers sued over drought funding
Local agency: Walker Brothers farm didn’t qualify for $200,000
By JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 6/5/12
A Klamath Basin farming family is being sued for allegedly taking more than $200,000 in drought relief funding in 2010 despite receiving irrigation water to grow crops that year.
The Klamath Water and Power Agency filed the suit April 9 against Walker Brothers Farms, seeking $213,552 plus interest, according to Klamath County Circuit Court records.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., allocated $10 million to Klamath Basin irrigators in 2010, a year when more than 32,000 acres on the Klamath Reclamation Project were left dry after an unusually dry winter resulted in a water shortage.
To qualify for the drought funds, a particular parcel of land must have been farmed in 2009 and received no irrigation water from November, 2009 to July 10, 2010.
Listed in the suit are William, John and Weston Walker and Tricia Hill doing business as Walker Brothers, a Merrill based potato and grain farming business.
The parcels in question were used to grow mostly grain.
Walker Brothers applied for drought relief funding for nine parcels of land rented from the Bureau of Reclamation on the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge. KWAPA claims those parcels were winter flood-irrigated prior to the 2010 growing season, disqualifying them for the drought funding.
Winter flood-irrigating is a common practice for grain fields in that area. Other parcels flood irrigated before the growing season were denied drought relief funding, according to KWAPA’s filing.
“It is unjust and inequitable to allow defendants to reap the benefit of a program for which the land did not qualify when other members of the farming community were properly denied payment under identical circumstances,” the agency wrote it its suit.
Hollie Cannon, executive director of the Klamath Water and Power Agency, said he could not comment on the ongoing suit.
Calls to a manager and an attorney for Walker Brothers were not returned by press time Monday.
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Page Updated: Wednesday June 06, 2012 01:48 AM Pacific
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