Steve Kandra, a
Merrill farmer long active in fighting for the right to farm in the
Klamath Basin, traveled to Calgary, Canada to speak Jan. 24 at the annual
conference of the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association.
The Association, a collection of 13 irrigation
districts covering 1.3 million acres of irrigated farmland in Canada —
comprising 70 percent of the irrigated farmland in the entire country —
sought to hear Kandra’s views and experience in dealing with the impacts
of species protection legislation.
According to Kandra, our neighbor to the north recently
passed national legislation called the Species at Risk Act, and the
irrigation districts wanted to hear first hand how the Endangered Species
Act came to impact the Klamath Basin.
"Those folks are very aware and concerned about the
long term impacts of this new legislation, and wanted to learn how it came
to hit the Klamath Project so severely," Kandra said. "People were very
interested in hearing our story, even the bureaucrats, because they want
to avoid the conflicts we developed here."
Kandra said he soon noticed a major difference in how
provincial officials, the equivalent of our state officials, viewed
agriculture in Canada.
"I was very impressed in how the provincial government
saw agriculture as an integral part of their region’s economic
development," Kandra said. "Here we are often told farming is benign
economically, while there agriculture is seen as an integral part of their
long term economic plans."
Evidence of the difference in how agriculture is viewed
economically, Kandra said, was in the fact the provincial government pays
85 percent of irrigation project costs as a matter of course, and nearly
all of the communities in Alberta gather their municipal water supplies
from irrigation districts.
Kandra has spoken with literally hundreds of people
throughout the United States since 2001, and will continue to do so, he
"It helps to put a face to the
story," Kandra said. "The people can get the information, but I can stand
up and say, ‘Hey, I’m one of those people you are reading about.