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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

 By Jacqui Krizo for the Capital Press 12/24/08
Online video

See a video of some of the Klamath Basin's major crops: onions, potatoes, grain, mint and mint plants, alfalfa, horseradish, strawberry plants, and pasture. The video is narrated by Harry L. Carlson, director and farm advisor at the Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake.

A field crew harvests potatoes in the Klamath Basin on Oct.14.
John Cross, manager of Newell Potato Co-Op in the Klamath
Basin, said this year they had an excellent harvest.
Klamath Basin harvest brings good prices, many challenges

Fertilizer and fuel expenses up 30 to 50 percent in some areas

TULELAKE - Harvest in the Klamath Basin brought better prices for potatoes and alfalfa, two of the Basin's major crops, but the crops also cost more to grow.

John Cross, manager of Newell Potato Co-Op, said this year they had an excellent harvest. He said the yield was slightly down on long-season varieties like Russet Burbanks due to lack of heat units.

The short season Russet Norkotahs' yields were up because they don't need such a long season.

"The price is good this year; Russet Norkotahs are $11 to $13 per hundred weight; it is the best price we've had since 2001," Cross said.

"It cost me $1,000 per acre more this year than two years ago for fuel, labor, fertilizer and power," Cross said. "It was a good ideal harvest with perfect conditions. We only had one day of rain; things went smooth."

He said the growers' potato acreage was slightly down this year because they had difficulty finding ground. Farmers planted more alfalfa and wheat because those prices were up.

Joe Hemphill, Tulelake rancher and alfalfa hay farmer, said this was an average year for alfalfa.

"We were cold and it didn't quit frosting until the sixth of June," said Hemphill. "We had aphids for our second and third cuttings, so the yields were down. Normally we get eight tons per acre, but this year we got six."

He said in October the price was $225 per ton, and last year it was $175 per ton at best. However, now the price has dropped to $180 because Nevada lowered their price.

Hemphill said his expenses, including fertilizer and fuel, are up about 30 to 50 percent, and this does not include rising power rates.

Over a four-year period, Klamath Project power rates are increasing. In 2005, Tulelake Irrigation District paid $65,000 for power; this year managers estimate the bill to be more than $475,000.

Tulelake Irrigation District has nearly 40 pumps to move the water throughout the area. This district is unique because it must move and lift water to various areas and levels and the water is reused several times.

D Plant alone will cost irrigators $864,000 to run the pumps. D Plant pumps water uphill out of the Klamath Basin into refuges and ultimately into the Klamath River. These costs are borne entirely by farmers and ranchers.

"We have to keep our prices up to cover expenses," said Hemphill.

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