Growers wait on federal drought declaration for aid
and News b
MERRILL— Klamath Basin irrigator Bill Bowman bought a 1920,
secondary water right — known to many as a B water right — more
than a decade ago, but water won’t reach his crops in time this
Bowman was one of about 50 who attended a session with the Farm
Service Agency in Merrill on Tuesday morning, to meet with FSA
agents and see what their options look like facing the drought
when and if a federal drought declaration is declared.
The agency, which is non-preventative, provides aid to eligible
applicants following an event such as a drought under the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. With a handful of pamphlets in hand
as he left, Bowman shared concerns as he and others left the
meeting without aid. At 75, he’ll be driving a truck outside the
Basin in order to pay his taxes, he said, without assistance for
“Why should I have to do that?” Bowman said.
Laura Hall, of Klamath County’s FSA, said frustrations like
Bowman’s are shared by many in the Basin uncertain of their
water outlook. Hall said FSA held the informational meeting to
speak with growers and irrigators.
“It’s very important that if you feel like you’ve been prevented
from planting that you come into your local FSA office,” Hall
said. “There is no (drought assistance) program at this point,
but if a program happens, we will publicize it heavily.”
Hall said many irrigators are frustrated because they need more
information to help make their management decisions for the
season in light of water uncertainties. She is hoping an aid
program could become available for eligible irrigators by
August, but there are no guarantees.
“Come and see what you could apply for,” she added.
Bowman, who has lived and farmed in the Basin for 12 years, has
a background growing oranges in southern California and said he
faced water shortages there clear back to the 1950s.
With the Klamath Basin’s drought in full force in 2018 and
little to no water for secondary water right holders, and his
plants all wilting, he anticipates they won’t make it to produce
grain this year.
Scott Seus, a longtime Tulelake irrigator who farms crops such
as horseradish, mint, onions and garlic, also spoke about
worries about the potential to lose contracts with his crops
following the meeting.
“We don’t have 401Ks,” Seus said. “That land is not worth
anything without the water.”
Seus believes there is water in Upper Klamath Lake to go around
to provide for irrigators this summer, but believes that ag
producers will suffer instead.
“There will be water left in the lake and there will be farmers
that will go dry,” Seus said.
To learn more about what FSA can offer, go
online to www.fsa.usda.gov or
contact Laura at FSA’s local office at 541-883-6924, located at
2316 S. Sixth St., Klamath Falls.
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