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April 4, 2005

F o r I m m e d i a t e R e l e a s e



Family Farm Alliance Invited to Participate
in Two Important Congressional Panels

Focus to be on Storage Needs, Cost Containment Issues

he Family Farm Alliance (Alliance) has been invited to testify before two important Congressional committees in early April on topics that are near and dear to the hearts of Western family farmers and ranchers: the wise use of limited federal resources, and the need to begin implementing water supply enhancement projects. The participation of the Alliance in the April 5 Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee 2005 Water Conference is timely, according to Alliance spokesmen.

"Last month at our annual conference, the Western family farmers and ranchers made it a top priority to advocate for more efficient and wise use of scarce resources," said Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen, who will testify at the April 5 Senate committee hearing. "The Senate Energy Committee hearing will allow us an opportunity to outline our plans to compile experiences from around the West – both good and bad – to create a template that can be used constructively by the Bureau of Reclamation and other Interior Department agencies in dealing with cost containment and accountability issues."

In addition, on April 13, Alliance President Pat O’Toole – a rancher from Wyoming – will testify at a U.S. House Resources Committee hearing on surface and groundwater storage projects. The Alliance has represented family farmers, ranchers and irrigation districts in 17 Western states for the last 17 years.


For this week’s hearing, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee staff selected 22 groups to present and discuss their proposed solutions to the challenge of meeting the nation’s ever increasing demand for water. This half-day bipartisan conference is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5 at 2:15 p.m. in Hart 216.

The Senate Energy Committee announced the conference in March and invited the public to submit written proposals that address various aspects of domestic water challenges. The committee received more than 130 proposals from the public, utilities, environmental organizations, universities, think tanks and state and federal agencies.

"I am extremely impressed with the breadth and quality of the submissions," said Senator Pete Domenici, Chairman of the Committee. "It is my hope that this forum will yield creative and innovative solutions to our pressing water needs."

Joining the Alliance on the second panel of the workshop will be representatives from the National Water Resources Association, Water Reuse Association, Western States Water Council, City of Santa Fe and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Several of these parties – like the Alliance – have underscored their concerns about the aging of Reclamation facilities.

"We share those concerns because our communities rely on those facilities for their very existence," said Keppen. "Irrigation districts also are the ones who pay most of the costs of maintaining and modernizing Reclamation projects."

In general, irrigators are obligated to pay 100 percent of the costs of project operations and maintenance, which covers everything from repainting guard shacks to replacing multi-million-dollar floodgates. The costs of some "maintenance" projects exceed the original price of building the dam, and irrigators must pay those costs immediately, not over time.

"That is why family farmers, ranchers and irrigation districts want to see Reclamation operate in the most cost-effective way possible," said O’Toole. "We can’t afford to waste money on over-staffing and non-competitive practices."

During the Alliance’s recent Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, O’Toole said talked about critical conditions he said are facing Western irrigated agriculture. "We are facing a reality check," O’Toole said. He said the strength of American agriculture is not in its production. "It is in its redundancy," O’Toole said. "Now, because of pressures on irrigated agriculture’s water supplies, that redundancy is threatened."

"We are going to be the voice in Washington and to the public that agriculture is critical," O’Toole added.

For more information on the Family Farm Alliance – including copies of its Senate Energy Committee submittal – go to www.familyfarmalliance.org.