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

Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett, Klamath Falls Dist 28 10/2/12

Agricultural contributions and water reallocation

The combined annual economic output of agricultural production, food processing and related services from irrigated agriculture exceeds $128 billion in the seventeen western states. The economic output from irrigated lands attributable to the beef cattle industry ranks either first or second in fourteen of those seventeen western states.

Only 18 percent of Oregonís more than 10 million acres of agricultural lands are irrigated. However, $3.2 billion, or 66 percent, of Oregonís entire agricultural economic output is derived from those irrigated lands. Last year, irrigated agriculture contributed a total of nearly $3.6 billion to household income in Oregon. To put that number into perspective, it calculates to nearly a thousand dollars for every resident of our state.

The economic output attributable to Oregonís beef cattle industry ranks second, while hay production ranks third and our dairy industry ranks fourth. The combined economic output of beef, dairy and hay production simply dwarfs any other sector of Oregonís agricultural enterprise.
Yet irrigated agriculture and especially the ranching communities in Oregon are under siege. It is little different in the sixteen other western states.

Each year, ever more water used for crop production and processing is being purchased, leased or transferred to in-stream use for the benefit of fish and other aquatic species. In Oregon, more than twice as much water is protected in-stream for fish and recreation as is diverted for irrigating crops and growing cattle. Irrigators are compensated for these leases and transfers; however, the water will virtually never again be available for crop production once transferred to in-stream use.

Each year, ever more water used for crop production and processing is being reallocated by state and federal governments to what they consider to be more important beneficial uses.

Water used for irrigation is routinely reallocated to provide habitat for alleged threatened or endangered species. Since water supplies are not being enhanced, the only possible outcome is a diminished supply of water for irrigators. This usually occurs without compensation to the producers who have had their valuable and legal right to use that irrigation water taken from them.

Both state and federal government agencies have taken the designation of wetlands to a new art form. Virtually any land that experiences seasonal standing-water for any reason, in any amount, is in jeopardy of being named a wetland and excluded from any other use by penalty of law. Owner compensation for the loss of the use of their land through wetland designation is unheard of.

Creation of new wetlands, as well as the expansion of existing wetlands and emergent marshes, by government agencies and non-government organizations is causing the evaporation of ever more water formerly used for irrigation. An emergent marsh or wetland in Oregon may be expected to evaporate and evapo-transpire about four acre-feet of water per acre each year. The amount of water lost from a wetland or emergent marsh is nearly twice the amount used by the typical irrigator to grow an acre of hay or pasture for an entire season. The water that is lost to evaporation is no longer available for irrigation. No compensation for their property loss is generally available to the former users of that water.

Both the state of Oregon, and the federal government, have created, and continue to make more stringent, water quality standards. The water quality requirements often exceed the historical background levels before European man arrived in Oregon. These standards are not now, and never have been achievable. Never the less, they are enforced by draconian fines as well as the threat of imprisonment.

Strict enforcement of the new standards will force irrigators to stop flood irrigation in most areas. Alternative irrigation methods require significantly more energy and may be too expensive to be economically feasible, especially for pasture management. State and federal environmental policies are driving energy prices out of the reach of many agricultural enterprises. Farmers and ranchers have no choice other than to cease operations when their costs exceed their production returns.

Americaís beef cattle herd is now at the smallest number it has been since the early 1950ís.

Our nationís ability to produce inexpensive food may be the single most important reason for American prosperity. In 2010 the average American family spent only 6.7 percent of their disposable income on food costs. In contrast, food costs in the United Kingdom are at nearly ten percent of the disposable income, more than twenty percent in China and more than thirty percent in Russia.

Americans enjoy so much food security that we are able to spend more than 93 percent of our disposable income on other commodities. That ability drives our economy and sets us apart from the people of all other nations.

Unfortunately, our farmers and ranchers are growing older. They now spend as much as half of their time attending meetings and hearings attempting to secure the right to continue to make a living in agriculture. Two generations of their children have witnessed the unrelenting state and federal attack on their way of life and their rights to continue to produce food on their land. These young adults have largely chosen to seek other means of supporting their families.

It is not too late to change the government policies that are driving this migration out of, and away from, agricultural production. It is past time to stop the government persecution of are farming and ranching families.

The United States Constitutionís Fifth Amendment guarantees that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. Isnít it time to recognize and preserve the constitutional rights of our farming and ranching families. Isnít it time to take action to exchange misplaced and unsustainable social progressive environmental agendas with common sense management of our agricultural resources. It has been my experience that Americaís farmers and ranchers are the true stewards of our land and water resources.

In my opinion, our food security and our prosperity, as well as the rule of law, are in serious jeopardy if we fail to make the needed changes in the near future.

Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon, no one will.

Best regards,

Doug


 

You can contact us at:
23131 North Poe Valley Road
Klamath Falls, OR 97603
541-882-1315
doug@dougwhitsett.com

 

 

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              Page Updated: Sunday October 21, 2012 01:07 AM  Pacific


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