Farmers propose solutions to drought conditions in the Western United States

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The Family Farm Alliance aims to protect water for Western agriculture and describes itself as a powerful advocate before the government for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 17 Western states. The drought-stricken Klamath Basin is one area that they’ve identified as needing legislative change.

The alliance says it has this goal to ensure the availability of reliable and affordable irrigation water needed to produce the world’s food, fiber, and fuel.

“We developed some written testimony,” said Daniel Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance. “We asked Senator Barrasso and Senator Kelly to include it in the hearing record, which they did, and they actually discussed our testimony at the hearing.”

The comprehensive 27-page testimony by the alliance covered everything from key concerns from members of the alliance, to what can be done to mitigate future droughts.

The key concerns included are water infrastructure, water management, wildfire disasters, and lack of collaboration between farmers and the government.

In terms of water infrastructure, Keppen said, “When people talk about infrastructure, water infrastructure isn’t talked about very much. Usually it’s railroads and ports and transportation, highways, and bridges. When they do talk about water back in D.C., a lot of times, it’s drinking water.”

The alliance says water infrastructure is needed to protect future water supply reliability. With water management in the west believed to be “too inflexible,” the alliance is looking at how the Western United States can manage environmental demands for the limited water resources to places like California’s Central Valley Project, the Klamath Project, and the Columbia River Basin, where each faces “regulatory droughts.”

“A group of us created a coalition to draw attention to our types of water, because we had a sense that there would be a very big stimulus package developed by congress, which is what we’re seeing right now.”

Keppen tells NewsWatch 12 that some aging areas of agricultural infrastructure, including the Klamath Irrigation Project, are over 100 years old.

“We don’t have the funding resources like we used to, to take care of that aging infrastructure.”

The proposed solutions include investing in Western water infrastructure.

Keppen tells NewsWatch 12 that a package the coalition developed was included in a bi-partisan senate bill  that passed earlier this summer, with $8.3 billion that could go toward new water storage, improved conveyance facilities, groundwater recharge, water conservation, water management improvements, water reuse, and desalination.

A large part of the drought in the United States is the toll that it has taken on the country’s ability to maintain food independence. While the Family Farm Alliance says the country should be responsible for providing a healthy, abundant, and transparent food supply, it says it is also a matter of national security.

On Wednesday, September 20, some representatives of the Family Farm Alliance will share their own testimonies for the second part of the hearing on the Colorado River Drought Conditions and Response Measures held by the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife.

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