Updates & Reviews
2017 Family Farm Alliance Annual Conference:
Farming and Ranching in the "Next West"
The Family Farm Alliance last month tackled the reality of the “Next West” head-on by challenging everyone in irrigated agriculture to consider new and unusual solutions and strategies in dealing with old and frustrating problems. The Alliance’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Conference was held February 23-24 at the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
The 2017 Annual Conference general session included panel discussions on the Lower Colorado River Basin, the outlook for the 2019 Farm Bill, the fate of the Obama Administration’s controversial “Waters of the U.S.” rule, preparing water managers to maximize federal infrastructure financing opportunities, and looking for ways to effectively communicate with the public. Throughout the conference, diverse interests emphasized the importance of seeking a sustainable balance of economic prosperity and environmental protection in the “Next West”.
Donald J. Trump Sworn in as 45th President of the U.S.
Budget Cuts & Sweeping Freezes on Regulatory Actions Proposed
At noon on Friday, January 20, Donald J. Trump took the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States and Mike Pence was sworn in as the 48th Vice President of the United States. In his Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump hit out at the Washington political establishment, accusing elites of abusing the trust of the American people, and touting his "America first" mindset, he pledged to bring jobs back to the U.S.
Photo Source: AP Images
Click here to read the January 2017 2016 edition of the "Monthly Briefing" and learn more about these and other issues of interest to Western farmers and ranchers who rely upon irrigation:
After overwhelming House (360-61) and Senate (78-21) passage, President Barack Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Investments for the Nation (WIIN) Act into law on December 16, 2016.
Late in the night of December 9, the Senate passed (63-36) the FY 2017 appropriations ‘continuing resolution’ (CR), H.R. 2028, extending FY 2016 federal funding levels through April 28, 2017. The vote avoided a federal government shut-down. Then, the Senate easily passed the WIIN Act that included both the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA – S. 612) authorizing Corps of Engineers projects and policies and containing important California drought provisions and other West-wide natural resources items.
Hydrologic Conditions, Watershed Health, "Regulatory" Drought and More....
Droughts come and go in the West. The larger issue, the underlying problem, is the ever-present and worsening shortage of water. Droughts only exacerbate water shortages. They also highlight the need to re-examine how we manage our limited water resources in the West. This edition of the “Monthly Briefing” summarizes current Western drought conditions and provides an update on federal drought spending, action on Capitol Hill, wildfire conditions and possible remedies, and the regulatory nature of the California drought.
Click here to read the June 2016 edition of the "Monthly Briefing" to learn more about these issues, and the other following topics of interest to Western water users:
June 16, 2016
(Washington, D.C.) - The Family Farm Alliance (Alliance) earlier today expressed "grave concerns" and questioned the practical applicability of a recent draft streamflow report prepared by federal agencies. The Alliance transmitted a detailed formal comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who earlier this year released Draft Technical Report: Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration.
A "Historic" Day for the Family Farm Alliance
Reps Testify Before Three Congressional Hearings....in One Day
The Family Farm Alliance accomplished a rare feat earlier this month, when association representatives testified on three water-related policy matters before three separate congressional committees on Capitol Hill- in one day.
“This is definitely a first for our organization,” said Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, a cattle and sheep rancher from Wyoming (pictured above, left). “Our presence is a testament to the command the Family Farm Alliance has of the relevant issues facing agriculture in the West.”
Click here to read the May 2016 special edition of the "Monthly Briefing" and learn more about these issues:
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Representatives from a grassroots coalition of Western family farmers and ranchers have been asked to testify on three water-related policy matters before three separate congressional committee hearings tomorrow on Capitol Hill.
“This is definitely a first for our organization,” said Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, a cattle and sheep ranchers from Wyoming. “While we certainly have a very hectic and important day coming up tomorrow, our presence is a testament to the command the Family Farm Alliance has of the relevant issues facing agriculture in the West.”
Mr. O’Toole will appear before the House Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee tomorrow, May 17. He was asked to provide the Alliance perspective on regulations facing farmers and ranchers and conservation opportunities. Click here for Mr. O'Toole's testimony and attachment.
“There are many critical issues that the Western family farmers and ranchers we represent are confronted with at this time,” said Mr. O’Toole. “At the top of the list is the daunting number of federal regulatory policy initiatives that we face. I intend to provide some background at the hearing that will describe the unique nature of Western agriculture and water. I’ll do my best in the time allotted to summarize key concerns we have with just a small sampling of the administrative regulatory proposals we are grappling with.”
Since the mission of the Family Farm Alliance is water-focused, the emphasis in his testimony will similarly place more attention on those regulations that can impact water use for Western farmers and ranchers. However, his testimony is also intended to demonstrate the conservation and open-space benefits provided by Western farms and ranches, and also to investigate the unique opportunities to advance further voluntary, grassroots-driven conservation efforts in those areas.
Over the past seven years, a multitude of federal water resources actions and regulatory practices pose the risk of potentially undermining the economic foundations of rural communities in the arid West by making farming and ranching increasingly more difficult. One of those actions is and executive order signed by President Obama in July 2010, to adopt implement a new National Ocean Policy (NOP). The policy sets forth yet another level of federal management and oversight intended to improve the way inland, ocean and coastal activities are managed. Unfortunately, this has the potential to impose negative impacts – intended or not - across a spectrum of sectors, including Western agricultural producers and irrigation organizations.
This matter is the topic of an oversight hearing that will be conducted by the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen (OREGON) was asked to represent Western producers at this hearing. Other witnesses include Elizabeth Kerttula, Director of the National Ocean Council, as well as representatives from Atlantic seaboard and Gulf of Mexico energy and fisheries representatives.
The Family Farm Alliance has questions about the implications of the new ocean policy, as outlined in Mr. Keppen's written testimony.
“We are uncertain how the Administration’s ocean policy will be implemented,” said Mr. Keppen. “What will the role of states and stakeholder user groups be? Have potential impacts to the economy, the federal budget, and existing statutes and regulatory processes been assessed? How will this complement or conflict with the authority of states? For these reasons, we are concerned that this policy could dramatically increase the role of federal agencies on inland rivers and adjacent lands as they might pertain to the much larger problem of ocean health.”
Mr. Keppen will testify later in the day before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power about Western and California drought legislation. Click here to see his written testimony.
“As we have previously testified before the full Committee, our testimony reiterates that the negative impacts of today’s droughts and water shortages have reached staggering levels for our farmers and ranchers, their families and the irrigated agricultural economy,” said Mr. Keppen. “While the drought-related problems our members face vary by state or region, topography, climate, soil conditions, hydrology, and crop, we believe that many solutions, while varied by location, are also characterized by certain common elements, including creativity, flexibility and balance.”
The regulatory nature of the California drought was also recently addressed in a guest column published by Breitbart penned by Dan Errotabere, an Alliance board member who farms in the Central Valley.
“American family farmers and ranchers for generations have grown food and fiber for the world, and we will have to muster even more innovation to meet this critical challenge,” said Mr. O’Toole.
The Family Farm Alliance believes that innovation must be encouraged rather than stifled with new federal regulations and uncertainty over the water supplies and basic operations for irrigated farms and ranches in the rural West.
“Our engagement in all of these forums will contribute mightily to our efforts to advocate for farmers and ranchers who irrigated in the Western U.S.,” said Mr. O’Toole.
The Endangered Species Act in the West:
Western Governors' Efforts, Delta Smelt...and the Oregon Spotted Frog
As the latest initiative of the Western Governors Association (WGA) approaches completion, application of the federal Endangered Species Act continues to generate uncertainty and real-life impacts to agricultural water users in the Western U.S.
Click here to read the April 2016 special edition of the "Monthly Briefing" and learn more about these issues:
- Senate Passes Energy Policy Modernization Act
- Recent Court Developments in “Waters of the U.S.”
- ESA in the West—USFWS Under Fire in House Oversight Hearings
- ESA in the West—Spotted Frog Victory for Central Oregon Irrigators
- ESA in the West—Misery in the Central Valley
- ESA in the West—Renewed Focus on Natural Predation of Listed Fish
- Thirsty Land Premiers at “Water for Food” Global Conference
- Governor Endorses Water Project Aligned with Colorado Water Plan
- Two New Klamath Agreements Announced
- Alliance, ACWA, NWRA Request More Comment Time on FWS Policy
- A Big “Thank You” to our New and Supporting Members!
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April 20, 2016
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate earlier today passed S. 2012, the “Energy Policy Modernization Act” on an 85-12 roll call vote, after an important natural resources title was agreed to yesterday on a 97-0 floor vote. That amendment, authored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-ALASKA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WASHINGTON), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, includes a subtitle – “Water Infrastructure and Related Matters” - that will benefit irrigators across the Western U.S.
“We were pleased to see bipartisan support for this important natural resources title,” said Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen. “Chairman Murkowski and Senator Cantwell are to be commended for working with other Members to develop solutions to address some key Western water challenges.”
2016 Family Farm Alliance Annual Conference:
The Western Drought - Lessons Learned, Paths to Success
The 2016 Family Farm Alliance conference -“The Western Drought—Lessons Learned, Paths to Success” – took place February 17-19 at the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. This special edition of the Monthly Briefing provides a summary of the important meetings and presentations that took place in Las Vegas last month, offering a glimpse into the most important water issues facing Western farmers and ranchers.
The 2016 Annual Conference general session included panel discussions on the recent applications and misapplications of the federal Endangered Species Act, watershed health, water rights, and recent important legal developments. As is generally the case, the theme of problem-solving was a strong thread woven through the conference.