Jun 13, 2022 | Blog

Alliance President To Testify At Senate Drought Hearing

Alliance President to Testify
at Senate Drought Hearing

Western producers face water curtailment amidst rising global food insecurity concerns

Image source: U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.

Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, a sheep and cattle rancher from Wyoming, will testify tomorrow before the full Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is conducting a hearing to examine short- and long-term solutions to extreme drought in the Western United States.

“This hearing could not come at a better time,” said Mr. O’Toole. “Americans are facing rising food costs and the potential for global famine looms on the horizon. The Western drought continues with no real federal policy action other than to limit irrigation supplies to farmers and residents.”

The hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 10:00 am (Eastern), 7:00 a.m. (Pacific, including Arizona) in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The hearing will be webcast live on the committee’s website, and an archived video will be available shortly after the hearing concludes.

The cost of food and supply chain challenges, in addition to fears of growing global food security, are becoming daily stories in the national media in recent weeks:

  • The government’s Consumer Price Index last week showed a 1.0% monthly increase and 8.6% year-over-year. The food-at-home index rose 11.9% over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending April 1979.
  • In the first half of 2022, inflation, changes in global trade policy, the war in Ukraine and unprecedented increases in fuel costs, have made it difficult for food banks and other social welfare organizations to keep up with a skyrocketing demand for food. Food insecurity has reached “crisis levels” in Central Oregon, according to the Bend Bulletin.
  • Western Journal reports that the rising cost of processing food in California has led the largest pork company in the U.S. to shut down its Vernon, California, plant and scale back operations in California, Utah and Arizona, the company announced Friday.

Meanwhile, many of the Western food producers that comprise the membership of the Family Farm Alliance are bracing for yet another year of severe drought and unprecedented water shortages. The government has also regulatorily withheld water from producers in places like the Central Valley of California, Central Oregon and the Klamath Basin.

“Our farmers and ranchers that are largely responsible for keeping the nation’s grocery store aisles stocked are being forced to leave fields fallow or reduce livestock herds,” said Mr. O’Toole.

Western agriculture has long wrestled with its ability to communicate with the people who take for granted that food will always be plentiful and available. The Family Farm Alliance, California Farm Water Coalition and Klamath Basin producers banded together to take out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal on April 2, sharing the viewpoint that the government’s delivery of water to farmers is critical to ensuring a strong domestic food supply. The QR code at the bottom of the ad led readers to a web page with more information about this dire situation and what must be done to correct it.


“America gave up domestic manufacturing over the last several decades leading to global trade deals that resulted in a diminished national security,” said Mr. O’Toole. “We are now experiencing a crisis which will lead to the loss of domestic food production, inevitably leading to a complete collapse of our national security.”

Mr. O’Toole’s written testimony emphasizes the need to prepare for future droughts, and not simply react to current hydrologic shortages.

Other witnesses appearing before the committee, led by Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) include:

The written testimony can be downloaded by clicking on the name of each witness.

Mr. O’Toole believes tomorrow’s committee hearing provides an incredible opportunity to demonstrate that Western producers can and will successfully work through future droughts and water shortages in a collaborative and effective way.

“The future of millions of people and millions of acres of farms and ranches and the food and fiber they produce rest on this belief,” he said. “We appreciate this opportunity to have this timely discussion tomorrow with Chairman Manchin, my friend Senator Barrasso, and the rest of the Committee.”

We will continue to keep you informed on this and other developments impacting Western irrigated agriculture.
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