WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sep. 29, 2022) – A group of 30 Western farmers, ranchers, water managers and association leaders wrapped up the third day of meetings this week with a Western drought briefing attended by over 20 Congressional staff members and an appearance by Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O’Toole before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee.
Today’s events were part of this year’s “Farmer Lobbyist” trip, one of the Family Farm Alliance’s cornerstone programs. This annual event was created over 25 years ago to allow farmers, ranchers and water managers to interact directly with elected officials and other policy makers in Washington, D.C.
This year’s farmer lobbyist contingent included representatives from Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
Earlier today, the Alliance hosted a Western Drought Briefing for Congressional staff at the Capitol Visitors Center.
“This in-person event allowed Congressional staff an opportunity to hear directly from the Western producers and water managers who are literally at Ground Zero dealing with the challenges of one of the worst droughts for the Western U.S. in modern history,” said Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen.
Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-OR) kicked off the event with opening remarks. He met earlier in the week with the farmer lobbyists in the hearing room of the House Resources Committee.
Following Rep. Bentz’s welcoming comments, water managers and farmers from California, Oregon, and the Colorado River Basin described the challenges they are facing, the drivers behind those challenges, and what can be done to help. The one-hour event concluded with a question-and-answer session.
“Solving the water challenges of our day will require everybody working together in a bipartisan fashion,” said William Bourdeau, a California producer and Alliance Board member. “Everyone will benefit when we solve these challenges.”
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Alliance President Patrick O’Toole was one of four witnesses who testified before the Senate ENR Committee, which conducted a legislative hearing on several bending bills, including the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2022 (S. 4904). This bipartisan legislation – introduced by ENR Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) would reduce catastrophic wildfire risk and improve forest health.
“We are facing brutal wildfires across the West that threaten Wyoming’s forests and communities,” said Ranking Member Barrasso. “Our bipartisan bill will fight back against wildfire risk. It directs the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to cut red tape and dramatically increase their wildfire mitigation projects. I’m thankful to Chairman Manchin for working with me on this important legislation.”
The hearing was webcast live, and an archived video was made available HERE shortly after the hearing was complete.
Mr. O’Toole’s testimony [CLICK HERE FOR PDF] outlined the dire conditions of Western forests and explained why S.4904 is an important step towards improving their future health.
“The revival of Colorado River and other Western watershed forests is crucial to combating the effects of climate change,” said Mr. O’Toole, whose family operates a sheep and cattle ranch in Wyoming. “By bringing together changemakers and working collaboratively, we can change the paradigm of forest management. Success will mean healthier forests, healthier wildlife populations, more prosperous and dynamic local communities, and much-needed security in our water supplies.”
For over twenty-five years, the Family Farm Alliance has represented Western family farmers and ranchers in defense of irrigated agriculture. Since 2005, the Alliance has testified over 90 times before Congress.