Over 130 Western Organizations Call for Congress to Pass Drought Legislation
(October 28, 2015) - Over 130 Western water user organizations, commodity groups, and state farm bureaus yesterday signed on to a letter to U.S. Senators, urging that a bipartisan approach be employed to produce compromise legislation that can be passed by both the Senate and the House, and signed into law by President Obama this year. The Family Farm Alliance worked closely with California Farm Bureau Federation and Western Growers Association to craft the letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee and secure support from other interested state, regional and national organizations.
“Over the course of this year your committee has heard a multitude of bills that would address short, medium and long-term aspects of the drought both on a West-wide as well as state specific scale,” the letter stated. “Further strong leadership will be required in order to find consensus on this legislation intended to address the drought in California and across the West.”
The letter was developed at a time when water challenges in the West are significant and daunting. The Colorado River Basin has experienced the driest 15- year period since the 1960s. The ongoing drought in California is the worst to hit the region since the 13th century. Drought conditions in the Pacific Northwest are the worst seen in decades with no end in sight.
In order to respond to current and future water shortages, the Western letter requests Congress to provide federal agencies with more flexibility under existing environmental laws and regulations to encourage a more cooperative approach toward achieving multiple goals.
“Where such flexibility currently exists in laws, Congress should demand that agencies use those flexibilities to act with the urgency and promptness that this drought crisis demands,” the letter stated.
The Western agricultural letter also called for legislation supporting the use of new technology in water management, new investments in Western water infrastructure –including new surface storage facilities – and streamlining permitting processes and alignment of regulatory agencies to increase water storage and improve water management.
“The federal government can continue to be a partner in solving these water problems in the West by using financing mechanisms that have a very low cost to the Treasury and make water resources investment more attractive and affordable for non-federal interests,” the letter stated.
Currently, several bills are under consideration in the Senate committee, including a West-wide bill already passed by the House of Representatives.
“While the House and Senate bills take sometimes starkly different approaches to achieving their common goals, these differences should not be irreconcilable for members of Congress working together to bring effective relief to the West as quickly as possible,” the letter stated. “We need the committee to bring these ideas together in a single, effective compromise bill that can be signed into law before the end of the year. We’re counting on you to work together to make that happen.”
Click here for the full letter to the Senate ENR Committee, including the list of signatories.
Click here for the written testimony of Cannon Michael, a California farmer who testified before the Senate ENR Committee last summer.
Click here for the written testimony of Dan Keppen, Family Farm Alliance Executive Director, who testified before the Senate ENR Committee on October 8.