May 13, 2022 | Blog

Western Drought Impacts Every American

Western Drought Impacts Every American

House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) earlier this week led a Republican forum titled “How Western Drought Affects Every American.” The Family Farm Alliance and several of its members and allies also testified remotely at the May 11 event.

“While much of the West continues to suffer through a multi-year drought, Americans nationwide are experiencing record food prices due to drought and other factors,” said Rep. Westerman. “American consumers depend on food produced from irrigated agriculture, especially in California, which normally yields the majority of fruits, vegetables and nuts that are sold domestically at American grocery stores and serve as valuable commodities in international markets.”

The panel of Republican members invited witnesses from their districts to testify during the forum:

Paul Arrington, executive director and general counsel, Idaho Water Users Association, Idaho
Mike Britton, executive director, North Unit Irrigation District, Oregon
Bill Diedrich, owner, Diedrich Farms, California
Kent Holsinger, attorney, Holsinger Law, LLC., Colorado
Dan Keppen, executive director, Family Farm Alliance, Oregon
Miles Kuschel, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota
David Guy, Northern California Water Association, California
Scott Paxman, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, Utah
Nichole Rolf, national affairs director, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana
Doug Verboon, board of supervisors, County of Kings, California

The forum was cut short early due to conflicts with votes that were occurring on the House floor at the same time. However, each of the ten witnesses was able to deliver their 3-minute statements before the forum ended.

“When people talk about taking millions of acres of California farmland out of production, those are just numbers,” Mr. Diedrich testified. “Let me put them in perspective for you. For every acre that is left unplanted because of a lack of irrigation water, it is the equivalent of 50,000 salads that will not be available to consumers.”

Some Members were able to tee up a few questions for the witnesses from their own districts.

Mr. Guy and Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) discussed Sites Reservoir and Delta outflow requirements in California. Mr. Paxman and his Congressman, Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) addressed population growth in Utah and the complexities of addressing federal regulatory requirements on water projects. Mr. Britton and Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR) underscored the importance of irrigation modernization projects underway in Central Oregon.

CLICK HERE for the press release that further details the forum, issued by House Natural Resources Committee Republicans.

CLICK HERE for the May 12 E&E Daily article about the hearing that includes excerpts of statements made by Reps Westerman and LaMalfa, as well as Mr. Guy and Mr. Keppen. (You may need to have subscription to E&E to download the entire article.)

During Ranking Member Westerman’s opening remarks, he pointed to the April 2, 2022 full-paid Wall Street Journal ad that was produced by California Farm Water Coalition, the Alliance, and Klamath Project producers, intended to draw attention to the critical importance of Western irrigated agriculture.

Alliance director Don Schwindt (COLORADO) and Mr. Keppen also co-authored this opinion piece that was published in the May 11 edition of the Colorado Sun, as part of a related initiative.

“Agricultural production in the West is an irreplaceable, strategic national resource that is vital to U.S. food security, the ecosystem, and overall drought resilience,” said Mr. Keppen testified at the drought forum. “The role of the federal government in the 21st Century should be to protect and enhance that resource by doing whatever it can to ensure that water remains on farms.”