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The 2012 Farm Bill dance has a sad history

Last week the Agricultural Committee of the US House of Representatives began work on the 2012 Farm Bill with a kick-off hearing. I happened to be in DC at the time and I stood in line with lobbyists for farm groups waiting to get a good seat in the wood paneled hearing room.

I was not in DC to attend the hearing, however. My trip was intended to educate Members of Congress about the recently signed Klamath Dam and Water Deals. The Department of Interior – which orchestrated those Klamath Deals beginning during the Bush Administration – had just delivered draft federal legislation intended to get Congress to endorse the Deals without delving into the details.

My mission was to interest Members of Congress from Oregon and California and those who sit on committees which will consider Klamath legislation precisely in those details – to make them aware that serious questions have been raised about whether aspects of the Deals are in the Public Interest and in the interest of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon. I’ve worked to clean-up the Klamath and restore Klamath Salmon for 35 years; I want Congress to fix what I see as bad policies, bad precedents and bad subsidies that are part of the Klamath Dam and Water Deals.

Those who want to see a report on my Klamath River work in DC can refer to the full report on KlamBlog; here I want to talk about the Farm Bill.

In most of the West’s river basins agriculture – including crop and livestock agriculture – directly consumes 80% to 90% of the base flow. Base flow refers to the lowest natural flow of a river or stream; in our region those flows occur during late summer and early fall.  Irrigation engineers tell us that water consumption by agriculture in western river basins can be reduced between 10 and 40% by implementing modern irrigation methods and equipment. Were that to actually happen, current and predicted water shortages in the West would evaporate like water in a shallow reservoir as would proposals for new dams and other massive infrastructure projects currently being promoted in states like California.  

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