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Western Drought Impacts Every American

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 11, 2022 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led a Republican forum titled "How Western Drought Affects Every American."

"It's clear that the severe drought has further tightened its grip on many western communities," Westerman said. "For example, communities in the Klamath region of Oregon and the Central Valley of California are experiencing historical water cutbacks. The Colorado River Basin is looking at among the driest conditions it has ever faced, where, for the first time, the Glen Canyon Dam’s once massive reservoir may hit the point where hydropower cannot be generated. Meanwhile, our federal forests continue to be mismanaged and communities, habitats and watersheds that depend on proper timber management are facing another potentially devastating fire season. 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. 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

"When people talk about taking millions of acres of California farmland out of production, those are just numbers," Diedrich said." 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. Our food supply is just as much a national security issue as energy. If we fail to recognize that, we put the country at risk. But protecting our domestic food supply won’t happen without government deciding to aggressively prioritize domestic food production. The current drought in California illustrates the cumulative impact of decades of flawed policy and neglect."

"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," Keppen said. "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. There may never be a better time than now for thoughtful and courageous leaders to stand up and shout down the critics and back seat drivers who don’t have a single minute’s worth of experience 'in the arena.' If not now, when? If not us, who?"

"This has been a very difficult year for many farms and ranches across not only Minnesota but across the West as extreme drought has and continues to drive every decision we make for the upcoming year," Kuschel said. "I have spoken with many producers that feel this is the worst drought their ranches and farms have ever faced, and many feel that the drought is far from over. I know of producers who were forced to sell entire herds when they ran out of pasture and hay, I know many producers that bought very expensive hay with the ultimate question that it could bankrupt them, but the cost of losing generations of genetics and heritage was more than they could bear. On our ranch we saw hay production decrease by over two-thirds, and we sold off cattle to try and preserve what little forage we had. When we were unable to bring in the amount of hay needed to feed our cattle for the winter, we were forced to haul half of our herd out of state to sustain them until we could bring them home just before calving. My story is like many of the Farm Bureau members I represent, and the continuing fear of the drought well into 2022 has many producers facing drastic management decisions."

"As agriculture continues to bear full responsibility for the current water issues facing everyone in the state, more and more farming operations will continue to shrink to the point of extinction," Verboon said. "As more farms in Kings County leave the state due to insufficient resources and crippling regulations, rural and local communities in the county will continue to be adversely impacted. Unfortunately, many of these rural agricultural communities being affected are majority minority communities. As farmers sell ranches and move out of the state, field workers, migrants, and the county's most vulnerable local communities will be left to deal with the repercussions."

Watch the full forum here.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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