In a New Farm Bill, Oregon Senators Call for Drought Relief

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Senators from Oregon are calling on the federal government to do more to bring aid to its drought-stricken agricultural community.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said, “We understand that there is not an easy, magical, or sudden solution for our problem. To sustain support for our farmers, all elements are needed to address it. That is, we need investments in the methods of planting, watering, and delivering water to the fields, which are crucial elements.”

In a letter they submitted earlier this month, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon implored federal agriculture officials to address the region’s ongoing drought.

Merkley stated, “I traveled through Oregon, and the challenges of agriculture are very apparent in all 36 counties. The availability of water, the changing circumstances of the export market, and disease are by far the biggest factors facing the agriculture of the state.”

Senator Merkley expressed the hope that this call on the government will force the committee to consider the difficulties that farmers in the west are facing.

The non-profit Klamath Water Users Association represents farmers and ranchers operating in the Klamath Basin. According to them, the basin’s agricultural workers’ greatest problem is the ongoing scarcity of water.

Scott White stated, “The biggest impact we have had has been the drought. Secondly, it is the challenge of how we manage the limited supply of water.”

KWUA reported that last year, a severe grasshopper infestation destroyed numerous crops in the basin. The hot and dry conditions encouraged the proliferation of these insects.

“This year, we had a huge grasshopper plague. The grasshoppers were coming out of our dry wildlife refuges.”

As the general manager, White oversees the Klamath Drainage District, one of the Klamath Water Users Association’s member districts. He claims that the federal control of the water supply led directly to the dry wildlife refuges, which in turn contributed to the grasshopper infestation.

White stated, “As a result of federal management decisions regarding our water resources, we have seen here in the last couple of years that our two wildlife refuges have gone dry.”

In a statement, Paul Simmons, the executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, expressed his hope that the federal government will divide water rights according to decisions that will benefit all communities in the basin. He hoped that the decisions would not be based on policy preferences.

Senator Merkley says he thinks the bill’s action requests will help improve the state’s water infrastructure, which will include the Klamath Basin.

He stated, “We are also discussing topics such as developing more drought-resistant crops through research and development. Our research laboratories are therefore crucial, given these changing conditions.”

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