LaMalfa: Federal Government Disaster Threatens Klamath Farmers’ Way of Life

May 29, 2020
Press Release

(Modoc County, CA) – Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) will take part in a tractor convoy, where hundreds of tractors and other farm vehicles drive a route from Merrill to Midland, OR to bring national attention to the most damaging water crisis ever in the long-troubled Klamath Basin. In April, the Natural Resources Conservation Service forecasted there would be an allocation of 140,000-acre feet of water from the Upper Klamath Lake Project to the growers of the region, less than half of a normal water year delivery, to those farmers who hold the full water right. That amount is the second lowest allocation on record. Using that 40% of normal projected allocation to plan their 2020 crop year, locals spent more than $60 million to plant under that reduced condition. In an unprecedented move in early May, the Natural Resource Conservation Service announced they had misestimated lake inflows and water commitments to non-farm uses. The Bureau of Reclamation then cut the forecasted delivery to growers nearly in half.  The farmers are currently estimated to have a total of just 80,000-acre feet for the growing season. This cut comes from the already vastly reduced 140,000-acre feet they were told one month earlier. Under current conditions, if water allocations are not restored to the April commitment, water flowing to the Klamath Project will be exhausted in mid-June, ruining tens of thousands of acres of already planted crops under the summer sun due to the unheard of post-planting water cut. 

LaMalfa said: “With the current uncertainly to our nation’s food supply chain because of COVID-19, Klamath Basin farmers play a key role in producing for their market share of our nation’s food supply. They’ve worked for generations to supply this country with their unique crops. The federal government has, in this last-minute water grab, created its own unnecessary disaster that threatens the entire Klamath Basin’s 2020 crop year – its prosperity and way of life – only compounding the ability to keep healthy food on our nation’s supermarket shelves. Farmers typically contend with the possibility of poor weather and crop prices in a given crop year, but this year, atrocious forecasting and a mind-boggling eleventh-hour water cut by federal bureaucrats have caused potential for the greatest calamity the Basin has ever seen. Restoring an already undersized allocation of water to growers in the Klamath Project to at least the April 1 commitment must be reconsidered. With the plantings now already in the field, and their rightful water still stored in the Lake, this midseason water cutoff will result in permanent damage to farmers and devastate the region by hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s a liability for a taking on a water right I don’t think the federal government really wants to be on the hook for, especially in an already crushed economy and uncertain national food supply.”

Congressman LaMalfa has been continuously engaged in securing additional water for farmers and pushed to update flawed science that continues to waste farmer-owned water on endangered species plans that have failed year after year. Numerous calls with the Secretary of Interior, White House, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Bureau of Reclamation were successful in getting a re-evaluation, but an updated plan has yet to be announced. Additionally, Congressman LaMalfa previously secured the commitment of a new biological opinion and added research on the Klamath River to re-evaluate the flushing flow of tens of thousands of acre feet down the river that ostensibly help curtail the parasite known as C-Shasta, but actually increase it in practice. As well is the need to address artificially high lake levels in Upper Klamath reservoir that have been shown to not help grow the numbers of endangered sucker fish in the Lake. 

“Farmers in the Klamath Basin are on the cusp of an epic disaster,”continued Congressman LaMalfa.  “Today’s event is about spotlighting for the rest of America during this economic and health crisis the plight of an unnecessary, government bureaucracy-created crisis right here in farm country, and illustrate the real world effects that years of dithering, succumbing to lawsuits, and creating poor policy to appease them have inflicted on this region. Consumers are noticing the thin food stocks on store shelves because of supply chain disruptions. Why is one being created right here in our backyard? Not having food on the shelves because farmers have their water pirated from them, resulting in ruined crops withering in the 2020 sun, can be avoided by changing policy right now and delivering their promised water, from their legal water right, this year and in the future. Nothing less is acceptable.” 

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