Guest Opinion: Water laws in Oregon
As a local farmer in Central Oregon, I am writing today out of desperation, out of panic, and from the heaviest heart. But I am also writing out of hope. If Oregon can make some changes to water laws and regulations, and fast, we may only have to endure one more season of desperation, panic and pain.
I co-own and farm Boundless Farmstead, where we tend our 20-acre property in Alfalfa. We grow enough produce to feed a 90-family Community Supported Agriculture, to sell to a dozen different restaurants, attend two farmers markets and provide produce to farm stands across Central Oregon.
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Last year was challenging for all agricultural growers in Central Oregon—some districts lost water as early as July, some were on very low allotment and everyone had to make strategic decisions about water use. Our farm received 50-60% of our typical allotment of water for almost the entire season. We worked in sweltering heat all of July and we made decisions about which plants would suffer. We were fortunate in getting 60% of our allotment compared to our farmer kin in other irrigation districts who dried up large parcels, paid large sums for hay and feed (that they typically grew), sold off livestock and fallowed farmable land.
All of this hardship, all of this suffering, all of this land wasting away is the product of a broken water distribution system. While we are definitely in the grasp of an unprecedented drought and in the throes of climate disaster, there is still enough water here and now to produce a wide range of food here in Central Oregon.
Currently, irrigation water is given to patrons as long as they prove "beneficial use" (meaning growing anything that is non-native), and they only need to "prove" this beneficial use every five years. A patron can grow 20 acres of mixed vegetables on highly efficient drip irrigation or 20 acres of lawn with flood irrigation. The eight local irrigation districts all receive different allotments of water even though some produce mostly food and some produce mostly golf courses. Some patrons pay laborers to irrigate their second home properties, and some make their entire living and feed their families from their irrigated land. All of these patrons are within their rights in Oregon water laws.
Water should be prioritized for wildlife and rivers, clean drinking water and food-producing farms above all else. These are our basic necessities as humans, and yet we forget. We are so willing to sell our basic necessities for manufactured ones that we make our lands unlivable.
There is enough water in the Deschutes River for our growing basic needs; we just need to redefine who gets water, what "beneficial use" is, and how much water each patron is receiving. Oregon water laws and irrigation regulations are archaic. It is time we modernize our laws with our current needs, environmental impacts and climate.
For the full letter, please see boundlessfarmstead.com/farmstead-blog
Politician Kurt Schrader is misleading Central Oregonians
You've probably seen his ads on TV and his glossy mailers. In several he boasts about "taking on the drug companies to bring your medication costs down." This is deceptive.
Last fall he voted against the Biden Administration's plan to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. The Oregonian reported, "Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon helps kill drug pricing bill, endangering Biden infrastructure plan."
Schrader did participate in the negotiations that followed, but in support of the pharma industry. Once the bill had been significantly weakened (fewer drugs covered, lower discounts), he finally voted for it. The bill remains in limbo in the Senate. Oregonians will not be seeing lower drug prices anytime soon. Schrader delivered nothing.
And his claims that he "led legislation to cap insulin costs"? Fiction. The bill that just passed the House, HR 6833, was introduced by Rep. Angie Craig. Schrader didn't even bother to sign on as a co-sponsor. Plus, someone should tell him that insulin is a liquid, not a pill like in his ads.
It's not surprising that Schrader was the #1 Democrat recipient of pharma industry PAC money in 2021 (source: Opensecrets.org).
Fortunately, we have the opportunity to replace a professional politician with a person of integrity this May. Jamie McLeod-Skinner is an engineer and small business owner from Terrebonne with deep experience in community building and natural resources. And she's never taken a dime from corporate PACs.
Vote for integrity. Vote McLeod-Skinner.
RE: A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name Chow, 3/31
I have been going to El Rodeo for 10+ years. I can't attest to what "authentic" Mexican food is, but I can say I like what they cook, and the food is consistently good in my books ! The service is good and they remember me and my daughters and make us feel welcome. When Rudy is there, he makes a point to speak to all the customers and let them know they are appreciated. I have always found El Rodeo to be a nice, homestyle place to come relax and eat some good food.
Letter of the Week:
Susan: Thanks for the kind words! Come on by for your gift card to Palate.