As I’ve shared many times, I own a small cattle ranch east of Klamath Falls, and the health and sustainability of rural livelihoods is a very important issue to me. The issues I want to address require serious reform, not small, impotent acts. We need to be willing to stand up for our way of life and the inheritance we want to leave future generations of cattlemen and agriculturalists. The time to address these concerns is now, with firmness, confidence and hope.
Rural Oregonians are demanding change on these five issues, and I stand with you:
1. The Massive Overreach of the EPA
Rural counties in Oregon are struggling to maintain sensible budgets, a reasonable standard of living and viable livelihoods for their citizens – and the Environmental Protection Agency seems bent on making those goals almost impossible. With endless resources, a bully pulpit and an agenda that focuses on good optics rather than sensible policy, the EPA is a dangerously out-of-control force in rural America. As concerned cattlemen and citizens, we need to demand oversight of the EPA and a representative that sees its bureaucratic overreach for what it is – a criminal abuse of power and a force that could easily rob us of our agricultural legacies and freedoms.
Right now, there are very few voices in D.C. demanding reform at the EPA, and those that do are accused of “wanting dirty air and water”. Clearly this is not the case, but rural communities should not be bullied, simply because we have less population (and time) to fight back with. Farmers and ranchers feed America, and our allegiance should be to their interests, not the insatiable appetites of Washington power-brokers.
2. Wolves in Oregon and ESA – Endangered Species Act
By now, everyone has heard the horror stories of good intentions gone awry: wolves attacking livestock outside of Yellowstone, school-children forced to wait for the bus in protective steel cages in New Mexico. These stories are symptoms of a larger problem – a government that refuses to allow the true stewards of the land – farmers, ranchers and other natural resource experts – to have a say in the management of these animals. As people who make our living on the land, we understand how to protect the natural habitats of wildlife, and we can all testify to the protective power of domestic livestock for wild game.
As Western Cattleman recently pointed out, “Environmental groups try to portray farmers and ranchers as enemies of the environment, greedily using the water and other natural resources—to the detriment of wildlife. They try to make it a black and white issue: the farmers against the fish and other endangered species. But as one resident of Klamath Falls stated, agriculture and small family farms are true stewards of the land, caring for wildlife and natural resources as much as they do their domestic production.”
This is an essential point – just as we now understand that loggers were not harming the Spotted Owl, ranchers should not be used as a political whipping boy for a rabid environmentalist cause. In Oregon, we’ve already seen what faulty logic and bad policy can do to a once-thriving timber industry, and we cannot allow that to happen to the family farms and ranches that feed our communities.
3. Property Rights and use of Federal Lands
Every rancher knows that land equals prosperity and success in agriculture. Many farming and ranching families leave little more than land and a legacy of knowledge to their heirs, and this land needs to be protected. Individuals and family farms need the security of knowing that their children and grandchildren can pursue the family business and continue in Oregon’s great tradition of agriculture.
Currently, over 50% of the west is owned by the Federal government, and many ranchers rely on that public land to run their livestock. With the political pressure mounting against American agriculture, however, we need to protect these lands and return them to local power. No bureaucrat in DC should be allowed to revoke grazing rights, and we should be working toward a more free and fair system for future agriculturalists.
4. CWA – Clean Water Act
Current legislation in the form a a House Resolution, H.R. 2421, is titled, “A Bill to To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify the jurisdiction of the United States over waters of the United States.” With typical arrogance, the national bureaucracy is investing in new legislative methods to control and regulate your land in untold ways.
This bill redefines the term “Waters of the United States” by removing the word “navigable” and extending legislation to include all “activities affecting these waters”. This creates the potential to restrict farmers, ranchers and other landowners’ property rights. We’ll see massive legislative burdens on local agriculture, more bullying by big-government bureaucrats and more expense for small farms and ranches. It’s very easy for a legislator from the suburbs to enact grandiose clean-water ideals – it’s something else entirely for the farmers and ranchers who have cows to feed, hay to bale, tractors to fix and bills to pay to live up to these unattainable standards.
Ranchers are already over-burdened and over-regulated – we should not be forcing them to comply with even more legislation. Ranchers and farmers understand the value of clean water for themselves and their livestock, and these rules only create false choices and cause unnecessary hardship on an already hard-working community.
5. Water rights, both quantity and quality
Any rancher knows that without water, crops don’t grow, animals don’t survive, and agriculture suffers. In my hometown of Klamath County, we are seeing the devastating effects of politically abused water rights and the massive economic destruction that follows. Western Cowman magazine states that “Environmentalists argue that the Klamath valley should never have been farmed—that farming put too much stress on the land. But as Kimberly Strassel pointed out in her Wall Street Journal article, the West is primarily arid. ‘Its history is one of turning inhospitable areas into thriving communities through prudent and thoughtful relocation of water.
If the Klamath farmers should be moved, why not the residents of San Diego and Los Angeles, not to mention residents of the Southwest and parts of Montana and Wyoming?’ All of these communities survive because of irrigation—water that some people think should go to environmental use.”
Our representatives should be on the forefront of all of these agricultural issues, giving our rural communities a voice and fighting for the rights of those who feed us. Right now, many politicians are conveniently silent, trying to play political games with your livelihood. This is wrong, unjust and immoral. We need to speak up for agriculture and rural America, while we still can.