Bill Providing Additional Water For Certain Growers Debated

water droplet_generic

At a recent legislative hearing in the capital of Washington, Olympia, the lobbyist for the Washington State Horticultural Association (WSHA), Jim Halstrom, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvVO8tJc7zI) publicly opposed legislation (House Bill 2192) that would provide new water to allow apple and tree fruit growers to grow additional acreage of organic tree fruit.

House Bill 2192 and its companion bill (Senate Bill 6028) would promote increased production of organic crops as well as biofuel crops along the Columbia and Snake rivers in Washington State. The bills have received the support of 21 co-sponsors in the House and 15 co-sponsors in the Senate.

The reason that HB 2192 and SB 6028 have received widespread support from legislators is because the bills provide some additional irrigation water to help meet the increasing need to produce more biofuel crops and organic crops as a result of the following new laws, rules and policies that have been enacted or implemented by the Washington State Legislature and various state agencies over the past few years which have created significant increases in demand for biofuel crops and organic crops, say proponents such as the Organic Tree Fruit Growers Alliance.

But Halstrom said the legislation would create a dangerous precedent. Specifically, Halstrom said “this bill provides for a special preferred status of water right and … will lead to subsequent legislation establishing other preferred status water rights … the provisions could effectively result in impairment of senior water rights.”

Proponents of the bills say they would help to alleviate some of the competition between biofuel crops and food crops by providing the opportunity for farmers to receive a little new or additional water to irrigate dry land or new ground to grow biofuel crops. Furthermore, a considerable amount of the biofuel feedstock currently processed in Washington State is imported from other countries and other states, so many legislators strongly believe the bills would help to reduce imports of biofuel feedstock such as palm oil from critical habitats in Southeast Asia.

Proponents also say they are very surprised by the WSHA’s “unilateral opposition” of the legislation that would allow farmers to obtain a small amount of new water from the Columbia River and the Snake River to help increase production of high-value organic tree fruit and other organic (and biofuel) crops in Washington State.

However WSHA Executive Director Bruce Grim notes that the WSHA Board of Directors hasn’t taken a position on the legislation. Grim did say, however, that he personally wonders if it is good policy to create special water rights for special uses. “The farmer should decide how he wants to use the water,” he says.

Out of the 100-plus million boxes of apples grown in the state, only about 6 to 8% are produced organically, Grim notes, so the legislation would be catering to a relatively small number of users. “This is probably not a good precedent,” he says. “Why carve this out for organic or biofeul production? I’m not sure it’s good policy.”

As a practical matter, to enforce the legislation, state officials would have to come out and evaluate exactly how growers are using water. “I don’t favor or oppose organic production, but these restrictions are a concern,” says Grim. “Do we really need to layer on more bureaucracy?”

Instead, when it comes to such a critical issue such as water, Grim believes that all growers should be working toward a common goal. “Let’s work together to create more water storage for agriculture,” he concludes.

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Bill Providing Additional Water For Certain Growers Debated

  1. This is setting a dangerous precedence for water right approvals. There is a finite amount of water to be utilized and this approval would push one group of users ahead of the rest of us who have been working for water for our additional land for many years!Our water is for all of us, let them get in line with the rest of us and wait their turn.

  2. 277839 This approach is discrimatory. We are not organic because we choose not to pay the outrageous fees(tax) for certification. Our farm uses a low chemical and no insecticides approach to our vegetables and berries. Also we have been standing in line water rights to be issued by the dept. of ecology for 12 years. Had the $50 been invested it would be a better return that DOE system.

  3. What a bondoggle. How it can be considered a beneficial use to take the same amount of water (and land, and fuel, energy) then encourage farmers to deliberately lower yields by using folk methods, is beyond me. If you can make a buck by meeting consumer demands for organics, that's fine. But that should not give you any advantage, or disadvantage in the exercise of property rights.

  4. In some areas, cities and farmers are fighting over water, and now we are going to pit farmer against farmer? Bad idea. DOE has been dragging it's feet over water rights for 20 years, and all we get is this idea?

Featured Stories
Nuts
August 22, 2017
Stink Bug Threatens High-Dollar Crops in California
While populations are low, it appears invasive pest has recently stumbled upon one of the state’s peaches and almonds. Read More
Lemon tree in Florida full of fruit
Grapefruit & Specialty
August 22, 2017
More Florida Citrus Producers Pondering the Lemon Pledge
Local farmers are sweet on the prospect of growing the acid fruit. Read More
Berries
August 22, 2017
Columnist Wins Prestigious Plant Breeder Award
John Clark, who writes a column for American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines, is honored with National Plant Breeders Association Impact Award. Read More
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2017
U.S. Apple Association Hosts Annual Apple Outlook Conference in Chicago
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazine’s 2017 Apple Grower of the Year will be officially presented on Thursday, Aug. 24, during the first day of the conference. Read More
Port Of Miami shipyard
Farm Management
August 21, 2017
NAFTA Renegotiation Long Overdue for Florida Farmers
Specialty crop growers in the Sunshine State seek relief from unfair trade deal. Read More
Alan Jones takes a ride around Jones Potato Farm
Citrus
August 21, 2017
Take Alternative Routes to Find Conventional Farming Solutions [Opinion]
In order to grow, things have to change. Are you ready? Read More
Apples & Pears
August 20, 2017
APHIS Seeks Comments on Risk Removal for Dormant Apple Cuttings
Dormant live cuttings from countries in the European Union must currently go through pest risk assessment. Read More
young Florida citrus grove
Varieties & Rootstocks
August 19, 2017
Pressure Is on to Pick and Plant Citrus Winners
With even more variety selections available, information and communication are keys to success. Read More
honeybees
Citrus
August 19, 2017
More Forage Grants Distributed in Honor of National Honeybee Day
National forage program is scattering seeds from New York to California to celebrate pollinators. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2017
Bayer Aims Research Prowess at Defeating Citrus Greening
Company enters collaboration with Citrus Research and Development Foundation to uncover antibacterial and plant defense tools against the disease. Read More
fine-tuning an orange
Citrus
August 18, 2017
How Florida Growers are Fine-Tuning Citrus Fertility
Some are tweaking nutrition programs to focus on root health along with foliar applications. Read More
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.S.?
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 17, 2017
Young Growers See Evolving Orchard Production on Cornell Tour
A group of 30 got a chance to see operations boasting vertical integration and higher production per acre up close in the Champlain region of New York State and Vermont. Read More
More Vegetables
August 16, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Broccoli ‘Eastern Crown’ from Sakata
'Eastern Crown' is an outstanding variety for the East Coast and warm regions throughout the U.S. Read More
Fruits
August 15, 2017
California Nurseryman Settles With Feds Over Plowing Dispute
John Duarte admits no liability but will pony up more than $1 million in civil penalties and environmental mitigation fees. Read More
The Latest
Nuts
August 22, 2017
Stink Bug Threatens High-Dollar Crops in…
While populations are low, it appears invasive pest has recently stumbled upon one of the state’s peaches and almonds. Read More
Grapefruit & Specialty
August 22, 2017
More Florida Citrus Producers Pondering …
Local farmers are sweet on the prospect of growing the acid fruit. Read More
Berries
August 22, 2017
Columnist Wins Prestigious Plant Breeder…
John Clark, who writes a column for American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines, is honored with National Plant Breeders Association Impact Award. Read More
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2017
U.S. Apple Association Hosts Annual Appl…
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazine’s 2017 Apple Grower of the Year will be officially presented on Thursday, Aug. 24, during the first day of the conference. Read More
Farm Management
August 21, 2017
NAFTA Renegotiation Long Overdue for Flo…
Specialty crop growers in the Sunshine State seek relief from unfair trade deal. Read More
Citrus
August 21, 2017
Take Alternative Routes to Find Conventi…
In order to grow, things have to change. Are you ready? Read More
Apples & Pears
August 20, 2017
APHIS Seeks Comments on Risk Removal for…
Dormant live cuttings from countries in the European Union must currently go through pest risk assessment. Read More
Varieties & Rootstocks
August 19, 2017
Pressure Is on to Pick and Plant Citrus …
With even more variety selections available, information and communication are keys to success. Read More
Citrus
August 19, 2017
More Forage Grants Distributed in Honor …
National forage program is scattering seeds from New York to California to celebrate pollinators. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2017
Bayer Aims Research Prowess at Defeating…
Company enters collaboration with Citrus Research and Development Foundation to uncover antibacterial and plant defense tools against the disease. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2017
How Florida Growers are Fine-Tuning Citr…
Some are tweaking nutrition programs to focus on root health along with foliar applications. Read More
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.…
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 17, 2017
Young Growers See Evolving Orchard Produ…
A group of 30 got a chance to see operations boasting vertical integration and higher production per acre up close in the Champlain region of New York State and Vermont. Read More
More Vegetables
August 16, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Broccol…
'Eastern Crown' is an outstanding variety for the East Coast and warm regions throughout the U.S. Read More
Fruits
August 15, 2017
California Nurseryman Settles With Feds …
John Duarte admits no liability but will pony up more than $1 million in civil penalties and environmental mitigation fees. Read More
Apples & Pears
August 15, 2017
Wet Weather Breeds Phytophthora in Young…
Crown rot, root rot flourishing in very wet growing season. Read More
Citrus
August 15, 2017
New Conference to Shine Spotlight on Cen…
Education and interaction part of UF/IFAS-led agenda. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
August 14, 2017
Biocontrols: The South African Fruit Gro…
While insect and disease pressure differs from U.S., South African fruit growers say education and slow transitions make for successful integration of biological products. Read More