Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
 

(Savery, WY - May 10, 2010)  
Alliance President Urges White House
to Take Measures that Ensure
U.S. Self-Sufficiency in Food Production
 
The Obama Administration recently announced plans to launch a campaign focusing on a rural "renaissance," and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has pledged that the government will try new approaches to rejuvenate rural American communities.   Patrick O'Toole, President of the Family Farm Alliance (Alliance), today sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing support for the Administration's focus on rural America, but noting that many federal natural resources policies "are undermining the economic foundations of rural communities in the arid West by making farming and ranching increasingly difficult."   In his letter, Mr. O'Toole, a Wyoming rancher, asked the President to ensure that federal natural resources policies are "informed and guided by the goals of preserving our domestic agricultural production capacity and the vitality of rural western communities."   Mr. O'Toole's letter is re-printed in its entirety below.  
 
 
 
May 10, 2010
 
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 
Washington, DC 20500
 
Dear President Obama:
 
On behalf of the Family Farm Alliance (Alliance), I am writing in strong support of your Administration's plans to launch a campaign focusing on a rural "renaissance". The Alliance is a grassroots organization of family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts and allied industries in 16 Western states.  We are focused on one mission:  To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.  We are also committed to the fundamental proposition that Western irrigated agriculture must be preserved and protected for a host of economic, sociological, environmental and national security reasons - many of which are often overlooked in the context of other Federal policy decisions.
 
My family operates a cattle and sheep ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming.   I was heartened last week to hear Agriculture Secretary Vilsack pledge that the government will explore new approaches to keep young people in rural American communities. The Secretary was correct: rural incomes are falling farther and farther behind our fellow Americans who reside in urban and suburban areas. And those expanding residential developments are eroding our agricultural base. According to the American Farmland Trust, every single minute of every day, America loses two acres of farmland. From 1992-1997, we converted to developed uses more than six million acres of agricultural land-an area the size of Maryland. 
 
Another growing concern for farmers and ranchers is the increased difficulty we are encountering when trying to access agricultural credit. There simply are not enough resources to quickly finance our activities in the manner that we were able to do just two years ago. 
 
These observations are alarming to me and my family. The demographic trends should also serve as a wake-up call to the nation and the world.  A recent United Nations study cited by Secretary Vilsack while speaking in Toyko finds that global food production must be increased by 70% in the next four decades to meet escalating world hunger demands.  American family farmers and ranchers for generations have grown food and fiber for the world, and we will have to muster even more innovation to meet this critical challenge. That innovation must be encouraged rather than stifled with new regulations and the uncertainty.
 
Unfortunately, many federal water resources policies and regulatory practices are undermining the economic foundations of rural communities in the arid West by making farming and ranching increasingly difficult.  Some new policies under consideration by your Administration would only make the situation worse.  Sadly, many Western farmers and ranchers are convinced that the federal government no longer values them or their livelihoods.  
 
In the rural West, water is critically important to farmers and ranchers and the communities they have built over the past century. However, in recent decades, we have seen once-reliable water supplies for farmers steadily being diverted away to meet new needs. Rural farming and ranching communities are being threatened because of increased demand caused by continued population growth, diminishing snow pack, increasing water consumption to support domestic energy, and emerging environmental demands.  
 
We urge your Administration to adopt an overriding national goal of remaining self-sufficient in food production. Food security is homeland security. Policy decisions on a wide range of issues should then be evaluated to be sure they are consistent with that goal. In our own country, that means finding ways to keep farmers and ranchers doing what they do best, and to further encourage young farmers to follow in their footsteps.  
 
Right now, it seems that water policies are being considered separately from those goals. At a minimum, Administration policies on various water-related issues (Clean Water Act, aging water infrastructure, climate change, regulatory reform, meeting water demands of a growing population, land-use, to name a few) should be informed and guided by the goals of preserving our domestic agricultural production capacity and the vitality of rural western communities.   
 
Europeans aggressively protect their farms and food production capability because they still remember the hungry years during and after World War II when they relied on other nations, America in particular, to feed them. The time has come - indeed, it's long overdue - for the U.S. to similarly adopt an overriding national goal of remaining self-sufficient in food production. 
 
It's hard to imagine a simpler or more important step to safeguard the American public.
 
The Alliance has a long track record of providing grassroots-driven, practical solutions to the difficult resources challenges faced by Western farmers and ranchers. We will continue to work with your Administration towards this end.
 
Sincerely,

Patrick F. O'Toole
President Family Farm Alliance
 
cc: The Honorable Tom Vilsack
 
 
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