Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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DAN CHIN, owner, Wong Potatoes
Experiences from 2001 drought and good potato markets help Wong make goals
Last-minute planning caused a slew of problems for Wong Potatoes this year, but with experience from 2001 and a good potato market, the growing and packing operation met its production goals and will cover its expenses.
But then there’s next year.
“Planning is a challenge,” said Dan Chin, owner of the 72-year-old business. “We’ve felt since 2001 there’s this possibility of no water.”
In 2001, Chin didn’t meet his production goals. Like the rest of the farmers on the Klamath Reclamation Project, he was caught off guard when he couldn’t irrigate and didn’t have a contingency plan to deal with it. Experiences from 2001 drought and good potato markets help Wong make goals
A worker watches as potatoes are sorted in Wong
Potatoes’ packaging plant south of Klamath Falls.
This year, the harvest and the prices it will garner were sufficient to cover costs. But a third of Chin’s land was idle, and he can’t afford to take on that loss next year.
“If I don’t have a product … the hard costs are there, but I don’t produce on the land. I still have land payments, sprinkler payments. It’s hard to make those,” Chin said. “Basin-wide we’re not getting return on land that’s idle.
“If I’m taking half the revenue off my business plan, if I receive 50 percent of the income off the business, am I going to be able to survive?”
The business has 4,200 acres of land on the Klamath Reclamation Project in the Merrill area, and 2,200 acres of that was dry this year after the Bureau of Reclamation reduced water deliveries to keep Upper Klamath Lake at levels required by federal biological opinions during a drought.
Irrigators received one third of the water they typically do.
Chin moved 450 acres of potatoes 125 miles south of Merrill to Burney, Calif., and 30 miles north to the Swan Lake area. Irrigation water was available there, but commuting to those fields caused significant expenses.
“We’ll go back to some areas we did (this) year,” Chin said. “We got good crops there, and here there’s still the uncertainty of the water situation. … We’d rather farm our ground we have locally, but we have to see what happens.
“It’s a tough way to farm.”
Page Updated: Saturday January 29, 2011 03:32 AM Pacific
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