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  • Growers wait on federal drought declaration for aid
  • Herald and News b

MERRILL— Klamath Basin irrigator Bill Bowman bought a 1920, secondary water right — known to many as a B water right — more than a decade ago, but water won’t reach his crops in time this year.

Bowman was one of about 50 who attended a session with the Farm Service Agency in Merrill on Tuesday morning, to meet with FSA agents and see what their options look like facing the drought when and if a federal drought declaration is declared.

The agency, which is non-preventative, provides aid to eligible applicants following an event such as a drought under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With a handful of pamphlets in hand as he left, Bowman shared concerns as he and others left the meeting without aid. At 75, he’ll be driving a truck outside the Basin in order to pay his taxes, he said, without assistance for drought relief.

“Why should I have to do that?” Bowman said.

Laura Hall, of Klamath County’s FSA, said frustrations like Bowman’s are shared by many in the Basin uncertain of their water outlook. Hall said FSA held the informational meeting to speak with growers and irrigators.

“It’s very important that if you feel like you’ve been prevented from planting that you come into your local FSA office,” Hall said. “There is no (drought assistance) program at this point, but if a program happens, we will publicize it heavily.”

Hall said many irrigators are frustrated because they need more information to help make their management decisions for the season in light of water uncertainties. She is hoping an aid program could become available for eligible irrigators by August, but there are no guarantees.

“Come and see what you could apply for,” she added.

Bowman, who has lived and farmed in the Basin for 12 years, has a background growing oranges in southern California and said he faced water shortages there clear back to the 1950s.

With the Klamath Basin’s drought in full force in 2018 and little to no water for secondary water right holders, and his plants all wilting, he anticipates they won’t make it to produce grain this year.

Scott Seus, a longtime Tulelake irrigator who farms crops such as horseradish, mint, onions and garlic, also spoke about worries about the potential to lose contracts with his crops following the meeting.

“We don’t have 401Ks,” Seus said. “That land is not worth anything without the water.”

Seus believes there is water in Upper Klamath Lake to go around to provide for irrigators this summer, but believes that ag producers will suffer instead.

“There will be water left in the lake and there will be farmers that will go dry,” Seus said.

To learn more about what FSA can offer, go online to www.fsa.usda.gov or contact Laura at FSA’s local office at 541-883-6924, located at 2316 S. Sixth St., Klamath Falls.

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