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 Family Farm Alliance Applauds Fish Declaration 
8/11/06
The Family Farm Alliance yesterday stood by fishermen in an Oregon coastal port and thanked the Bush Administration and U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (OREGON) for efforts to declare a commercial fishery failure. The Alliance was part of a small agricultural delegation from the Klamath Basin that was asked to participate in a press event and meeting in Charleston between fishermen, farmers, senior level Bush Administration officials, and elected officials. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez yesterday declared a commercial fishery failure for West Coast salmon fishermen this season from Cape Falcon (OREGON) to Point Sur (CALIFORNIA) due to low numbers of fish caused primarily by the drought.

THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND time in U.S. history that the commerce secretary has made such a declaration prior to the end of the fishing season. This declaration will pave the way for Congress to provide financial aid for West Coast salmon fishermen in Northern California and Oregon. Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson and Dr. William Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries, traveled to the Oregon Coast with Senator Smith to personally deliver the message to commercial fishermen. "We stand by the commercial fishing industry and will do what we can to help them through this difficult time," said Sampson. "We heard their calls and acted quickly."

AFTER THE GROUP TOURED the harbor area, Senator Smith convened a meeting during which 20 farmers, fishermen, and local elected officials listened to concerns and heard proposed solutions to the challenges facing the Klamath River and the producers who rely upon it. Dan Keppen (Alliance Executive Director), Greg Addington (Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director) and farmers Dick and Jim Carleton participated in the meeting, as did Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown and State Senator Doug Whitsett.

New Ties Bind Farmers, Commercial Anglers

 "I think the best solutions are developed from the ground up," Senator Smith said. "The last five years have shown us that the status quo isn't working. I'm encouraged to see farmers, fishermen, and local leaders working together to develop policies that keep both our fishing and farming communities whole." "The meeting was a tremendous success," said Dick Carleton, who farms in the Upper Klamath Basin near Merrill (OREGON). "It showed the unity that exists between farmers and fishermen. The beauty of it is we are all saying the same thing and we're being heard at the highest levels."

EARLIER IN THE DAY, Secretary Gutierrez, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the decision in a teleconference call with the national media. "I am pleased that our joint efforts between California and Oregon have resulted in a determination that will lead to federal relief for the salmon fishermen and the businesses that depend on a plentiful fishing season," said Schwarzenegger. The coastal salmon issue - characterized by most media accounts as a divisive "farmer vs. fishermen" issue - has been manipulated by certain environmental groups that place the blame for the fishery restrictions on irrigation and dams located on the Klamath River.

MEDIA COVERAGE SINCE MARCH has taken a very consistent and dominant anti-farming position, essentially accepting arguments made by environmentalists that Klamath Project operations (located hundreds of miles from the ocean) are responsible for the coastal crisis. Last spring, Dick Carleton decided to find out for himself whether the fishermen were as angry at the farmers as the newspapers and environmental groups were saying. His efforts, in part, to bring the two parties together over the past several months has led to increased trust and an emerging coalition that is beginning to be noticed by policy makers. "I am heartened by the support that inland farming communities, such as the Klamath Water Users Association, have given to the small rural fishing communities of coastal Oregon and California," Gutierrez said last month.

AT THE REQUEST OF OREGON COASTAL fishermen, the Family Farm Alliance in May sent a formal request to President Bush, asking for an emergency declaration to open up assistance for coastal producers. Other organizations in the agricultural region of the Klamath Basin, including county commissioners and the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), sent similar requests. Over the past several months, the Alliance and other Klamath farming representatives have met several times with coastal fishermen in an effort to better understand the issues faced by each party, and to work towards realistic solutions. "Farmers and fishermen are producers who want to work cooperatively toward real solutions," said Scott Boley, who operates Fishermen Direct in Gold Beach (Oregon). "Farmers and fishermen can co-exist, and we will co-exist."

THE FARMERS AND FISHERMEN PRESENT proposed similar solutions, including the need to address disease issues in the Klamath River, modernize and expand hatchery operations, control seal lion predation at the mouth of the Klamath, and increase fish production in tributaries. Notably, both sides advocated for increased flexibility of Klamath Project operations, through regulatory measures and the development of new offstream storage such as Long Lake. "I truly believe that the farmers and fishermen, once we put the facts on the table, can find a viable solution to this," said Scott Cook, a troller from Bandon (OREGON). "Everyone in the country has been lead to believe that farmers and fishermen are enemies. This message has been pushed mostly by outside environmental groups in the mainstream media, and I think our leaders are seeing this. The policy makers want to solve the problem, and I think they're tired of the misrepresentations and the lawsuits coming from these groups." "The media and public may have thought there was a conflict between farmers and fishermen," added Jeff Reeves, a commercial fisherman and the vice-chair of the Oregon Salmon Commission. "I think those days are long over, as far as we're concerned." "Without the cooperation of the Klamath basin farmers and the Family Farm Alliance, we most likely would not have been heard by the federal officials," said Reeves. "We tremendously appreciate your help. Without it, we probably would have gotten nowhere."

 

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