Idaho Farmers: “We’re All Going to Fail”

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Idaho farmers are in danger of having their water shut off. The water shutoff order affects half a million acres of farmland and about 6,400 people who use the water. Without water, their farmland is worthless.

The state of Idaho has put a water curtailment order, which is basically a water shutoff order on literally a half million acres of farmland. ‌ Many farming this land have already invested in thousands of acres, thousands of dollars per acre, to grow potatoes. It’s too late for them to survive without water.

Why is the water being cut off?

Essentially, this curtailment represents a battle of wills between the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the groundwater districts in eastern Idaho.

Idaho’s waterways are owned by the State as a public trust resource. A water right is the right to divert the state’s public waters and put them to beneficial use. A water right is a “usufructuary right,” meaning a right to use, as opposed to a right to possess.

There isn’t enough water to go around, so senior water users say they want the junior water users (farmers) cut off because they haven’t stuck with the plan. Junior water users are in desperate straits, but senior water users have primary legal rights.

The problem arose because of a difference in how water usage is configured.

If the officials don’t come up with a solution almost immediately, the crops will die.

Farmer Connie Christenson told Local News 8 that unless there is an emergency end to the curtailment order, the water cut-off won’t just mean the end to their potato crop but potentially six generations of farming.

“We wouldn’t be able to take that kind of a hit and continue,” said Christensen. “I mean, maybe you can get a bank to carry you, but it would be crazy for the banks to carry us when we don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to irrigate again.”

The Governor’s office believes there will be an agreement.

Farmer Trevor Belknap explains at the beginning of the video.

“I operate a family farm, a fifth-generation family farm in the Snake River Valley of eastern Idaho. I just wanted to visit with you for a minute about the impacts of the water curtailment order that’s been issued by Director Weaver from the Outer Department of Water Resources. ‌

“The situation in which we find ourselves is about as bad as it gets. Not only will we be out of business, but many other businesses will be highly impacted, and you, as my friends and neighbors, will also be impacted because we’re so interconnected.

“If the agriculture economy in eastern Idaho fails, which it surely will if this containment order is in place, it can remain in place; we’ll dry up and blow away just like it did back in the dust bowl of the 30s.

“Banks will fail. Equipment dealers, car dealers, gas stations, and grocery stores all rely on the ag economy that’s here in eastern Idaho.

“The children in our schools, how many of them belong to families who work in some form of ag industry in eastern Idaho? It’s horrible. And we need to fix it. “And I would propose to you that it is not a water problem; it’s a management problem because we have water. Reservoirs are full. The mountains are covered in snow. The river’s been flowing well. ‌ So why now?

“Why, after we’ve planted our crops, we have crops in the ground that are already growing? Now, in the middle of June, they pull a curtailment order to say you must cease pumping water.

“The cost is huge. An acre of potatoes costs upward of $4,000 an acre to grow. “How will that ever be recovered? They will not grow without water. And what will that do to everyone else that’s reliant upon us in this area and the state of Idaho? “What will the counties do for roads and bridges, police departments, ambulances, hospitals that rely on tax the tax base. Property like this will become worthless. Without water, the land doesn’t have any value here.”

Watch:

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