Share Your Thoughts

My husband and I briefly stepped off our farm and into the political world earlier this week to take part in our state’s legislative process.

On Wednesday, Derek and I traveled to our state capital in Topeka to testify before the House Committee on Agriculture.

In the wake of a record-breaking drought that destroyed crops, depleted ponds and dried up pastures, the state administration allowed the state water office the ability to allow ground water right holders to exceed their 2011 water allotment and borrow into their 2012 account. That program helped us and about 2,200 other farmers – mainly in the west and south-central part of the state- realize a fall harvest. Without the ability to borrow into this year’s allotment, we would have had partial if not complete crop failure on three of our fields.

Now, the state is considering expanding that idea, allowing ground water rights holders to enter into a five-year flex account, giving them the ability to manage and use five years worth of water allotments as they please for the next five growing seasons.

The plan would provide farmers with yet another management tool to allow them to plan crop rotations and irrigation schedules four and five years in advance.

For our farm, it would mean the ability to fully irrigate this year’s crops if the drought persists and use this year to find ways to conserve water in 2013 and 2014.

Derek was one of about six people who testified in support of the proposal. Following a handful of experts, Derek was the only person to offer testimony from the point of view of a farmer and water right holder.

He was able to provide the committee accurate answers on why, how and when he decides to irrigate crops and settle fears of overuse if the plan were implemented.

The entire committee hearing took about an hour and Derek’s part was less than five minutes. But that does not diminish the impact of his actions.

Testifying, whether in person or through written testimony, is an important part in any state or country’s legislative process.

As major legal decisions and programs are being crafted and debated, it is important that our lawmakers hear from the people who will be impacted by the decision. As farmers and ranchers, we need to make our voices heard.

Next time you see a bill, proposal or recommendation that would, in any way, impact your farm or ranch, write a letter, offer to testify before a committee or submit your thoughts in any way possible. It’s a small thing that can go a long way.

Following the house agriculture hearing, several committee members approached Derek and told him how much they appreciated us taking the time to travel to Topeka and share our thoughts and concerns. Decisions makers like hearing from us, so let’s make our voices heard.

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