As the 114th United States Congress settles into session, the Family Farm Alliance aims to guide the steps legislators should take towards securing the agricultural future of family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in the 17 Western states.
"Our Road Map offers specific policy recommendations to ensure that Western agricultural operations continue to be vibrant and innovative for generations to come," said Alliance President Patrick O'Toole. "The report is intended to provide a road map that policy makers can use to develop solutions to the critical challenges facing Western farmers and ranchers."
In the report the grassroots organization compasses its recommendations for four key areas within Western agriculture: water resources, federal environmental laws, public land management and immigration.
"Solutions in all of these areas will be key to future enhanced agricultural production, conservation and community outcomes in the West," said Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen.
Concerning water resource management, the Road Map suggests finding a new way to view water resources, one that details a broader description of how water is used, as well as how it affects food production and habitat requirements.
"The goal should be to integrate food production and conservation practices into water management decision making and water use priorities," said O'Toole. "We must begin to plan now in order to hold intact current options."
One way that the Road Map outlines this for Congress is by placing decisions regarding water issues back into the control of state and local stakeholders, and out of the hands of federal courts and agencies.
The report also urges Congress to address aging federal water infrastructure in the West through operation, maintenance and modernization.
“Failure to reinvest in these critical facilities will negate economic gains of past generations and threaten water supplies for future generations,” the report reads.
When addressing federal laws, the Family Farm Alliance encourages the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act to incorporate private landowners, since both laws present unique challenges to farmers and ranchers and how they manage their land.
The report also calls for improved transparency and species recovery with the ESA, again by urging legislators to partner with private land owners. It highlights four bills that will foster this type of public engagement and federal accountability in order to help recover and de-list species from the ESA.
These four bills include the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act; the Endangered Species Recovery Transparency Act; the State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act; and the Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act.
“We know the ESA can play an important role in species protection, but it can only successfully do so with increased public input, stakeholder cooperation, and new ‘outside-the-box’ thinking on transparency and accountability,” the report states.
The Road Map concludes by stressing the need to create regulations for public land permit holders and the importance of developing a safe, legal workforce.
"We look forward to working with leaders in both parties to find bipartisan support for legislation on important topics like water, environmental regulations and energy," said O'Toole. "Many of the ideas we will advance are summarized in our Road Map."
To access the full report, visit familyfarmalliance.org.