Klamath Basin drought crisis, 4000 jobs at risk

By Oregon Family Farm Association

Severe water shortages and mountain snowpack levels less than half of average prompted a drought declaration for the Klamath Basin and the offer of federal assistance to help farmers curtail wind erosion on their land.

Earlier this month, Governor Kate Brown signed the drought declaration in Klamath Falls, clearing the way for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to help farmers and ranchers with soil subject to wind erosion, according to a Klamath News & Herald article.

“This funding is intended to assist growers in planting a small grain cover crop to reduce the risk of wind erosion that can damage adjacent crops, impact traffic visibility, and cause other problems,” said David Ferguson, district conservationist.

Agricultural producers have until April 25 to submit an application for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to the NRCS office in Klamath Falls. The program reimburses successful applicants $41.90 per acre for seeding to plant erodible fields with a cover crop, which in turn enhances soil protection and public safety along roads and highways. Priority will be given to those with the greatest risk of wind erosion. To qualify, fields must have less than 20 percent residue and not have been recently tilled. Application forms may be downloaded at the Oregon EQIP website at http://bit.ly/2ngAevH. For questions, call Ferguson at 541-887-3503.

In signing the drought declaration, Brown noted that the lack of water could cost the region more than a half billion dollars and affect more than 4,000 jobs.

“It’s going to be a challenging year,” she said. “Drought, severe weather, and the upcoming fire season could create a very challenging situation.”

Brown said state agencies will coordinate ways to help the Klamath Basin weather the drought and minimize damage. The state declaration enabled federal agencies to offer assistance.

“I know we are facing some incredible challenges,” Governor Brown said. “But I truly believe that you are strong, that you are resilient, and that together we can tackle these challenges facing this region.”

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