Lewison Op-Ed Sheds Light On Drought Designation

A July op-ed by the Washington Policy Center’s Pam Lewison is very critical of the Governor Jay Inslee’s Office and the Washington state Department of Ecology for failing to protect wheat farmers and other grain growers during this summer’s record heat. In her piece titled “Drought Recognition: What’s Good for the Goose Should be Good for the Gander” Lewison points to hypocrisy in the timing of decisions by the state government as it relates to the burn ban.

Two weeks prior to the start of the July 13th burn ban, the Washington State Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington Grain Commission contacted Governor Inslee’s office and asked for an emergency drought declaration to provide relief for growers in Eastern Washington. Those requests were differed to the Washington State Department of Ecology, which declined to declare an emergency drought for grain growers.

“If we have enough of a drought condition to provide a burn ban that is related to the drought conditions that are causing the subsequent wildfires, then certainly we have enough of a drought condition to declare an emergency for our wheat growers.”

Lewison was told by the Department of Ecology that because dryland farmers do not apply water to their crops, they don’t need a drought declaration.

“My concern with that is just because you have a dryland wheat crop doesn’t mean that: A) you don’t have water rights available to you, and; B) that you aren’t eligible for some sort of assistance, both through the USDA and also possibly through our state Department of Agriculture.”

An emergency drought declaration, Lewison pointed out, can expedite things like emergency water transfers.

Much of Eastern Washington is currently in an extreme or exceptional drought, with some dryland farms not seeing moisture in several months. Click Here to read last months’ Op-Ed, check out PNWAg.net, we’ll have a link for you there.

The burn ban will remain in effect until September 30th.

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