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Scronce "Bigger Story"
Letter to Editor
Felice Pace, November 15, 2007

To Capitol Press editors:

Merrill Oregon farmer Karl Scronce provided a "bigger story" on Upper Klamath Lake levee removal on the editorial page of the 11/9 edition. Sconce has some good points including an allusion to his fellow farmers who stand to gain at his and other farmers' expense if they get their way in the current Klamath Settlement Talks. Scronce fingers these unnamed farmers as manifesting "a bucket brigade of self interest on both the national level and local level."

The self-serving ways of the Klamath River Basin's irrigation elite is something that needs to be exposed to the light of day. Mr. Sconce's tentative steps are in the right direction.

But Scronce does not tell the whole story. While he claims that the Klamath Project irrigation water cut-off in 2001 was a "devastating blow" to his farm business and that he "comes from the school of personal property rights and independent thought" he fails to disclose the extent to which his business has prospered from payments funded by American Taxpayers.

During the 6 years which ended with the year of the irrigation water cut-off (2001) the Scronce Farm Company received $252,742 dollars in cash payments from the federal government. This made Scronce the 5th highest recipient of government payments to farms in Klamath County during the period. During the 1995-2005 decade Scronce Farm Company received $353,337 in taxpayer-funded payments. This included disaster payments in 2002 related to the 2001 irrigation shut-off. Apparently Mr. Scronce's "independent thought" does not preclude him from accepting taxpayer subsidies. But he did fall from 5th highest payments to 9th highest payments which might explain some of his critique of his neighbors. Those neighbors have cashed in on the Klamath EQIP boondoggle which swelled their government payments. Scronce last participate in USDA conservation programs in 1995.

Mr. Scronce is right about one thing: farms and a healthy environment "can coexist". In the Klamath River Basin, however, it is the Nature Conservancy, the main recipient of Scronce attacks, which is showing the way.

Felice Pace
Klamath, California

PS: Government payment data is from the Environmental Working Group Farm Payments Database at: http://farm.ewg.org/sites/farm

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.


Bigger Story to Tell About Klamath Levees
By Karl Scronce, Capital Press
November 09, 2007

I must respond to the cover story in Capital Press, the Nov. 2 issue. The story covered the blowing of a levee on Upper Klamath Lake, which protected 2,500 acres of valuable, highly productive farmland.

Though Capital Press did a good job covering the story for what it was on the outer shell, I am of the opinion that there is a bigger story to tell.

The Klamath Basin and its vast, diverse agriculture and forest regions have been under attack for many years by groups who claim to be concerned about the environment.

As a youth in the '70s and early '80s in the Klamath area, I saw the attack on the timber industry.

The attacker's final outcome of victory left what was once our economic mainstay, a pile of sawdust.

Good paying jobs lost along with the services necessary to create a wealthy economy and vibrant middle class. Though not as great an economic force, but a massive contributor all the same was agriculture.

Though we have a short growing season due to our high elevation, the immigrants in this area were very resourceful in determining what crops and livestock were best suited for the Klamath area.

My grandfather ended up in Klamath after a long journey which started in Europe and through Eastern United States. My father started his journey west from North Carolina after World War II. Though obviously at that time they didn't know each other, they had one thing in common, as many others like them, and that one driving connection was opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

The entire necessary infrastructure was being built in the first half of the century to produce and transport both agriculture and timber products. Extremely important to this Eastern Oregon desert region was irrigation water.

A series of levees and canals were planned that both transported water and diked off new farmland that had centuries of built up aquatic material.

This highly organic soil generated extremely fertile farmland. The Klamath Project was soon developed and built that just added to the opportunity abound. A term used today, "win-win" would have applied to the participants at that time.

Take a giant step forward from those early days of development and stop in the year 2001. Agriculture was being hit from all sides in the Klamath Basin.

The weapon of choice was the Endangered Species Act with many years of questionable biased science and some "stretch-of-the-imagination" assumptions all pointing the finger at agriculture.

The irrigation water was shut off to the federal irrigation project that spring. The Klamath Project included farmland and wildlife refuge lands.

I personally had land that was both in the federal project and outside the boundaries of the shut-off area. The shutoff was a devastating blow to my business that was already suffering from some tough times in agriculture.

Every person and group who hated production agriculture, farmers and the values for which they stood for, piled on in every newspaper opinion piece and television show.

I was astonished by the number of these groups that existed and the coordination with which they delivered their blows.

Though that year was shot from the standpoint of growing a crop, the Klamath Bucket Brigade occurred that summer that protested the water shut off.

It was estimated at more than 15,000 people in attendance. People who understood rural values and independent life styles.

As far as I was concerned, we were all one, with one goal in mind, to right a wrong. We had more than a bucket full of political and public support.

Unfortunately, all good things and the strength good things possess are put to the test.

Today, we are at that point and the opposition to our rural and independent lifestyle won a blow. And that blow literally was real and I might add used ammonium nitrate and diesel in blowing up the dike on Upper Klamath Lake.

I come from the school of personal property rights and independent thought.

People working for their goals and dreams, which when all pooled together, create the nation we all live, work, and play.

Today's world is different from my grandfather's era. Through education, science, and observation we have perfected more sustainable methods of production both in the farm and forest.

Limiting the environmental footprint and working lands can coexist and is the correct direction for our nation.

I am extremely leery of these altruistic goals such as the blowing up the dikes for wetland establishment. Retiring farmland, only to have it potentially relocate in areas such as Brazilian rainforests is poor public policy. We exist in a global economy which involves actions and consequences beyond our borders.

The Nature Conservancy was the organization who took on this wetland project. A look at The Nature Conservancy website and a list of their board of directors doesn't exactly appear in my mind to be a group of people who have devoted their lives for the public good and the betterment of hard working Americans.

This kinder and gentler environmental group which actually purchases the land they acquire, even has local board members who are farmers.

Of course, they farm in an area not at this time on the hit list for conversion to wetlands. It's a bucket brigade of self interest on both the national level and local level.

Karl Scronce, of Klamath Falls, Ore., has an irrigated wheat farm along Upper Klamath Lake . He is the 2007 chairman of Oregonians for Food and Shelter and second vice president of the National Association of Wheat Growers.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.