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Klamath Basin Editorial (2001)

August 2, 2001

To the editor:

I’d like to begin my letter with a quote from a column our Republican U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald released September 11, 2000, titled “A Farm Strategy for the New Millennium”. In paragraph three, Sen. Fitzgerald states, ‘We must recognize that family farmers, like many other small business owners competing in the fast-paced information age, cannot survive if they are burdened with high taxes, restrictive trade barriers, and excessive government regulation’. This is a fine noble statement for our young senator from Schaumburg, Illinois to make. However, his recent action to vote to table senate amendment 899 to HR 2217 shows quite a contradiction!

Senate amendment 899 was offered by U.S. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon to release irrigation water to approximately 1400 farmers and their families suffering from drought conditions who depend on this water to grow a large variety of crops in the Klamath Basin located in Oregon.

You may be wondering why these farmers are being denied access to irrigation when they own the water rights and have paid for improvements to the canal system. It is due to the 1988 listing of “Sucker Fish” under the Endangered Species Act. I would think this would be described as an ‘excessive government regulation’.

I am perplexed as to why both of our Illinois U.S. Senators were in favor of tabling this amendment? After all, isn’t agriculture Illinois’ top industry? You would think Sen. Fitzgerald and Sen. Durbin would have a soft place in their heart for farmers over a sucker fish! This is outrageous! Senator Fitzgerald is the first Illinois senator since 1986 to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

I only hope for the sake of the Illinois farming community that Senator Fitzgerald and Senator Durbin treat Illinois farmers better than they are treating Oregon farmers.

I want to end with the Statement of Purpose for Senate Amendment 899 and you may see for yourself where there is nothing to object to, unless you belong to a certain species of fish. ‘To direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to take certain actions for the recovery of the lost river sucker and the short nose sucker, and to clarify the operations of the Klamath Project in Oregon and California, and for other purposes’.

The YEAS to table this non-threatening amendment were fifty-two votes; three were Republicans, one was an Independent and forty-eight were Democrats.

Angela Wittman


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