Show: Film For Justice

Episode: FJ017 - Water Taking - Family Farmer Speaks Up

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Episode Description:

Water Taking - Family Farmer Speaks Up

The Comma: Scott Collin
Stockwater Loophole: Family farmers struggle to protect a way of life. 

3rd generation family farmer Scott Collin expected fairness from government in the face of harmful corporate practices - taking massive amounts of water, major pollution issues.  

Corporate agriculture wanted unlimited access to the state's groundwaters for industrial animal operations - feedlots and dairies.  Washington State's institutions - including judges, local and state officials - lined up with corporate agriculture against the family farmers and the public interest.  

The response to corporate-state power that threatens to destroy family farmers is Scott Collin's story.  

The work of these farmers to protect their farms and the public's groundwater continues.

Background:   In eastern Washington, communities and farms depend on ancient groundwater from non-recharging basalt aquifers as their sole source for drinking water.  In 2008 third and fourth generation dryland wheat farmers near Eltopia discovered a proposal to locate a 30,000-head cattle feedlot among their farms.  Water for the massive feedlot – up to a million gallons per day – was made possible by what has become known as the “McKenna Stockwater Loophole.”  With their domestic drinking water in peril, the farmers organized as the Five Corners Family Farmers to challenge the state's decisions.

In 1945 the Legislature created an exemption for rural families to build wells and access groundwater for domestic use.  The law set an upper limit on water use at 5,000 gallons per day (about 5 acre feet per year) for all domestic uses, including watering livestock.  In 2005, at the request of Senator Bob Morton (R-Orient) and Janea Holmquist (R-Moses Lake), Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna issued a controversial opinion that overturned 60-years of the stockwatering exemption, allowing unlimited use of exempt wells to water livestock in unlimited quantities. In other words, exempt wells may be used for industrial dairies, feedlots, and CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations), regardless of how much water is used, and regardless of impacts on other water users or the environment.

The Five Corners Family Farmers challenged the state's stockwater loophole, and were joined by conservation groups, including Sierra Club.  In late 2011, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against the family farmers in a decision widely viewed as underscoring the power of corporate interests to take control of the State's waters.

Groundwater resources in many parts of Washington State are in crisis. In the Odessa Subarea to the north and west, groundwater levels are declining at the rate of several feet per year. In Whitman County to the east, groundwater levels are also declining at the rate of 1.5 feet per year. In the Eltopia area, there is evidence that groundwater levels decline when heavily pumped. Pumping water for the proposed industrial feedlot carries a significant risk that domestic wells will go dry, forcing out family farmers.

McKenna Stockwater Loophole
Five Corners Family Farmers
More on this film:
Tags:   Water, Nature, Stockwater Loophole, Family Farm, Lifestyle, Feed Lots, Government, Corporations, Conservation, The Comma, Aquifer, Easterday, McKenna, CAFO, Groundwater,
Category: Education
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SD (Standard Definition) File

File Name of SD Episode: FJ017 WaterTaking.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:23:58

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,180,746,103 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 12:00

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