WAWG authors letter defending river system

More than 100 national agricultural organizations, regional/state organizations and companies have signed onto a letter to Pres. Joe Biden, authored by the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG), expressing support for the Columbia-Snake River System.

“On behalf of the undersigned organizations representing farmers and businesses across the agricultural value chain, we write to express our strong support for preserving the integrity of the Columbia-Snake River System, which provides tremendous value in the current operation of the river, including locks and dams, clean power generation, barging navigation, water storage, and irrigation – all of which are crucial to long-term viability of the agriculture sector in the Pacific Northwest. While we support collaborative efforts to address salmon recovery in the region, we write today to voice our serious concerns with recent calls on the Biden Administration and U.S. Congress to consider avenues for breaching the lower Snake River dams, which would devastate farmers in the region, decrease the competitiveness of home-grown agricultural products, and irreversibly eliminate a critical river system for the U.S. agriculture industry,” the letter begins.

Over the past year, calls to breach the lower Snake River dams have increased, including a proposal by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) that would remove the dams and spend $33 billion to address the impacts, as well as joint effort by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to assess how to replace the services the dams provide if they are breached.

The letter highlights many of the benefits that the river system provides, including the fact that disrupting the river system would impact farmers from as far away as the Midwest.

“The Columbia-Snake River System is the third-largest grain export corridor in the world, transporting nearly 30 percent of U.S. grain and oilseed exports through a sophisticated navigation system, which includes seven grain export terminals, 26 up-country grain barge loading terminals, and eight dams that lift vessels a combined 735 feet to deliver high value farm products safely and efficiently to West Coast ports and consumers worldwide.”

National organizations, such as the Agricultural Retailers Association and the National Grain and Feed Association, joined with state organizations from across the Midwest, including Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois, to support the letter.