Continued state control of water rights is critically important to farmers and ranchers, the American Farm Bureau Federation told Congress.
“Farm Bureau supports H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act, because it is designed to dispel uncertainty and recognizes state sovereignty and historic water law,” said Randy Parker, CEO of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, testifying to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power on behalf of AFBF. Further, noted Parker, H.R. 3189 recognizes states’ sovereign water rights and protects livestock water rights from illegal federal claims and takings.
Parker said some Utah ranchers have been asked by the Forest Service to sign “change of use” applications that would allow the agency to change the use of the water from livestock to other uses. Ranchers were also told non-compliance could adversely affect them being able to “turn-out” cattle on FS grazing allotments.
FS representatives later suggested the requests had been made in error and ranchers had only been asked to sign a “joint ownership” agreement.
“In either case – signing a change of use application or agreeing to a certificate of joint ownership – the federal agency is seeking a relinquishment, either in whole or in part, as a condition of access to the grazing allotment,” Parker explained.
He closed by calling on Congress to dispel uncertainty related to this issue and support H.R. 3189, which provides greater certainty to ranchers and the future of public land grazing.