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A fee to use Louisiana surface water???

By Carroll Smith
Editor
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If you have never contacted your state representatives and/or senators, now is definitely the time to do so, especially if you farm in Louisiana.

Joe Mapes, with the Louisiana Farm Bureau, recently sent out a disturbing announcement that was passed along to the rice community by Randy Jemison, USA Rice Federation’s director of Louisiana field services.

“Louisiana agriculture is facing its biggest threat in 50 years,” Mapes says. “Louisiana’s attorney general recently issued five opinions saying the state owns ALL running surface water such as lakes, rivers, streams and bayous and that the state cannot give the water away and must charge a fee for its use.

“Representative Jim Fannin (Democrat District 13) has filed a bill that protects and defends agriculture’s right to use water at no cost from the state to produce crops, livestock, poultry and timber. To view a copy of the bill, go to http://legis.state.la.us/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=699056.”

Mapes urges everyone involved in Louisiana agriculture to look over the bill, then call their state representatives at (225) 342-6945 and state senators at (225) 342-2040 to let them know how you want them to vote on HB 1449 that will be heard in the House Civil Law committee. It also helps to talk to your representatives and senators when they come home from the sessions on weekends, and email them as well. To find the links for email addresses, go to www.thelobby.net and click on the Resources tab on the left.

“Do not hesitate,” Mapes says. “If agriculture has to start paying the state to use surface water, it will jeopardize agriculture’s profitability and put more strain on ground water in the aquifers. Then, we might be paying the state to use ground and surface water.”

To view the abstract for the legislation, go to www.ricefarming.com and click on the Editor’s Blog “Call to Action.”

As east-central crop consultant Roger Carter, who is an avid proponent of farmers being proactive in “political agriculture,” would say, “Call and check in with your representation to let them know that you are thinking of them...regularly.” To take on the attitude of “I don’t have the time. Let someone else do it” is not going to get it done. What that could get you, though, is a big, fat state fee if you depend on Louisiana’s surface water to help produce your crop.

Instead, be persistent in seeking support for the bill that “protects and defends agriculture’s right to use water at no cost from the state.” Please take this Call to Action seriously. You may not get another chance.

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