At the August meeting of the Board of Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company, there was an interesting conversation. Our representative on the Southwest Water Conservation District detailed how he is against demand management of our Division 7 water, which incorporates our watershed area. Better late than never, I guess. His expressed opinion at that meeting does not alter his vote to abolish our watershed’s waiver from Colorado Water Conservation Board’s demand management policies. I don’t want to be mean about it, but what will need to be done to remedy this and who will foot the bill? Currently MVIC spends significant sums of money defending our water rights. This is a situation that never should have occurred.
Agricultural economics are facing the proverbial fork in the road. This is a result of conflicts of interest between two very different models of operation, and the overlord tendencies of government institutions. The highly subsidized nonprofit socialist approach to the agrarian sector versus the independent family-based farms and ranches. The independent family- based agriculture sector has schisms that are fast approaching chasms, due to a variety of reasons. This has resulted in an increasing destructive polarization between what I term the haves and the have nots of farm programs that has created an uneven playing field.
Life isn’t always fair, but our government is expected to be neutral with the programs they create and administer. Reams of procedures and policies that spell out standards to be adhered to keep government printers busy.
The category of haves, are those farms and ranches that farm the government programs for their operations on a regular basis. Talk about your universal basic income from the federal government! This category takes the blue ribbon year after year. Imagine: you can be paid to put your land into a conservation easement, which freezes your property tax evaluation, regardless of future ballot increases. That’s nice. You can also apply for grazing land initiative programs, wildlife programs, crop programs, and so on. The folks at the land conservancy will assemble a team of experts to assist you in your management. This is helpful if you don’t know much about farming. Odds though are pretty high, neither do they. Accountability for failure doesn’t exist since the deed includes a land conservancy. There will always be another program, another chance. Such a nice life. Your heirs, should you have any, don’t need to worry too much about that pesky “into perpetuity” clause. Time and money have a way of re-defining terms for some easement holders. Others may feel and see a different set of rules being applied to them.
The category of have nots consists of two distinct parts. The first part are those farmers/ranchers who may use one or two government programs over the course of a lifetime of farming. There are some in this category who never use any government subsidy program. Originally farm subsidies were implemented to secure the food commodities needed for the national interest. The simple explanation for why the programs have expanded to such outrageous levels, that government planners want everyone to be a case management file, just like what health care is turning into. The last Farm Bill that Congress passed in 2018 cost taxpayers $867 billion. So even if you never use a single program, you pay for that neighbor who is farming the programs, regardless of need or food security. This is a direct effect on why agriculture is facing that proverbial fork in the road.
As more people flee the big urban areas looking for sanctuary from what is rapidly becoming unmanaged situations. As water becomes even more critical to our area, who do you put your faith in? As the tentacles of private/public partnerships wrap around our resources, always under the banner of benevolence, the same people who ran the system for years are beginning to feel fear. Their world is not as secure as it once was. When the question becomes who to throw, of their friends and neighbors under the bus, how will they respond?
There is a ballot initiative being proposed for this November election that if passed, will double the property tax in counties that fall within the Colorado River District (CRD). The District was created in 1937 and they are seeking a mill levy for water projects, and will be asking to keep revenue that exceeds TABOR limits without asking further permission. That is 12 counties and parts of three more than are in the Colorado River watershed.
Why does this matter to us? If MVIC water becomes subject to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s policies, our water becomes part of a negotiable pool.
The current MVIC Board has a hard decision in front of them. They must reconcile what are fast approaching irreconcilable differences. Powerful outside influences and their disparate shareholders.
When you vote to elect directors to the MVIC board, ask them what their positions on demand water management are. Ask them the hard questions on how we keep our waiver in place. Then, you need to hold them accountable for what they say. Always the hard part.
Valerie Maez writes from Lewis, Colo.