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Nursery associations and thought leaders discuss ‘Water in the West’

Posted By Beth Farmer, Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Future water supplies are a huge concern for wholesale nurseries, as well as agriculture as a whole. The industry needs a seat a table. And with that in mind, the Western Region Nursery & Landscape Executives Association held two panel discussions, each an hour long, at last week’s meeting in Silverton.

The issues discussed included urban development and wastewater treatment, revamping the Endangered Species Act, the high cost and beaureaucratic process of building reservoirs, how to encourage water conservation through incentives, and how to solve to the global food challenge.

“All of us in the West are facing ever more pressing issues concerning water,” said OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone. “Collaboration is key. It’s critical that we as organizations work with one another to protect this valuable resource, build coalitions and focus on outcomes.”

The Oregon Association of Nurseries coordinated the meeting, which was held at the Oregon Garden Resort. In attendance were representatives from AmericanHort, Arizona Nursery Association, British Columbia Landscape & Nursery Association, Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association, Idaho Nursery & Landscape Association and the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association.

These association leaders heard from a distinguished group of government officials, environmental and industry advocates. The first panel featured Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler; Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance; and Joe Whitworth, CEO of The Freshwater Trust. The second panel brought together Phil Ward, 2012–14 chair of the Western States Water Council (State Executive for USDA Farm Service Agency); Dick Pedersen, president of the Environmental Council of States (Oregon DEQ Director); Tom Byler, director of Oregon Water Resources Department; and John Farner, government affairs director of Irrigation Association.

Many of the day’s speakers underscored the importance of the agriculture sector to the U.S. economy, yet acknowledged that the industry’s needs are often put behind those of environmental concerns and urbanization projects. But many also expressed optimism that change is on the horizon.

“Ag has been the default industry to bear the burden of water, but there’s more bipartisan understanding that policy isn't working,” Dan Kleppen of the Family Farm Alliance said. “Only good change to water policy comes in times of flood or drought,” he said, referencing the drought conditions currently affecting southern Oregon and California.

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