Gains made, ground to cover

Legislative update | Spring 2024
BY NATHAN BOWEN

Every spring in Washington, we are graced with the annual spectacle of cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin, which signal both the return of the season and the time of year when people from all over the country descend on the city to take in the sights. This March, members of the Irrigation Association descended on Washington to take irrigation’s message straight to the heart of our nation’s capital. The importance of having a seat at the table in Washington cannot be overstated. In an era where Congress seems to oscillate between impasse and crisis, the stakes for the irrigation community and, by extension, the agricultural sector are significant.

Washington is currently a theater of sound bites and posturing, with lawmakers lurching from a cycle of shutdown threats and last-minute resolutions. Just recently, the House passed a funding package for a portion of the federal government, signaling a potential thaw in the legislative freeze. While funding the federal government is the bare minimum we expect from Congress, and this package funded just a portion of federal agencies, this move toward a longer-term solution to the spending saga marks an important, albeit partial, step forward. With control of Congress split between Republicans and Democrats, it’s evident that bipartisan cooperation remains key to any movement forward.


Even in times of division, common ground can be found to advance the nation’s interests.


The bipartisan agreement, while a compromise, underscores the potential for progress amid gridlock. It’s a reminder that, even in times of division, common ground can be found to advance the nation’s interests.

The package’s passage represents a blend of victories and concessions for both parties. Yet, in light of the challenges of getting this package across the finish line, one cannot help but ponder the broader implications for critical legislation such as the farm bill, now deferred yet again.

This prolonged uncertainty underscores a fundamental truth: while Congress’ wheels turn slowly, the world does not wait. Federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency are actively shaping the future of our industry, from sustainable aviation fuel to conservation program requirements. It’s a stark reminder that our advocacy efforts must extend beyond the halls of Congress to the agencies that implement these crucial policies.

Moreover, the shifting landscape of state legislatures presents a new frontier for policy advocacy. As you’ll discover in this issue of Irrigation Today, state-level decision-making is becoming an increasingly critical arena for issues impacting irrigation and agriculture. From water rights to environmental regulations, the policies crafted in state capitols can have profound implications for our industry’s future.

As we geared up for our fly-in to Washington, our mission was clear: to cultivate relationships in Washington, to advocate for the needs and interests of the irrigation community, and to ensure that our voice is a part of the conversations that shape our industry’s destiny. The challenges may be daunting, but the opportunities are immense. In the face of gridlock and uncertainty, our commitment to advocacy remains unwavering.

We are at a critical juncture, and the decisions made today will reverberate through the corridors of power and the fields of America for years to come. As representatives of the irrigation industry, we are not just advocates for our sector; we are stewards of a resource that sustains life itself. Let’s work together to elevate our industry’s impact, knowing that our efforts today will secure a more prosperous and sustainable tomorrow for all.

Nathan Bowen is the vice president of advocacy and public affairs for the Irrigation Association.
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