Arizona Farm Bureau moves away from governor’s Water Policy Council

Oct 15, 2023, 7:15 AM | Updated: Oct 17, 2023, 4:57 pm

PHOENIX — The Arizona Farm Bureau is stepping away from Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ Water Policy Council.

The organization described it’s decision as both “thoughtful” and “sober” while being in the best interest of its members.

“On behalf of the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, I express our disappointment in what has been the workings of the Rural Groundwater Committee of the Governor’s Water Policy Council,” said Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse in a statement.

“While we respect the efforts made by Governor Katie Hobbs’ administration to address pressing issues related to rural groundwater, we believe the current process in place has been deaf to the concerns and priorities of Arizona’s farm and ranch families and we must withdraw from it entirely.”

Smallhouse wrote that the organization’s priorities have been given “very little consideration” or have been “dismissed.”

“After months of deliberation, the committee’s direction, and thereby the outcome of the greater Council, appears to be pre-determined as essentially a cross between the seriously flawed attempts of the past and an AMA,” she said in a release. “This is unacceptable to our members, farm and ranch families who will undoubtedly be impacted directly and immediately by any rural groundwater regulatory framework.”

According to the AFB, agriculture in the state contributes $23.3 billion to the state, in addition to open space and local and national food security.

“The priorities we have championed for Arizona’s farm and ranch families from the beginning of our involvement in this process have been driven by their desire to be good water stewards while protecting current uses and creating opportunities for the future, which enable even greater conservation,” Smallhouse said in a statement.

“First and foremost, we believe that a new and innovative approach for the protection of water users and their uses is a prerequisite for any new regulatory structure in rural Arizona. Secondly, any new regulatory process must be driven by a locally elected planning body. This is by no means an unusual concept. Several of these entities currently manage natural resources in Arizona and have been very effective with local direction and accountability for decades.”

While they’ve left the council, AFB still wishes to work with Hobbs and the state.

“Although we must withdraw to turn our attention and time towards an effort where we can be heard, we appreciate the Governor’s invitation to serve on the Council and value her leadership initiative,” Smallhouse said. “We have extended an offer to Governor Hobbs to convene a diverse group of agricultural stakeholders from around the state to meet with her directly. In the interest of Arizona’s food security and water future, we hope she accepts.”

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Arizona Farm Bureau moves away from governor’s Water Policy Council