1982 Scorecard Vote
The vote is on the Lugar (R-IN) - Proxmire (D-WI) amendment to the Reclamation Act (S. 1867). The bill as written repealed the existing acreage limitations and residency requirements for farmers who get cheap, federally subsidized irrigation water. The Lugar amendment put some of those limits back, saying that only small farms (up to 320 acres) could enjoy the full subsidy, while medium sized farms (from 320 to 960 acres) had to pay half the real cost of the water. Large farms (over 960 acres) had to pay full cost.
The original 1902 Reclamation Act was designed to help family farmers, but has been widely abused over the years, with the government paying up to 94% of the cost of providing agribusiness with water from federally funded reclamation projects. Total irrigation subsidies over the next five years are expected to reach over $15 billion. Much of the money will go to corporate absentee owners and foreign investors.
A General Accounting Office study found that over half of this artificially cheap irrigation water is wasted, at a time when water tables are dropping dangerously. Environmentalists want the government to charge realistic prices as an incentive for water conservation. They supported the Lugar amendment as a realistic compromise to save water and money, and help the small resident farmers compete with agribusiness. An Iowa State University study showed that resident farmers have more respect for the land. The Reagan Administration supported the bill and opposed the amendment.
Lugar amendment rejected 39-58; July 15, 1982. YES is the pro-environmental vote. As finally enacted by Congress, the Reclamation Act continued subsidies to corporate farms. But it would have been even worse without heavy pressure and a threatened filibuster from Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), who deserves our thanks.