1990 Scorecard Vote
Conservationists have long viewed the subsidized irrigation program of the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation as among the most environmentally damaging of federal government activities in the 17 Western states. First conceived in 1902 to encourage western settlement and to promote the small family farm, the Bureau has constructed a vast network of dams, reservoirs, and canals for water delivery. For decades, however, the Bureau's program has been the captive of western agribusiness interests with large landholdings, especially in California and Arizona, that receive highly subsidized water due to loopholes in Bureau regulations that allow the growers to skirt the acreage limitations in law. Current law limits delivery of subsidized water to farms of 960 acres or less. Conservationists believe underpriced water perpetuates wasteful irrigation practices, which in turn reduces river flows and damages critical fish and wildlife habitat.
On June 14, 1990 Rep. George Miller (D-CA) offered an amendment to the reclamation bill to close the loopholes that have allowed farms larger than 960 acres to receive water at highly subsidized rates, rather than "full cost" rates that come closer to returning the taxpayers' investment. During debate on Miller's amendment, Rep. Rick Lehman (D-CA) offered an amendment that would have seriously undermined Miller's reforms by effectively exempting "families" from the 960-acre limitation. The Lehman weakening amendment was defeated by vote of 118-297 on June 14. No is the pro-environment vote. After the Lehman amendment was defeated, the Miller reform amendment was overwhelmingly approved by the House.