The CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers wants to meet with Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to discuss his proposal to breach four Snake River dams that farmers say are critical to their livelihoods.
NAWG CEO Chandler Goule requested a meeting with Simpson in an Oct. 6 letter, he told the Capital Press.
Simpson's office did not respond to requests for comment.
NAWG hopes to discuss its concerns with Simpson's $33.5 billion proposal, which calls for removing the dams and ending all salmon litigation.
No legislation has been introduced.
NAWG will voice concerns on behalf of wheat growers and communities surrounding the Columbia-Snake River Basin.
It's the first time NAWG has directly contacted Simpson, Goule said.
Goule was previously staff director of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry for the House Committee on Agriculture under former Chairman Collin Peterson, now retired.
He worked with Simpson's office on dairy, sugar and agricultural matters before joining NAWG.
"I'm hoping that past work experience and time we spent together will help me be able to get in there and try to understand why he is pushing this so hard when it's going to be detrimental to so many branches of agriculture, as well as clean energy and transportation," Goule said.
Goule in June advised farmers not to let their guard down regarding Simpson's plan. He continues to advise that they "proceed with high caution," he said.
"The plan has not died," he said. "As a matter of fact, we are hearing, predominately from communications back in the states, that Congressman Simpson plans to double down and increase his pressure and effort on the removal of those dams."
Goule doesn't expect funding to be included in the current appropriations process, but said Simpson will continue to push forward.
Goule isn't seeing a lot of momentum for Simpson's plan from House members in Washington, D.C., but said Simpson's positions on the House Appropriations Committee; as ranking member of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee as a member on the House Interior, Environment; and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, means he has a "significant amount" of influence.
"I don't think there's any other member of Congress focused on this just yet, because they're still looking at COVID, the debt ceiling and what was in the continued resolution," Goule said. "Once those issues have been dealt with, I think that's when you're going to see more momentum come behind this proposal, especially from the environmentalists."
About 10% of total U.S. wheat flows through the river system, Goule said.
NAWG, wheat grower groups and other commodity organizations don't have the funding behind them compared to urban-backed environmental groups calling for dam removal, Goule said.
The environmental groups support addressing climate change, cleaner energy, increased habitat and fish numbers, Goule said. He says the calls for removing the dams are "counter-intuitive."
"It's very confusing, the message they're sending of breaching these dams, because it goes against all of those principles they're also trying to push at the same time," he said. "They're literally speaking out of both sides of their mouth."