Dan Keppen.jpg

Dan Keppen

Dan Keppen has established himself as a man to know on water policy and problem-solving for solutions in the West.

Keppen, based outside of Klamath Falls, is the executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, an organization seen as a resource aiding policy makers in Washington, D.C., on western water resources. The organization has testified before Congress 75 times since 2005, bridging partisan lines to try to make water work for irrigated agriculture.

“If water gets taken out,” he added, “people are going to feel it.”

Keppen has testified before Congress 20 times, on issues ranging from western drought legislation, climate change, and the Farm Bill to western water infrastructure.

“We're seen as problem-solvers, by both Democrats and Republicans,” he added. “Part of it is the way our organization is structured.”

The organization is operated by a board of directors made up of agriculture producers, aided by an advisory committee seated by irrigation district professionals. Congressional aides seek the organization's advice in the nation's capital.

“A committee staff or an agency person will call somebody in the organization and say, 'Hey, we're thinking about doing this bill or this policy. Can you guys give us a reality check?” Keppen said.

Keppen can act as a liaison between the organization and policy aides, having a direct line of communication for those making decisions on water policy.

“We're seen as a resource,” he adds. “I'm lucky to have this amazing conduit to these amazing minds in the west.”

Political party affiliation doesn't matter to the organization as much as a willingness to solve problems.

“Right now, the Democrats control the House – We've been invited twice to testify before the House Resources Committee,” Keppen said.

The Family Farm Alliance started 25 years ago after a need arose among California and Arizona agriculture producers for farmers in front of policymakers.

“We made a focused effort to do that and it works,” Keppen said.

“I would like to see more tours being done bringing Salem and Portland representatives and senators down here to see what we're doing.”

Keppen believes lawmakers have more to learn about water resources in the rural West.

“I think people in rural areas for the most part really recognize the importance of agriculture in their communities. It's trying to teach the urban folks, and especially urban folks on the East Coast and policymakers in Washington.”

“It's really trying to protect where you can and enhance if you can the available water for farmers and ranchers. That's the challenge, and it's dealing with competing interests from urban areas and on the West Coast, I would say the primary driver is how the Endangered Species Act is being implemented.”

Interests rooted in engineering

Keppen has built up a solid water resources management resume.

He's served as executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, worked for  the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento and has managed a flood control district in rural California. 

He has a master's degree in civil engineering with a water resources emphasis from Oregon State University in Corvallis, but was first interested in petroleum engineering.

Water was a natural fit and something he still enjoys.

“It's really trying to protect where you can and enhance if you can the available water for farmers and ranchers. That's the challenge, and it's dealing with competing interests from urban areas and on the West Coast, I would say the primary driver is how the Endangered Species Act is being implemented.”

Pursuing solutions to problems is key in this industry.

“Farmers and ranchers are the best problem-solvers I've ever worked with,” Keppen said.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.