Barney would like folks to know that they are doing their best to keep farming and ranching viable.

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - Brian BarneyHow long have you lived in Crook County?

I was born and raised here. I am a fourth-generation Crook County/Prineville resident. I have lived here most of my life.

Can you tell us about your family?

My great-grandfather, Sidney Stearns, homesteaded on the Crooked River, ranched and raised cattle his entire life. He was also a county commissioner. My grandfather, Harry Stearns, continued operating the ranch and participated in developing the Taylor Grazing Act and the Oregon Cattlemen's Association. My paternal grandmother, May Barney, was the first woman mayor of Prineville. My great-aunt, Nora Stearns, was Crook County clerk for many years. Our family has been business owners and members of our community since the 1880s. My wife, Laura, and I have farmed and raised our children here in Prineville for over 40 years. Our grandchildren are sixth generation, and some of them are attending the same schools my parents, my children and I attended.

What inspires you to farm?

Being raised in agriculture - it's in your blood. We love the lifestyle, it's a great way to raise a family. We can work together every day and teach our children about life and not take anything God has blessed us with for granted. Farming is complex and trying at times, but we love the challenge of trying new crops and raising the best products possible.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing farmers?

Currently, the drought and lack of water are our biggest challenges this year. State regulations put in place by people who aren't familiar with the challenges specific to agriculture is another big one right now. Skyrocketing input costs such as power, water, fuel, land, labor, fertilizer and chemicals are others. Many of our products are sold to other agricultural users, and they face the same struggles we do. Farmers buy retail and sell wholesale. Many businesses can pass along increased costs via fuel surcharges and most recently, the Oregon corporate activities tax. Farmers are at the end of the line and don't have the ability to pass these increased costs on. The market prices for many products are subject to brokers and third-party buyers.

What are your goals as OID board member?

I have been a long-time board member. As a board, we have worked diligently to maintain our aging infrastructure and keep agriculture in Crook County a sustainable enterprise. The passage of the 2014 Crooked River Act legislation -- a portion of which is the McKay Creek project -- and the help of the Deschutes River Conservancy and federal cost-sharing funds, has afforded us the opportunity to update our aging infrastructure with piping and pumping stations. I would also like to continue the efforts to get hydropower on the Bowman Dam. This is an opportunity that will benefit OID with supplemental income and improve the fish habitat on the Crooked River and Central Oregon.

What would you like community members to know about local agriculture?

I would ask our community to recognize that agriculture is a vital part of the economy in Crook County and around the world. Without farmers, there is no food. I would also ask our community to continue to be patient when we are transporting farm equipment down the road, and you must follow us for a distance or if you are stopped by cattle in the road. Please be cautious and kind. Please take the opportunity to watch us and see what it takes to do our jobs. Take in the scenery and enjoy the small moment in time it takes. We appreciate it.

Anything else you want to share?

Please know that we are doing our best to keep farming and ranching viable. If you ate today, thank a farmer.


At the request of the Crook County Court, on March 21, Gov. Brown declared a State Drought Emergency in Crook County. The entire county has been experiencing the U.S. Drought Monitor's most extreme category — Exceptional Drought — since last summer.

An officially declared drought gives water users access to legal tools such as temporary transfers, substitutions, instream leases and emergency water use permits. Affected water users may also be eligible for other federal and state drought assistance programs, such as emergency farm loans and compensation for grazing losses.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Crook County is experiencing the 13th driest year in the past 128 years. Record low water levels in Ochoco and Prineville Reservoirs, combined with well-below average snowpack, and dry soil conditions, paint a bleak picture for local farmers and ranchers.

On April 4, the board set the start date and allocation for Prineville Reservoir. The Ochoco Reservoir start date will be discussed at the next regular monthly board meeting on April 18 at 7a.m.

On a brighter note, the district is expected to receive nearly $5 million in funding to bolster a major modernization project. The project will improve water reliability to McKay Creek irrigators, conserve water along sections of the Crooked River Distribution Canal and increase efficiency and reliability of water delivery. This is welcome news as we face the impacts of long-term drought.

We will keep you updated as things evolve and invite you to sign up for our e-newsletter and text notifications at

Bruce Scanlon

OID Manager

Prineville Reservoir

Start Date: April 25

Allocation is set at .50 acre feet with a rate of .70 cfs per 100 acres

Ochoco Reservoir

Start Date: Will be discussed at the next regular monthly board meeting on April 18 at 7 a.m.

Reservoir Report – April 7, 2022

Ochoco Reservoir 6,657 Acre Feet (15% full)

Prineville Reservoir 40,603 Acre Feet (27% full)

Snow Report – April 6, 2022

SNOTEL Inches SWE (Snow Water Equivalent)

Marks Creek 0.0

Ochoco Meadows 0.0

Derr Meadows 3.1

Snow Mountain 4.0 Current snowpack conditions are approximately 28% of average.


The Oregon Water Resources Department maintains a drought website that provides the status of current water conditions and state drought declarations and information on what you can do to use water wisely. Visit the drought website at: HYPERLINK ""

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