A Question of Faith and Consequenceby Ed Scofield
The Local Planet, October 12, 2000
Ralph Broetje could be poster-person for dam retention.
His 4,000 acres of orchards are dependent on water made available by the dams. Without them he believes everythingóthe warehouses, schools and the 800 plus jobs that his operation providesówill be lost. "Without water we can't keep farming. Everything we have here would shut down." That included the schools Broetje established as part of a religious mission to educate the children of his farm workers. Their parents, says Broetje, "would all be without jobs. I think most of them don't think it could happen. It just doesn't seem to make sense."
Broetje ships 4,000,000 apples per year. The label on each box is stamped with the logo "First Fruits," a reminder of what his operation is really about. "God has really blessed us and we need to give some of that back. That label has a lot of meaning to us."
Cherries are grown in Broetje's orchards, too. All proceeds from sales go to ministries around the world. This is a fact he prefers not publicized. "We are not to tell people about this. It's just more of a calling."
Broetje appreciates the stand taken by eastern Washington's congressional delegation. "George Nethercutt spent half a day here. He has been a strong supporter of keeping the dams and building up the salmon runs. Slade Gorton has been helpful, too." The Democrats, who also oppose dam breaching, accuse the Republicans of making the dams the major issue in the upcoming election. Senate hopeful Maria Cantwell and congressional candidate Tom Keefe claim that the Republicans are making the dams the major focus to avoid talking about healthcare and education for Broetje's workers. However, the dams remain a major concern for businessman Ralph Broetje.
Ten years back, Broetje assumed talk of dam breaching was a joke. Now, "it has become a big worry. The biggest thing is the uncertainty. It does make things a bit tougher."
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