The drought of 2012 in the Midwest brought the issue of water to the forefront for agricultural producers. However, a group of producers and industry advisors working with the King Ranch® Institute, Kingsville, TX, which is associated with Texas A&M University, have been studying the issue of water and recently completed a white paper: ‘Agricultural Water: Protecting the Future of Our Nation’. Paul Genho, an advisory member of the management council at the King Ranch® Institute was one of the presenters at the 20th Anniversary of Cattlemen’s College held in conjunction with the 2013 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention and Trade Show, Tampa, Fla., Feb. 6 -9. Genho’s presentation focused on the challenges and strategies of water management for ranches.
Genho addressed three main issues in regard to water and agriculture:
1. Water Supply. Will there be enough for the future? The key issue is agriculture is being told to increase production by 70% over the next 50 years, according to a United Nations Report, but at the same time the agricultural industry has a deteriorating infrastructure, a lack of research is being conducted and water is being transferred from agriculture for use in environmental purposes. This is creating a perfect storm for water supply.
2. Water Management. There are not policies and procedures in place, that work in favor of agriculture and agriculture is often not at the table when the discussions of water management and usage are taking place.
3. Legislative Regulator Approach. Water rights are being taken away and water laws are being passed at a time when these issues are more and more critical.
The group of agricultural producers wrote the white paper on water because they believe water is the issue of the decade — if not decades and so does the United Nations, explained Genho. During the drought, we got a closer look at what really can happen in the future because of the challenges and oversight of how important the issue of water is to the nation and the world.
Genho believes producers need to work to be better advocates of water supply, water laws and foolish policy that can weaken the position of agriculture. However, unfortunately those that are most concerned about water and its impact on agriculture are the 1-2% of producers in production agriculture. The main purpose of developing the white paper was so producers, county farm bureau organizations, cattlemen’s organizations, etc., can share the information in the research paper with legislative members and policy makers and to spread the word and understanding of what water means to agriculture. For example, Genho stated, South Dakota producers like other producers nationwide need to become advocates of water issues and it is critical that if they don’t become advocates of water issues and carry the issue if no one else will.
The white paper can be found on the King Ranch® Institute Ranch Management website.