Helping improve the country’s water supply in the next farm bill

The Western U.S. is facing a water crisis and many in the ag industry agree water resiliency needs to be a priority in the next farm bill.

“This drought is real.”

Western Kansas farmer Tom Willis told members of Senate Ag Subcommittee at a hearing Tuesday his area is in exceptional drought.  “This morning at 3 o’clock in the morning, I got a call from my wife. Usually when that happens, I have cows out on the highway and my cowboy is drunk somewhere.  That’s not why she called. She called to tell me it was raining.  We got an inch-two last night.  That’s the first rain since August.”

He says federal programs that protect water or provide disaster relief can have too many regulations, especially as margins have tightened this year. “Given the ever-changing climate, and what I have to deal with from an environment perspective, I have to have maximum flexibility. One of the asks that I would have as we construct this new farm bill, if we put anything in there is to remember that one-size-does not fit all. The key to getting farmer adaptation to all of this is flexibility.”

Kansas Senator Roger Marshall says the next farm bill needs to address water as a critical infrastructure. “To help solve problems like this, to solve water conservation issues and to leave this world cleaner, healthier and safer than we found it and to make sure that future generations have water.”

Indiana Senator Mike Braun says he’s corned that water shortages in the West could affect producers in the East. “Watch with horror sometimes when I see what’s happening especially in the far west where it looks like agriculture is a long-term enterprise and your main asset is your land and water table. When that starts going in the wrong direction, I don’t know how you strategically make decisions of what you’re going to do long term.”

 The majority of the panelists agreed that evolving technologies and crop rotations must be implemented to help conserve the U.S.’s water supply.

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