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Indiana Farm Bureau continues work on water quantity issues

The president of Indiana Farm Bureau says there are concerns a proposed high-tech corridor in Boone County could create water quantity issues for the state’s farmers.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has proposed a pipeline project that would send up to 100 million gallons daily from a Wabash River aquifer to the controversial 10,000-acre LEAP Innovation District in Lebanon.

Randy Kron tells Brownfield that water rights protections are not available for agriculture in Indiana.  “It’s basically whoever’s straw can suck it out the fastest and get the most gets it,” he says.  “We’re all concerned about where they’re wanting to put these wells. There is a lot of irrigation around Tippecanoe County.”

He says farmers in that area have made substantial investments in center pivots.  “What you wouldn’t want to see is these new wells come in and they pipe the water 45 miles South and all of a sudden those irrigation wells run dry,” he says.

Kron says there are a lot of questions about how these wells could impact food production and Indiana Farm Bureau has created a water task force to work with stakeholders from different industries and exports to determine the best solution. “I want to set the rules and the guidelines now when we can be sensible, think through it, and take our time to get it right,” he says. “Not when we’re in the middle of a crisis, and we’re trying to make some rules. That’s never a good time to be doing that.”

Kron, who farms in the bottoms of the Wabash River in southern Indiana (about 200 miles south of the proposed development), says farmers in his area also rely on pivot irrigation and have expressed concern about how the pipeline would impact their water availability.

“My answer was, I don’t know,” he says. “But we have to know some of those answers and figure out how it’s going to work.” The Wabash River starts in Ohio, near the Indiana border, flows southwest along northern Indiana, and turns south near Illinois, where it forms the Indiana-Illinois border before flowing into the Ohio River.

Initial results from the IEDC’s phase one study, released last fall, show that the aquifer could support the increased demand and wouldn’t impact the river or aquifer. 

Kron says agriculture needs a seat at the table as Indiana seeks a lasting solution that safeguards our water for generations to come. He says he doesn’t anticipate this issue going away anytime soon, and farmers have led the discussion on water quantity with state lawmakers this year. Although no major legislation passed this session on the topic, he says the groundwork was laid for future discussions.

AUDIO: Randy Kron on water quantity concerns

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