It is sometimes remarkable how we come back to basics when talking about the future of agriculture, and, more importantly, where cotton production is headed in this country. No matter how many breakthroughs occur on the research front or the number of new varieties that are launched, it all comes down to something rather fundamental as to whether any technology will meet industry expectations.
First and foremost, will there be an adequate water supply? This may sound elementary, but it’s an important question to ask. In our cover story this month on pages 8, 9 and 10, Brent Murphree, the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West and a regular contributor to Cotton Farming, takes an in-depth look at the water challenges that farmers face in California, Arizona and New Mexico.
For as long as I can remember, there has always been a water crisis of some sort in the West. Even during a year when the snowpack level is above average, a battle always ensues among regulatory agencies, urban interests and the rural sector. Ag’s interests in California’s San Joaquin Valley are even being influenced by a small fish known as the Delta smelt. Can you imagine that a small, so-called endangered fish is affecting whether farmers receive adequate allotments of water?
That’s the world in which California and other farmers in the West live. You have to give Western farmers a lot of credit. They refuse to fold their tents and go home. As you’ll find out in Brent’s story, they are mobilizing on all fronts to make sure their voices are heard. Nobody is running roughshod over them. They are even finding ways to build coalitions in the California General Assembly in an effort to gain an audience for their message.
While they wage a battle on the legislative front, these same farmers are searching for ways to conserve and use water more efficiently and “stay within their allotment.” Whether it’s in parts of California, Arizona or New Mexico, the cotton producer in the West faces different challenges. In some regions, he’s at the mercy of snowpack levels that determine how much his water allotment will be in any given year.
On other fronts, such as working with state legislators on new bills that will protect farmers’ access to adequate water, the outlook appears to be improving. In fact, we’ve never seen Western producers more proactive on a particular issue.
No matter where the battleground lies, you’ll find this region’s farmers meeting the water issue head-on. Having access to this precious resource is the engine that keeps cotton production moving. Consequently, this battle is not for the faint-hearted.
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