By Tommy Horton
At least once a year, our magazine takes a detailed look at water issues in an effort to gain some perspective on a topic that affects every cotton producer. You won’t find a more complicated, politically volatile subject that is essential to the survival of production agriculture in this country. Maybe some people get tired of hearing ag experts talk about it, but water issues simply can’t be ignored in today’s rural versus urban environment.
Nobody needs to be reminded of the devastating drought that plagued much of the Southwest last year. Cotton production in Texas alone decreased by about 50 percent to around 3.5 million bales, and all sectors of the supply chain were affected.
Droughts, of course, are nothing new to the Southwest. Most weather forecasters say the region has been in the midst of a serious drought trend for several years. We’ve heard numerous explanations for why this has happened, including El Niño, La Niña and global climate change. Take your pick if you’re so inclined.
If we can’t do anything about the weather, why worry?
Even if we human beings feel powerless, today’s farmer can prepare and implement better water stewardship practices on his land. But guess what? Today’s farmers are already doing that, and they aren’t getting nearly enough credit for their efforts. Nowhere is it more evident than in Texas and other parts of the Southwest.
As you’ll see in our cover story on pages 8 and 9, Texas farmers are actively engaged in new irrigation technology and taking steps to be as efficient as possible in their water use. Noted water experts such as Texas AgriLife Extension’s Jim Bordovsky and the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation’s Rick Kellison have openly endorsed the efforts of Texas producers. You can find their comments in our cover story.
How do Texas farmers feel about the job they’re doing? High Plains cotton producer Brad Heffington, current board chairman for Plains Cotton Growers, shares his thoughts on page 13 and doesn’t mince any words. He says producers have already adopted new irrigation technology. Nobody needs to tell Heffington and his friends about LEPA, drip or furrow irrigation research. Nor does anyone need to discuss soil probes, sensor-based irrigation, half-circle irrigation or deficit irrigation.
Producers in the Southwest know all about these tools and are using them to preserve water supplies. If any fact should give us comfort about the future, it’s the “can-do spirit” of farmers willing to meet problems head-on – especially as it pertains to water use.
Somehow, Southwest farmers will find a way.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.