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Future of Farming

August 25, 2019


ZPL SOME FARMS ARE TAKING PRECAUTIONS NOW U TO REDUCE THEIR WATER USAGE. BUT EFFICIENCY COMES AT A GREAT COST, VANESSA VISITED WITH FARMERS AND HAS MORE ABOUT THE CHALLENGES THEY FACE.>>MY NAME IS DAN AND I FARM IN THE MARICOPA AREA AND WE FARM COTTON, DURHAM WHEAT, ALFALFA AND CORN.>>THE DISTRICT SUPPLIES WATER TO HIS NEIGHBORS. IT’S FROM A MIX OF SOURCES.>>TRADITIONALLY, ABOUT HALF OF OUR WATER IS FROM C.A.P. AND HALF IS IS IS COME FROM GROUND WATER.>>C.A.P. GROUND WATER FROM THE COLORADO RIVER WILL BE LESS AVAILABLE TO FARMERS IN THE FUTURE. THERE ARE A FEW REASONS FOR THAT. FIRST, THE THREAT OF SHORTAGE ON LAKE MADE. ZPL IF WE GET BELOW 1075, THE AMOUNT OF WATER MADE AVAILABLE TO THE STATE OF ARIZONA IS REDUCED BY A CERTAIN AMOUNT AND THAT CUT FALLS TO THE LOWEST PRIORITY ENTITY, WHICH IS THE CENTRAL ARIZONA PROJECT. THAT THEN TRANSLATES TO THE LOWEST USERS, WHICH HAPPENS TO BE B IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE.>>THEN THE DISTRICTS WOUL LOSE ABOUT 50% OF THEIR COLORADO RIVER WATER. HE SAYS THIS DISTRICT WOULD COMPENSATE THAT LOSS WITH GROUND WATER! THE CHALLENGE THERE IS THAT THIS PUTS A LARGE BURDEN ON GROUND WATER PUMPING THAT THE IRRIGATION DISTRICT HAS TO DECIDE, DO WE WANT TO DO THAT LONG-TERM.>>AND THERE’S ANOTHER PIECE OF THE PUZZLE HERE. IN 2004, CONGRESS ADOPTED A LAW THAT RESOLVED LONG STANDING WATER RIGHTS CLAIMS TO THE RIVER COMMUNITY AND THE NATION. THEY GOT CHEAP WATER IN EXCHANGE FOR GRADUAL REDUCTION ALLEGATIONS. THE FIRST 25% CUT CAME IN 2017. 2030 IS THE LAST YEAR THEY’LL RECEIVE WATER AT THAT RATE.>>WE WILL BE FORCED BACK TO CLOSE TO 100% GROUND WATER PRODUCTION TO PROVIDE OUR GROWERS.>>AND HE SAY AS MORE WATER IS GROWN OUT OF THE GROUND AND LEVELS FALL, THE COST OF PUMPING IT CLIMBS. THERE ARE A FEW OTHER POSSIBILITIES FOR SUPPLEMENTING WATER SUPPLY, INCLUDING LEASING WATER FROM TRIBES, BUT THERE SEEM TO BE TWO INEVITABLES HERE. ONE, IN THE FUTURE, THERE WILL BE LESS WATER AND TWO, IT WILL COST MORE.>>MOUNTAIN MEANTIME, WE’RE TRYING TO GET AS EFFICIENT AS WE CAN WITH THE WATER. THE EFFICIENCY IN OUR DISTRICT IS AROUND 80%. WE HAVE ABOUT 1,000 ACRES OF DRIP IRRIGATION.>>IT WOULD RAISE EFFICIENCY TO 90 OR 95%, BUT SAYS HE DOESN’T EXPECT TO PUT ANY MORE DRIP IN.>>WE’D LIKE TO HAVE THE WHOLE FARM IN DRIP. WE MAKE GOOD YIELDS AND IT’S EFFICIENT, IT’S JUST SO EXPENSIVE WE JUST DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO DO THAT. THAT BEING SAID, IF WE HAVE THE MONEY AND WE’RE FACING CUTBACKS IN THE FUTURE, IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO PUT BACK ALL THE ACRES IN DRIP BECAUSE WE KNOW THERE’S GOING TO BE FOLLOWING IN THE COUNTY AS SOME POINT.>>FALLOWING IS ONE OF THE WORDS YOU HEAR A LOT WHEN TALKING ABOUT FARMING IN THIS REGION. IT MEANS LOTS OF LANS THAT AREN’T CULTIVATED. SOMETIMES, THEY DECIDE TO FALLOW LAND TO GIVE SOIL A REST, BUT INCREASINGLY, IT IS USED AS A TOOL TO REDUCE WATER USE. NOW, FARM ES HERE ARE OFTEN CRITICIZED FOR GROWING WATER INTENSIVE CROPS LIKE ALFALFA THAT ARE EXPORTED AROUND THE WORLD. HIS RESPONSE?>>IT’S AN ECONOMIC ACTIVITY JUST LIKE EXPORTING COMPUTER CHIPS MADE AT INTEL IN CHANDLER. IT TAKE WATER TO PRODUCE THAT. THE CROPS WE PRODUCE, THEY NEED TO GO TO WHERE EVER THE MARKET IS. SO THE WORLD DOES BETTER WITH TRADE AND WE’RE A PART OF THEM.>>HE SAYS HE OFTEN ASKS WHY HE DOESN’T SWITCH TO CROPS THAT USE LESS WATER.>>THE ANSWER TO THAT IS THAT WE’RE TRYING MAKE A PROFIT. AND SO YES, THERE ARE CROPS LIKE BARLY USED A LOT LESS WATER THAN ALFALFA, BUT THE PRICE OF BARLY IS SO LOW, WE’LL LOSE MONEY ON EVERY ACRE THAT WE GROW.>>CENTRAL ARIZONA’S FARMERS ARE CLEARLY FACING A LOT OF CHALLENGES. DUNCAN SAY THERE IS A FUTURE FOR AGRICULTURE IN THE REGION.>>I THINK IT WILL BE REALLY INTERESTING TO SEE WHICH CROPS ARE ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE HERE. WHICH ONES ARE POLITICALLY ALLOWED HERE. WATER IS ALL ABOUT A LEGISLATIVE PROCESS OF POLICY AND WHO GETS THE THE WATER AND WHO GETS TO USE IT AND WHAT IS THE GREAT ES AND HEIST USED.>>THEY FACE A LOT OF THE SAME WATER ISSUES. THIS FARM IS 100% ORGANIC AND DUNCAN SAYS THAT HELPS HIM AS HE LOOKS FORWARD TO A FUTURE WHERE WATT RER COSTS MORE.>>IT’S AN EXAMPLE OF A CROP THAT CAN SUPPORT A HIGHER COST R FOR WATER. ESPECIALLY IF APPLIED EFFICIENTLY.>>IT’S ONE OF DUNCAN’S MAIN PRIORITIES.>>WE HAVE TO BE CON SERVING NOW. IT’S NOT AS IF WE CAN WAIT FOR SOME MAGIC NUMBER AT THE LEVEL OF A LAKE TO HIT WHERE THEN WE START TO SAVE WATER. EVERY DAY AT OUR HOUSE HERE ON THE FARM, IT DOESN’T U MATTER. WE’RE LOOKING TO CONSERVE WATER AND WE SHOULD START NOW. WE SHOULD HAVE STARTED YEARS AGO.>>BRIAN BECHER SAYS HE SEES OPPORTUNITY OVER TIME FOR FARMERS TO SWITCH TO HIRE VALUED CROPS LIKE ORGANIC FRUITS AND VEGETABLES AND SOME GROWERS ARE PARTNERING WITH THE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND TO TEST OTHER CROPS THAT CAN USE LESS WATER. HE SAYS THE REGION WILL LOOK VERY DIFFERENT.>>I WOULD LIKE TO THINK THAT THERE A PROPER BALANCE THAT WILL ALLOW U A GRADUAL DECLINE IN FARMING, BUT KEEP IT PROFIT BABLE TO BALANCE THE NEEDS OF THE STATE. I’M A FIRM BELIEVER THAT EVERY STATE OUGHT TO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT COMPONENT OF FARM GROUND TO PROVIDE DIRECT SUPPLIES OF FOOD AND FIBER TO THE POPULATION IN THE STATE. IF THAT’S A VALUE, WE’LL MAKE THE WATER SUPPLIES AVAILABLE. WE’LL FIND THAT BALANCE.

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