DROUGHT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR IRRIGATION INITIATIVE
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Record dry weather during the first five months of 2007 highlights the need for state and federal officials to pass legislation that would help Alabama farmers better utilize the state's abundant water resources, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation.
"If we are going to be successful farming in the future, we can't continue to depend on rainfall. We need to be able to irrigate every field we can," said Federation President Jerry A. Newby. "As production costs continue to increase, we must provide farmers tools to help improve yields and better manage risk. This is important not only during a drought, but also in years when supplemental irrigation could mean the difference between a mediocre crop and a profitable one."
The Farm Reservoir Act, introduced by Congressman Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, is a key component of a comprehensive Alabama Irrigation Initiative supported by the Federation. It would provide $500 million in cost-share assistance over five years to help U.S. farmers and producer associations establish reservoirs and other infrastructure needed for irrigation. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Robert Aderholt, Jo Bonner and Mike Rogers of Alabama, was included in a House Agriculture Subcommittee markup that would be part of the 2007 Farm Bill.
Newby, who participated in a tour of irrigation cost-share projects in Georgia this week, said Mr. Everett's legislation would help provide a long-term, drought-management solution for farmers.
"It would allow us to capture water runoff or water from high stream flows during the winter months, and utilize it during the growing season," Newby said. "The Alabama Irrigation Initiative also would help farmers upgrade irrigation systems to conserve both water and fuel. This comprehensive plan not only would help farmers, but it also would help provide a stable, abundant supply of products for American consumers."
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions sponsored the Farm Reservoir Act in the Senate, and Sen. Richard Shelby helped secure funding for a study to determine the feasibility of expanding irrigation efforts in Alabama. Preliminary results of that study, spearheaded by researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Auburn University, show Alabama has lost 3 million acres of row crops since 1950 because of a lack of profitability that's due, in part, to limited irrigation.
Newby said the Federation will be working with Alabama's congressional delegation this year to ensure the Farm Reservoir Act is part of the 2007 Farm Bill.