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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Ag Minute: Allowing Farmers to Determine How They Manage Groundwater is New Approach

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  • Necessity is the mother of invention, goes the proverb. And that’s how Kansas State University agricultural economist Bill Golden sees what is happening in western Kansas when it comes to how farmers are adapting to a diminishing Ogallala Aquifer. His presentation on how crop profits are affected by water management policies is among several planned for the K-State Ag Profitability Conference Jan. 7 in Oakley.
    The Ogallala, which has long been the source of water for farmland irrigation in western Kansas and other states, is being depleted faster than it can be replenished. As a result, government agencies and producers are working to conserve what is left in order to keep the land productive for generations to come.
    Golden, a natural resource economist with K-State Research and Extension, said a water regulation program called Intensive Groundwater-Use Control Areas (IGUCAs) implemented more than 30 years ago sparked changes on farms in west-central Kansas when producers lost 15 to 50 percent of their water.
    “Farmers there have been very innovative. By adopting new technologies and being willing to try different crops, they’ve returned to their previous levels of profitability,” Golden said.
    He believes that farmers will respond to a new process called Local Enhanced Management Areas, or LEMAs, in much the same way. LEMAs, unlike IGUCAs, are public-driven and allow irrigators and other water users to establish their own groundwater conservation policies.
    Golden said he is watching the first LEMA in Kansas, the Sheridan County LEMA, or Sheridan 6 LEMA in the northwest part of the state. Through support from the Kansas Water Office, the Kansas Farm Management Association will assist participating producers in that area in keeping accurate enterprise records of their LEMA activities.
    Golden will then analyze the profitability of the LEMA activities over five years.
    The conference will feature presentations by K-State agricultural economists including:
    • Grain Market Outlook and Strategies for 2014 – Dan O’Brien;
    • How Crop Profits are Affected by LEMAs and Other Irrigation Water Management Policies – Bill Golden;
    • Farmland Rental Rates for Irrigated, Dryland and Pasture – Mykel Taylor;
    • Macroeconomic and Agricultural Outlook – Brian Briggeman;
    • Beef Cattle Leases and Pasture Rental Arrangements – Marty Fear and Dan O’Brien; and
    • Northwest Kansas Farm Management Association Crop Enterprise Lease Breakevens and New Tax Law Issues – Kiel Roehl, Mark Wood and Clint Milliman.
    The cost to attend is $15 if paid by Jan. 3 or $20 at the door. Lunch is provided. More information or registration is available by contacting Julie Niehage in the K-State Research and Extension Golden Prairie District at 785-671-3245 or julienie@ksu.edu.

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