Agriculture has a much more storied relationship with water than many other sectors of the public. It's a key input of production, and for all of agriculture, it matters that it falls "somewhere" in some form out of the sky.
It is the "somewhere" that puts a different spin on water for Arizona agriculture. Of course, it has to fall somewhere in the Midwest, for example, but the "somewhere” is on the crop that needs the water. But even then you can't gather it all up in a bag and pour it out where you wish.
Much of Arizona water involves availability and costs of putting it on crops and livestock. Water is not just necessary - it's on the operating statement as water and/or power costs (issues we sometimes gloss over as cut out of the same cloth).
Water’s availability and cost causes the agricultural community to constantly be looking over their shoulders:
- I have it - but somebody else wants it.
- I am short on water - what are my opportunities and what are the costs?
- My costs are pushing water out of reach - what are my options?
In one of his letters, George Washington said the problem with republics is they don't respond when they see a problem, but respond when they feel a problem.
Be assured the Arizona agricultural community has an intimate feel for water. They don't have to look around corners to feel the problems. We all depend upon water in our daily lives – it is essential. But it has a more conscious meaning for those who depend upon it for their livelihood.
We have areas where crop plantings are down by a third this year because they don't have reliable availability. We are facing shortages on the Colorado River which ultimately will impact all users of this water source.
The Issue of Replenishment Credits
In Pinal County, there is a movement for a "do-over" on the issue of replenishment credits. And the issue of "water augmentation" has been the subject of five legislative hearings held across the state. The focus here has been on what is and what is not augmentation, as well as possible solutions.
These are but a few examples of water being a central issue. We have placed all AZFB policies, with respect to water, in a prominent place on our website, azfb.org.
Some of our policy requires clarifying and updating, while perhaps some require outright revision. What do you think applies? At the very least we wish to push the conversation as to water and inform as to our policies. As Farm Bureau leaders, you’ll need to take it from there.
If you wish to change our policies, now would be the time to re-think them. This can apply generally as to principle or be quite specific.
One of the challenges is there will be discussion of some statewide water policy, but then tying implementation to the controls and forces of local communities. Through the recent hearings, it was evident different communities have different issues and see different means to the end of water to fit the local demands. Just understanding the realities can be taxing at times.
None of this or the comments are new. Issues have cycles; they surface and re-surface. This one on water is bubbling up all over the state.
We need a new conversation as to water.