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Farm Foundation Forum – Water Challenges for the Future
By Emily Ardalan, GHI Public Affairs and Policy Research Intern
The Farm Foundation Forum is a series of open discussion panels on various topics involving agricultural policies. The most recent discussion took place at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on July 15th, and was focused on the challenges surrounding water availability and quality, both currently and in the future. AgriPulse Senior Editor Philip Brasher moderated this session’s panel, which included Richard Howitt, Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Davis, Barry Bosgeth, managing director and head of MetLife’s Agricultural Portfolio Unit, Lynn Broaddus, President of Broadview Collaborative, and Betsy Hickman, Director of Communications & Membership for Field to Market®: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Topics included efficient water use, regulation of water use, changes in demand and availability.
Key points included the consumer voice and education in sustainable agricultural value chains, the strengths and weaknesses of federal policies involving water use and access, and water quality issues. It is important to remember that water availability is not only a regional or state issue – it is a national issue. While there are droughts in some areas of the country, there are floods in others. The changing climate has, and will continue to have, significant impacts on regional weather patterns, including the emergence of a possible “megadrought” affecting much of the western United States before the end of this century. This puts tremendous strain on farmers, as they need help to cope with and manage the risk from these extreme weather events.
The panel discussed methods for initiating and supporting conservation methods along the agricultural production value chain, and utilizing the power of the consumer. While it is critical that farmers are knowledgeable about and consider the environmental consequences of their actions, it is also important that consumers are educated about the issues and the impact of their purchasing decisions. Farmers need the support of advanced technologies and education about adopting sustainable production methods that also minimize the risk of losses, including using drought resistant seed varieties, utilizing precision agriculture systems, planting buffer strips and more.
While there are some federal policies regarding water use and regulations on water quality, policy often varies by state and by region. Water quality is an issue that affects everyone, not only farmers. To address these extreme weather events impacting water availability, as well as improve water quality for all users, it is critical that farmers and consumers work together to support and implement conservation practices, precision agriculture, water and nutrient management, and water quality monitoring.
|The Global Harvest Initiative’s 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) will have a special focus on agriculture in the U.S. and explore solutions to better conserve water and improve water quality in the agricultural value chain. Stay tuned for more details, and click here to register to attend the launch event in Des Moines or live online!|