The process by which we grow our food is nothing short of amazing. We plant, grow and harvest each year relying, for the most part, on good land, adequate water and, of course, a little luck.
With that in mind, farmers are true stewards of the environment. Our food and fiber producers depend on their natural resources to grow crops and raise their animals. Being protective of those resources is, first and foremost, on their minds.
During this last Kentucky General Assembly, a bill created the Kentucky Water Resource Board. In doing so, Kentucky will lead the way in proactive measures to protect water, our most valuable natural resource.
Rep. Rick Rand was chief sponsor of House Bill 529, along with a host of co-sponsors and leadership from both parties. But it was the advocacy of Kentucky Farm Bureau members that demonstrated to lawmakers how important this bill is and will be in the future.
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While approximately three-quarters of the Earth is covered in water, a small percentage of that is considered to be consumable. Factoring in the growing world population, the threat of water shortages, especially in times of drought, becomes a real concern in many regions of the world. The United States is not immune to that problem; California is experiencing a fifth straight year without ample rainfall.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 96 percent of that state is suffering from some level of drought with more than 31 percent considered to be in exceptional drought conditions. Over 34 million Californians are living in those drought-affected areas.
Recognizing the issues taking place in the west and the problematic possibilities water shortages could cause anywhere in the country, the Farm Bureau’s Water Management Working Group, a 20-member task force, came together in 2015 specifically charged to develop recommendations that will enhance the quality and quantity of water resources accessible for agricultural production in the state.
Its mission is to research the emerging critical issue of inadequate water supplies available for agricultural production, examine potential actions to solve this deficiency, and make recommendations for bringing new and reliable water sources to key areas of farm production in Kentucky.
In looking forward at possible solutions to water issues that could arise, we stand a much better chance of handling situations than trying to react once they have occurred. There also never needs to be a situation where agriculture is pitted against its urban neighbors over water. Working well together is the best possible situation we can be in if and when the need arises to take action over water issues.
This legislation will promote economic development opportunities through the strategic and efficient use of water resources by ensuring a long-term adequate supply of on-farm water for agriculture, thus alleviating pressure on rural/urban water supplies.
While many will celebrate Earth Day April 22, farmers celebrate it every day. Taking care of the environment makes good sense especially to those who use its resources to feed the world.
Mark Haney is president of the Kentucky Farm Bureau.