Still Depending On Water

Still Depending On Water

 Still Depending On Water. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

Oregon continues to be one of the nation's leaders in use of irrigation for agriculture. It also remains one of the best in water efficiency and conservation. The results of a national farm and ranch irrigation survey confirm that Oregon is a top user nationally in irrigation for agricultural production, with more than 12-thousand farms irrigating 1.75 million acres. Jim Johnson of the Oregon Department of Agriculture says that is significant.

JOHNSON:  When you look at the value of Oregon agriculture that's related to irrigation, in terms of percentage of the total production, it even shows a greater importance.

About 85 percent of the value of all Oregon crops comes from farms that irrigate, including high-value commodities such as tree fruit, berries, vegetables, and potatoes. Alfalfa, other types of hay, and pasture land is also heavily irrigated in Oregon.

JOHNSON:  A lot of times, that type of land gets a bad rap in terms of irrigated agriculture. But remember, that is just an element of the cattle and livestock industry, which is a top five commodity year in and year out. Most of that production is going to feed livestock, which is a high value crop.

While the actual number of farms using irrigation is down a bit in the past five years, the amount of acreage is up. The survey also shows Oregon as one of the leaders in water conservation as many farmers and ranchers have gone to more efficient water delivery systems such as low-flow sprinklers and drip irrigation. Johnson says Oregon has greatly improved its conservation in water delivery as the number of acres using efficient drip irrigation delivery systems has grown considerably.

JOHNSON: We were a bit over 16-thousand acres in 2003. When you look at 2008, we were up to 81-thousand acres. That's not necessarily an indication of smaller farms getting into irrigation, because it's not. It's larger farms getting more efficient.

Johnson is pleased to see no big drop in the number of irrigated acres in Oregon in the latest survey.

JOHNSON: I'm always concerned about losing water that is earmarked for irrigation and for other agricultural uses to non-farm uses, whether it be urbanization or the like. So to see this number steady, it makes me feel a lot of better in terms of the industry holding its own and keeping a critical mass of water available for irrigated agriculture.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Northwest Ag Information Network. 

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