Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is farming in the Great Plains in grave danger?

Farming is a top industry in the Great Plains, but it may see a major obstacle in the near future. Most of the water used in the Great Plains comes from the Ogallala Aquifer, a 174,000 square mile underground lake. This sounds like a huge amount of water, but as the primary source of water for farmers in the Great Plains (and the sheer size of the land known as the Great Plains), the Ogallala is draining at a shocking rate. Over 90% of the land in the Great Plains is used by farms and ranches, and 75% is cultivated (from the US Global Change Research Program

States like Texas have implemented controls on the amount of water farmers can pump, but these rules are only delaying the inevitable. The Ogallala is refilling at such a small rate, experts consider it negligible. In a recent article for AOL news, David Brauer, program manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service Ogallala Aquifer Program, said, “All we're doing is buying time.”

If the Ogallala dries up, what effect will it have on the Great Plains? Brauer also commented that, “We're talking about, for the last 20 years, 20 percent of the irrigated acreage of this nation is over the Ogallala." The Great Plains produces such a large amount of the grain that the any major reduction in the amount of grain produced would devastate the world’s grain supply.

For farmers: What do you think?
To prepare for the inevitable end to the water in the Ogallala Aquifer, farmers are developing dry-farming techniques and are hoping for the biotech industry to create drought-resistant crops, but will this save the farming industry in the Great Plains? Have you had water issues in your area? What would you do if your farm was facing a future like that of the Great Plains?

For value-added ag product producers: What do you think?
If your product(s) contains wheat (or any other commodity produced in the Great Plains), how will you adapt if there is a shortage of your needed commodity?

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