A study of the impact of irrigation on the state economy commissioned by the Nebraska Farm Bureau discloses that irrigation added $11 billion to the state economy last year, as farmers used irrigation to overcome the devastating effects of the drought. [PDF of study]
The study conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Des Moines, IA estimates that without irrigation, Nebraska would have lost more than 31,000 jobs, a third of which an indirectly tied to the farm economy.
Spencer Parkinson with Decision Innovation says the numbers tell the story, especially crop yield last year. Corn on irrigated land yielded 190 bushels an acre in 2012, compared with 58.5 bushels on non-irrigated fields. Irrigation helped Nebraska weather the drought better than other Corn Belt states. Iowa had an average corn yield of 165 bushels per acre. Missouri and Illinois farmers faired much worse.
“That’s a pretty good difference, compared to Iowa and if you go down into Missouri and over into Illinois, the yield losses were a lot more drastic there than they were in Iowa,” Parkinson tells reporters during a conference call. “So, there’s certainly an advantage to having irrigation in Nebraska as compared to other Midwestern states.”
Parkinson says the study found that irrigation is becoming more dominant in Nebraska.
Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau President, says the state’s ranking confirms that.
“Nebraska’s now the largest irrigated state. California previously has been, but Nebraska’s overtaken California in recent years,” Nelson says.
Nebraska ranks first among the states in irrigated acreage. Nebraska farmers irrigate 8.4 million acres. California ranks second with 7.3 million acres under irrigation.
The study concludes that irrigation produces enough benefit for the state that it adds jobs to such diverse industries as real estate, wholesale trade, banking and health care.
Not only did the study reach the conclusion that the overall impact of irrigation on the Nebraska economy totaled $11 billion in 2012, it says that by using the latest data from the United States Geological Service it can conclude that every inch of water placed on an acre of Nebraska cropland adds roughly $100 of economic benefit to the state.