A new study on the value irrigation adds to Nebraska’s economy adds to the importance of the work of a special committee.
The Water Sustainability Task Force has begun meeting, just as the Nebraska Farm Bureau releases a study indicating irrigation adds $11 billion dollars to the state economy annually.
Actually, the study [PDF of study] conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Des Moines, Iowa focused on the impact of irrigation during 2012, when drought held Nebraska in a tight grip. The study concluded that irrigation of Nebraska cropland added $11 billion to the state economy last night. It estimates the state would have lost slightly more than 31,000 jobs without irrigation.
Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson says the study simply emphasizes the importance of maintaining adequate irrigation.
“This study really does help put some numbers behind what that real value of irrigation is to the economy, not just for farmers and ranchers, but for everyone in the state,” Nelson tells reporters during a conference call.
Irrigation gave yields a strong boost. Corn grown on irrigated land averaged 190 bushels an acre last year. Corn grown without irrigation in Nebraska yielded only 58 bushels per acre. Irrigated land in Nebraska produced much greater yields that other states in the Corn Belt, including Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
But, will understanding the importance of irrigation lead the legislature to funding water conservation projects which might be suggested by the Water Sustainability Task Force?
“Part of what we need to do is prioritize what projects are important, what areas need to be worked on first and part of it, of course, is having the adequate funding to do those things,” 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.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]