What is in this article?:
- Limited water resource will change Texas agriculture
- More rain needed
- Changes are coming
- Central and North Texas have been blessed with ample rain since last fall.
- Much of the South Plains and some areas in South Texas are still dry.
- Crop insurance is not a waste of money.
More rain needed
But meager rains so far have not recharged the soil profile as much as farmers need to plant with confidence that the crop will emerge and grow off well. He says Lamb, Bailey and Parmer Counties are “some of the (driest) in the Panhandle.
“But farmers will plant. They have to in order to satisfy insurance requirements. They all prefer to make a crop.”
He says crop insurance kept a lot of Texas farmers in business after last year’s historic drought. “And now we have pressure at the federal level to reduce funding for crop insurance. That would be a big mistake. Direct payments will be gone,” he concedes, “but crop insurance is not a waste of money.”
He says farmers can only insure 65 percent to 70 percent of their typical crop yield. “They don’t make any money on crop insurance,” he says. “They just hope to pay off their debt. I don’t know of any farmer who can make a 30 percent profit on an investment.”
He says cutting conservation programs would also be a bad idea. “You want to see the sky turn dark? That would have happened last year without good conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program was good for marginal land that was iffy for row crops. It did well in trees and grass and increased wildlife habitat.”
Miller says last year’s record-setting drought may have done some good by reminding people that water is not as plentiful as they might like to think. “No one has ever seen a drought like that,” he says. “That’s the worst single-year drought on record. It might not be as bad as the multiple-year droughts of the 50s but it may be moving that way.”
He says that severe, long-term dry spell “may have gotten some folks’ attention and made them realize that water conservation is important. We need to get back to understanding that water is a more precious commodity than oil.”
The 2011 drought affected more than agriculture. “Well over 1,000 of 4,688 water systems (in Texas) were at some stage of drought watch,” he says. Some towns were running out of water.
He says water districts have begun to impose more strict regulations on users, including agriculture. “Each of these districts has a different resource to look after,” Miller says. “Some have a resupplying aquifer; others do not. Some are either static or declining, and district boards have to look at maintaining that resource.”
He says most of us “have not had to limit what we can do with water. We may have to re-think that.”
He says San Antonio has done some unique and innovative things to conserve water. “And, in South Australia, they have no groundwater and no well water. They use all rain water and get by on less than 30 gallons a day per person. So there are things we can do.”
He also acknowledges that governments and society have “to realize the importance of agriculture food and fiber production.”
He says agriculture also must realize the need for more efficient irrigation. “For instance, subsurface drip irrigation in the High Plains and into Southwest Texas may offer 97 percent to 98 percent water use efficiency. That’s about as good as it gets.”
A Texas native, Miller says he remembers when folks could use all the water they wanted to in West Texas. “Now we see a lot of those wells that can’t produce enough water. It’s a limited resource so we have to use it wisely.”