Irrigation Association, USDA Celebrate Irrigation Efficiency

Preserving water through efficient irrigation is good for the environment, good for wildlife and good for growers, said Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana at an event celebrating Smart Irrigation Month.

The Irrigation Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture ended July, identified as Smart Irrigation Month, with irrigation tours in Montana and Missouri.

Burns appeared in Montana on Friday, July 28, with Irrigation Association past-President Brian Vinchesi and Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns signed a proclamation declaring July Smart Irrigation Month, and the month was designated in the Congressional Record. The Irrigation Association initiated Smart Irrigation Month to highlight irrigation technology and practices that protect natural resources while increasing yields.

"Agricultural water supply is emerging as a critical natural resources issue," Rey said in remarks prepared for a gathering at Montana's Freezout Lake, a wildlife habitat that Agriculture officials said will benefit from increasing irrigation efficiency through USDA programs. "Irrigated agriculture is essential in meeting our food and fiber production needs."

"USDA has teamed up with the Irrigation Association to remind folks how water management plays a crucial role in the conservation of water, and how it can save producers money," Rey said. He said increasing irrigation efficiency is one of the USDA's most important goals.

Michael Dowgert, of Netafim USA, represented the Irrigation Association in Missouri on Monday, July 31, appearing with Deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture Merlyn Carlson and Sen. James Talent, R-Mo.

Dowgert praised the growers in Missouri as they gathered on the farm of Allen Below who recently converted 200 acres of cotton from flood to drip irrigation to allow for more precise application of fertilizer. Visionary farmers on the cutting edge of technology are improving the processes, Dowgert told the group.

American agriculture becomes more efficient each year. The latest Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey shows irrigated farms are moving to efficient modern irrigation practices allowing growers produce more on less land with less water.

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