A Voice for New Zealand Irrigated Agriculture

By Kris Polly

In this month’s issue, we interview Keri Johnston, the chair of Irrigation New Zealand (IrrigationNZ). a member-founded industry organization committed to representing the interests of New Zealand’s irrigation sector and promoting best practices across the industry. Under Ms. Johnston’s direction, IrrigationNZ is working hard to make New Zealand irrigators’ voices heard in Wellington and across the country. 

In this issue, we also talk to a number of Nebraska water professionals. Nebraska-based water lawyer Tom Wilmoth is also a cofounder of Zipline Brewing, which has created 36 jobs with its brewery in Lincoln and retail locations in Lincoln and Omaha. Not only is making beer a way of putting water to its “highest and best use,” Zipline is also dependent on irrigated crops, such as hops and barley. Jasper Fanning of the Imperial-based Upper Republican Natural Resources District tells us about his organization’s participation in conjunctive management water projects, groundwater decline reduction activities, and the fight against nitrate contamination and blue-green algae outbreaks. Jesse Mintken of the Central Platte Natural Resources District, meanwhile, is working on flood prevention plans and the construction of flood-control levees and detention cells. We also speak with Lee Orton of the Nebraska State Irrigation Association about the organization’s advocacy for irrigation needs and irrigation activities and its involvement in an interim study into infrastructure needs being carried out by the Nebraska Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee. Finally, we talk to Ashley Babl, who is a field representative for Omaha-based Midwest Laboratories in addition to being an active farmer. Midwest Laboratories analyzes soil, water, and plant tissue samples for customers across the nation. 

If the visions of farmers and community advocates in Eastern Montana’s Prairie County come to fruition, the region may soon have a new irrigation district. Dennis Teske, the president of Teske Farms, and Beth Epley, the executive director of Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation, tell us more about the proposed Fallon Flats Irrigation District. 

Faced with soaring demand linked to rapid urban growth, Arizona’s Roosevelt Water Conservation District needed a more streamlined way to handle its field reports. To find it, the district turned to tech company Assura, which worked with it from initial consultations to full deployment. 

For 40 years, Ray Mayne has sold irrigation systems in the Canterbury region of New Zealand, and since 2000, he has been a dealer for Reinke, one of the largest U.S. center-pivot manufacturers. Mr. Mayne tells us about his business and about the changes he has seen in irrigation equipment and practices over his career. 

Many disciplines come together to support successful irrigated agriculture: water law, flood control, groundwater management, chemical analysis, engineering, economic development, software, and public relations. Irrigated agriculture, in turn, provides the world with food, fiber, and even beer. Cooperation like that is something we can all raise a glass to. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.