Washington Agriculture: History and Future

By Kris Polly

Alex McGregor is the chairman of the McGregor Company, a multigenerational agronomic supply company that provides materials and experience to 2,000 farm families in the Northwest. He is a tireless advocate for Washington State’s irrigated agriculture as well as being a tremendous storyteller. I know you will enjoy this month’s cover interview, in which Mr. McGregor tells us about his 140 years of family history in the region and his work today. 

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. 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. 

Finally, we speak with Alison Cable and Tim Trohimovich of Futurewise, a Washington State–based organization that focuses on enabling sustainable community development while also protecting the state’s land and water resources. It advocates for long-term development plans and smart laws and regulations that will allow residential and commercial growth to coexist with agriculture. 

This month’s issue spans from the early days of Washington agriculture to its future. I hope that it fills you with pride in the state’s agricultural heritage and a desire to help shape its future successes. 

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.