Volume 14 Issue 1 January NE

Irrigation and Nebraska Corn

By Kris Polly

A rolling field of corn is one of the images we most strongly associate with the American Midwest. Behind that sight, of course, lies all sorts of hard work on the part of farmers, equipment manufacturers, irrigation districts, and more. One organization that works hard year-round to ensure that corn has a bright future in Nebraska is Nebraska Corn, the umbrella organization for the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. We speak with Executive Director Kelly Brunkhorst about the organizations’ research, market development, and government affairs services.

We are also honored to feature an interview with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson about the importance of irrigation to Arkansas—the nation’s number 1 rice producer—and the need to think strategically about future water supplies in the face of competing demands for water and declining groundwater levels. We then speak with two water professionals who
are working hard to do just that through major water infrastructure projects. Edward Swaim, the executive director of the Bayou Meto Water Management District, tells us about progress on the Bayou Meto Irrigation Project, which will distribute water from the Arkansas River to about 268,000 acres of farmland, and Dennis Carman, the director and chief engineer of the White River Irrigation District, tells us about the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project, which will supply water
to farmers from the White River. We also talk to Kenneth Graves, the chairman of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, about the importance of the irrigated crop for Arkansas’s economy.

Next, we interview Kirk Byles, the CEO of FreeWave Technologies, about his company’s radio devices and sensor products, which enable an entire smart agriculture ecosystem, and about the company’s new partnership with center-pivot manufacturer Reinke.

After he received an e-mail from the Nebraska Cattlemen Association about its Beef in Schools program, 14-year- old Kolter Wellman of Waverly/Eagle, Nebraska, spearheaded the expansion of the program to his school district. We speak with Kolter and his family about how Beef in Schools is connecting students with local agriculture.

Dawnie and Justin Stewart are Arizona farmers with roots in the region going back to the 1920s. Recently, however, urban sprawl has led them to shift their Gilbert-area operations farther away from the greater Phoenix metro area and to transition their property in Gilbert to a master- planned community. Our interview with them provides a fascinating look at the intersection of water, agriculture, and urban development.

American Leak Detection’s high-density polyethylene irrigation ditch liner is a lightweight, robust, man-portable lining system that is easier to install than concrete and pipe, conserves water, and provides years of service while reducing annual maintenance costs. We speak with Chief Technical Officer Kenneth Suazo about the system’s genesis and potential.

Any successful irrigated commodity is on some level a group effort, requiring the common labor of farmers, local and state industry associations, state and federal government agencies, and technological innovators. All of those parties are represented in this month’s Irrigation Leader. I hope you enjoy reading it.

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.