Volume 14 Issue 8 September NE

Defending, Promoting, and Growing Agriculture

By Kris Polly

This month, we’re pleased to feature an interview with Sherry Vinton, who, in addition to serving as director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture since January of this year, is actively involved in many civic and business groups. Ms. Vinton’s perspective is rooted in her home state—she is a fifth-generation Nebraska rancher— but she has a national and international outlook and is focused on defending, promoting, and growing Nebraska agriculture to compete in the global marketplace.

Then, we speak with two leaders from the Four States Irrigation Council, which has been providing irrigators from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming a forum to connect with each other and share ideas for more than 70 years. We interview current Four States President Steve Fletcher as well as Brian Werner, who helped run the organization for many years. In addition to its conference each January, which is a must-visit for all in the region, Four States organizes an annual summer tour, which this year visited Wyoming.

With that in mind, we talk to the managers of two Wyoming irrigation districts: Kevin Strecker of Goshen Irrigation District (GID) and Tyler Weckler of Heart Mountain Irrigation District (HMID). GID, which was on the itinerary for Four States’ 2023 tour, has been working to recover from a catastrophic 2019 tunnel collapse and is planning a permanent replacement for the tunnel, among other projects. HMID is working on a variety of rehab projects as well as grappling with the changes in land and water use caused by urbanization.

We also speak with Margo Jarvis Redelback of the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association to learn a bit about irrigated ag north of the border.

Then, we talk to Andrew Skibo, who recently launched ClearChannel Vegetation Management, an aquatic weed control company specifically aimed at helping irrigation districts.

Finally, we speak with Scott Aspenlieder of Performance Engineering about a major recent project his firm carried out for Montana’s Huntley Project Irrigation District: the full replacement of the Highline Pump Station.

Irrigated agriculture has generations of experience and work behind it, but it’s also thoroughly modern: The commodities U.S. growers produce are marketed and sold worldwide. Keeping both the local and the international perspectives in mind is key.

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.