Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar talks ag and the economy

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Salazar said he was not against the curtailing of wells as long as it followed the best available science and replaced depletions to surface water. While wells would not be subject to curtailment inside the subdistricts, should they go forward, there will be a reduction to the valley’s 622,000 irrigated acres, which ranks second among the state’s river basins behind the South Platte. After the 40,000 acres proposed for retirement by Subdistrict No. 1, the amount of acreage facing retirement won’t become clear until the other subdistricts come up with their management plans. But last year’s update of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative estimated that an additional 40,000 acres could be retired in the valley by 2050.

The changes could take place at a time when agricultural markets are poised to boom. Salazar noted that wheat growers are contracting for over $7 per bushel, while cattle prices could be up $2 in the coming year. Those circumstances could make agriculture the state’s top economic driver, but Salazar worries the state won’t realize what it has. “I always worry about agriculture in this state,” he said. “We need to continue the ability to produce food in this state.”

As for how the changes to the valley’s water policies will affect Salazar’s ranching and farming operations, the commissioner, like the rest of the valley’s water users, is waiting to see what the computer modeling says. Once he has that information he’ll see if joining a subdistrict in the Conejos River Basin is the right move.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

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