Colorado Ag Water Alliance: Governor Hickenlooper touts the importance of agriculture to Colorado’s economy

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“My job is to see that we hold water up front and center to those in urban areas, so they realize how dependent we are on agriculture and the rural areas,” Hickenlooper told the Colorado Ag Water Alliance Friday. The alliance, which represents major statewide agricultural groups, in March asked Hickenlooper to increase planning, funding and permitting of water projects; continue funding for research of alternative transfer methods that don’t dry up farmland; add a representative from the Republican River basin to the Interbasin Compact Committee; and place more emphasis on the sustainable use of groundwater. In response, Hickenlooper brought the state’s top water officials to the alliance meeting Friday and pledged to do all he could to expedite water projects. He also supports ongoing state efforts to find new ways to share water…

For the last two years, Colorado agriculture revenues have been $7 billion, while the industry employs 110,000 people. But the benefits go beyond that in protecting rural economies and enhancing the environment, Hickenlooper said…

The governor said his arm-twisting skills may not be sufficient to convince cities to accept alternative ag transfer proposals rather than secure their own supplies, but said everyone in the state needs to work together to find mutually acceptable projects…

Hickenlooper said he is trying to find common ground with the governors of Nebraska and Kansas to see how water can be used cooperatively among the states within the boundaries of interstate compacts that place limits on what can be done. He also encouraged state agencies to work with federal regulators — the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Interior and Agriculture — to remove red tape that can hold up projects for years.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

As DNR director, [Jim Martin current Region 8 director for the EPA] asked Jennifer Gimbel, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, to testify in Congress about the state’s preference to store more water in Chatfield Reservoir rather than accept the no-action alternative: drying up more agricultural land to satisfy urban demand. “The federal regulatory agencies have stopped saying ‘no,’ and are now saying ‘no, because,’ ” Gimbel said. “We are making progress (toward) ‘yes, if. . .’ ’’

Gimbel said the federal agencies say they do not want to influence state water rights, but that by blocking storage of more water in existing reservoirs like Chatfield in order to protect wetlands, the agencies are unwittingly setting the stage for more ag dry-up.

Meanwhile, Colorado State University has named a new head of Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Here’s the release from CSU (Jim Beers):

Gregory Perry, an expert in agricultural finance and taxation who has extensively studied water-management issues, will join Colorado State University July 15 as new head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Perry, a professor at Oregon State University at Corvallis, served for about three years as an interim department head there. His additional leadership posts at OSU focused on programs for graduate and undergraduate students, and he also started an international studies program in Chile.

“Dr. Perry has outstanding leadership experience and a highly recognized reputation in teaching and research that fits very well within the mission of our college at CSU,” said Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “He is an important addition to our leadership team as the College of Agricultural Sciences addresses complex, local and global issues in agriculture and resource economics. We are delighted that Dr. Perry will be part of our College and serve in this very important role.”

Beyrouty noted that Perry’s research into water issues – especially his study of the interface between water management and agricultural finance – fits well with a key focus area for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Perry will replace Stephen Davies as leader of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, a department with about 20 faculty members and about 325 undergraduate and graduate students.

Davies, department chair for six years, will return to a full-time focus on teaching and research. Davies teaches classes including agricultural marketing and international agricultural trade.

His ongoing “Future of Colorado Agriculture” project gathers critical information from agricultural stakeholders and provides these insights along with economic analysis to statewide policymakers. Davies also leads water-modeling research in Colorado and internationally.

Perry, who was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to teach in Chile, said he hopes to continue advancing CSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics to benefit students and the agricultural industry.

“Economics is the driving force in a lot of ways that agricultural activities occur in the state, determining what commodities are grown, when and how,” Perry said. “Economics becomes the prism through which all agribusiness production decisions are seen.”

He added: “Fundamentally, our job is to educate – to discover new knowledge and to disseminate that knowledge. So if we can do our jobs well, people involved in agriculture have the best economic science available to them to make the best decisions for their own well-being and for improved well-being in the state, nation and even the world.”

In Colorado alone, the agricultural industry annually generates $20 billion in economic activity, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

“This impact points to the importance of understanding agribusiness, finance and economics in food production,” Beyrouty said. “We also seek to understand and teach students about the intersection of agricultural economics with environmental issues, land and water management.”

Perry said he hopes to lead the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in efforts including recruitment and ultimate career placement for talented graduate students, a focus on improving the quality of undergraduate instruction and student learning, support for young faculty members, creation of an endowed chair to advance high-impact research and teaching, and creation of endowed scholarships to support undergraduate education.

Perry earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Utah State University and his doctorate in agricultural economics at Texas A&M University.

And here’s the Final Report – Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Here’s the summary:

Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program Summary

As Colorado’s population continues to grow in the coming decades, it is likely that increased transfers of agricultural water rights will occur in order to satisfy increased municipal and industrial (M&I) water demands. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), and the Colorado Water Congress have indicated their support of alternatives to traditional transfers resulting in permanent dry‐up in order to minimize the negative socioeconomic impacts to rural communities that so often result from such transfers.

One of the outcomes of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) 2 study was the recognition that the State of Colorado might be able to provide incentives for M&I providers to consider alternative methods for their water supply options. In response, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 07‐122, which authorized the CWCB to develop a grant program to facilitate the development and implementation of alternative agricultural water transfer methods (ATMs).

Since its inception in 2007, the CWCB’s Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program has awarded $1.5 million to various water providers, ditch companies, and university groups for the funding of six unique projects; five of which have been underway during 2009– 2010. As illustrated in SWSI 2, rotational fallowing, Interruptible Service Agreements (ISAs), water banks, purchase and leasebacks, deficit irrigation, and changing crop type are the kinds of options that are available as alternatives to permanent agricultural transfers.

With the exception of purchase and leasebacks and some limited occurrences of short‐term leasing, these ATMs are just beginning to be explored as viable options for meeting M&I water demands in Colorado. While promising, there are technical, legal and institutional, financial, and other issues associated with ATMs. Through the ATM Grant Program, CWCB and others are currently exploring ways to address these issues utilizing incentives to gain greater awareness, interest, and participation from agricultural water users and municipalities with alternative agricultural water transfers.

The objectives of this memorandum are to further the understanding of the feasibility of implementing ATMs in Colorado by:

1. Providing an overview of ATM concepts;

2. Providing a summary of the ATM projects funded by grants awarded by CWCB;

3. Providing an overview of the current state of agricultural transfers in the South Platte Basin and the Arkansas Basin and assessing the viability of future transfers in various regions of those basins; and

4. Identifying and summarizing barriers to successful implementation of ATMs and summarizing the ways in which grant‐funded ATM projects have made progress toward finding solutions to the identified barriers to implementation.

More Colorado water coverage here.

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