As the National Young Farmers Coalition continues to expand its efforts westward, we are focusing on critical water issues by diving deeper into storytelling, innovative farm strategies and resources for drought resilient agriculture in the arid West.
It’s no secret that water is in short supply in the western US. Drought-stricken California has gained international attention as waning supplies have resulted in a state-declared state of emergency. The federal government has additionally pledged some $183 million in disaster relief funds. Clearly, these efforts aim to minimize the economic effects of unprecedented drought in California, a state wherein demands from 38 million people, a sizable manufacturing sector, environmental conservation efforts and the nation’s highest yielding agricultural zones are all vying for the same dwindling water ﬂows. What is less clear, though, is when—or if—the western US as a whole will shake its worsening drought patterns.
Forecasts for the long-term future of precipitation patterns in the western US point to more stress on water supplies as greater variability becomes the new normal. This calls for signiﬁcant changes in approaches to water management. Because agriculture is the primary consumer of water, there is already pressure for farms to transition to more efﬁcient irrigation technologies, innovative management and new approaches to thinking about water.
Outside pressure aside, forward-thinking farmers in the West are already transitioning toward more conservation-based irrigation systems and drought resilient farm strategies. Many farmers are proactively leading a change for sustainable consumption because the alternative is gambling that an increasingly dynamic climate will not threaten their irrigation ﬂows. In the West, many farmers are coming to the understanding that adapting their approach is essential to continuing to produce healthy food throughout the growing season.
This year, NYFC is ramping up its efforts to advance on-farm innovation and problem solving in the West. We will document stories of resilience in the West through three main projects, including a series of farmer profiles; guest blog posts from farmers who are responding in real time to water scarcity; and a western water resiliency project which will facilitate farmer-to-farmer exchange of proven management practices while developing extensive case studies to highlight solutions and additional resources. These projects will culminate in multimedia content that will impact producers, water managers and decision-makers alike. Stay tuned for more from NYFC on the western front.