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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

MFAI Director’s Blog – Water Risk: Are You Prepared for the Impact?

The last few weeks’ warm, dry weather has put “water risk” front and center for farmers, homeowners, and for many companies.  It has also gotten me thinking about climate change and what if this year’s drought is more than a once in every twenty years occurrence?  If it is climate change, and the dry spell in 2012 continues for another year or two, no one will ignore or argue about climate change.

Water shortages result in disruptions, revenue losses, and additional costs for any industry dependent on water.  Food production, in particular, whether it involves a large conventional farmer with a corn-soybean rotation or a small farmer with vegetables and livestock leaves a farmer exposed to water risk.  Generally, we tend to think of water as being local and the risk depending on the region or the sector involved.  At this moment, somewhere over 50% of the land in the U. S. is suffering from drought.  It can and will disrupt operations, drive up costs, and reduce revenues.

How vulnerable an operation is depends on its management strategies.  For example, a farming operation that is dependent on one or two crops and has large concentrations of livestock finds it difficult to flexibly manage a lack of water.  In my opinion, a diversified farming operation stands a better chance of losing less money.  The water and feed supply required for a small herd of livestock is much less.  Vegetables that mature at different times of the year can also help to spread the risk, and making use of manure as fertilizer also helps reduce input cost.  Something as basic as water should not be taken for granted.  From the perspective of a farmer, is water risk missing from your calculations on productivity and the livelihood you hope to generate?