We've got our boots on! March 2016
Agriculture is as intertwined with Texas history as barbed wire and cowboy boots. Although it's important to our history, agriculture is critical to the Texas economy. Farmers and ranchers provide us with crops, commodities, and livestock that translate to the food we eat, clothes we wear, and products we use. Like most industries in our state, agriculture requires water. Because it is the largest water user in the state, maximizing agriculture's efficiency and supporting Texas farmers is an important part of the mission of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).
Agriculture pumps more than $100 billion into the Texas economy annually, and when drought hits (as it did in 2011), farmers and ranchers are on the front line of its effects. In 2011, agricultural losses were estimated to be more than $7.6 billion. The massive losses were a harsh reminder that when it comes to conserving water, there is no such thing as being "too efficient."
Although we can't control the weather, the TWDB does have several programs that assist agriculture with water efficiency.
We offer grants and low-interest loans through the Agricultural Water Conservation Program. The financial assistance from the program may be used for technical assistance, equipment, research, and education projects that conserve water. The goals are to implement efficient agricultural irrigation conservation strategies and to demonstrate best management practices. To date, our agency has provided over $100 million in grants and low-interest loans through the program.
In addition, we have funded agricultural demonstration projects, including the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation in the High Plains, Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Irrigation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District's 3-4-5. We also funded the Texas Project for Ag Water Efficiency located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. These projects demonstrate enhanced irrigation techniques and varied farming systems to help agricultural producers advance water conservation while maintaining or increasing farm profitability. These demonstrations provide valuable data and techniques for agricultural producers and irrigation districts for years to come.
The agency also believes that education is an important tool to help people understand the importance of water conservation. Texas is a big state and to maximize our audience, we send staff to hold exhibits and speak at farm and ranch shows, field days, expos, and conferences all over the state. Through this outreach, we educate Texans on agricultural efficiency and the programs offered by the TWDB.
The TWDB's efforts to maximize agricultural water efficiency are as diverse as our state's agriculture. Whether they are in the office or in the field, our ag staff have their cowboy boots on, ready to help agricultural producers however they can.