Kentucky Farm Bureau, HB 529 and Earth DayPosted on Apr 20, 2016
The process by which we grow our food is nothing short of amazing. We plant, grow and harvest each year relying, for the most part, on good land, adequate water and, of course, a little luck.
With that in mind, farmers are true stewards of the environment. The fact is, our food and fiber producers depend on their natural resources to grow crops and raise their animals. Being protective of those resources is first and foremost on their minds.
As this latest session of the Kentucky General Assembly wraps up, one bill that came through unanimously is HB 529 which will create the Kentucky Water Resource Board. In doing so, Kentucky will lead the way in proactive measures to protect water, our most valuable of natural resources.
Rep. Rick Rand served as chief sponsor of the bill along with a host of co-sponsors including Rep. Steven Rudy, leadership from both parties and legislators from both sides of the isle. Senate leadership and members also fully supported the legislation working together seeing it through to fruition.
But it was the advocacy efforts of Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) members across the state that demonstrated to all lawmakers how important this bill is and will be in the future.
While approximately three-quarters of the earth is covered in water, a very small percentage of that is considered to be consumable. Factoring in the growing world population, the threat of water shortages, especially in times of drought, becomes a real concern in many regions of the world.
The United States is not immune to that problem and a classic example can be found in California which is experiencing a fifth straight year without ample rainfall.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 96 percent of that state is suffering from some level of drought with more than 31 percent considered to be in exceptional drought conditions. Currently over 34 million Californians are living in those drought-affected areas.
Recognizing the issues taking place in the west and the problematic possibilities water shortages could cause anywhere in the country, KFB’s Water Management Working Group (WMWG), a 20-member task force, came together in 2015 specifically charged to develop recommendations that will enhance the quality and quantity of water resources accessible for agricultural production in the state.
Its mission is to research the emerging critical issue of inadequate water supplies available for agricultural production, examine potential actions to solve this deficiency and make recommendations for bringing new and reliable water sources to key areas of farm production in Kentucky.
Simply put, none of us can survive without a safe, plentiful water supply. In looking forward at possible solutions to water issues that could arise, we stand a much better chance of handling situations such as drought conditions than trying to react once they have occurred.
There also never needs to be a situation where agriculture is pitted against its urban neighbors over water. Working well together is the best possible situation we can be in if and when the need arises to take action over water issues.
As a direct result of WMWG’s proactive work and recommendations, HB 529, was introduced on a bipartisan basis during this year’s General Assembly session to improve coordination among all interested parties involved in the Commonwealth's water resources planning, management, and development.
This legislation will promote economic development opportunities through the strategic and efficient use of water resources by ensuring a long-term adequate supply of on-farm water for agriculture, thus alleviating pressure on rural/urban water supplies.
While many Americans will celebrate Earth Day on April 22, farmers celebrate it every day. Taking care of the environment only makes good sense especially to those who use its resources to feed the world.
Mark Haney, President Kentucky Farm Bureau