KSDebate – Agriculture: Water sustainability

Brian Lowry, The Wichita Eagle: Kansas ranks as one of the top five states most affected by drought, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.  What role should the federal government play in helping Kansas and similar states achieve water sustainability?

Orman: What I have talked about in that regard, and I’ve spent a lot of time in western Kansas, and I spent a lot of time with folks talking about the Ogallala Aquifer and the issues associated with water. It is clearly a depleting resource. We need to do a couple of things in that regard. We need to make sure federal policy is not discouraging the planting of low-water intensity crops. In talking to farmers in Kansas, the reason they do not plant sorghum in a lot of instances is because the crop insurance for it is four times as expensive as some other crops. I think we need to look at federal policy and make sure we are not discouraging the planting of low-water intensity crops. I also think we need to lean on the innovation of the farm community. We have seen a lot of improvements and irrigation technology. I would like to see those irrigation technologies expanded so we can conserve water and extend the resource we have in western Kansas for agriculture.

Roberts: The only federal response we have had from this administration is when the president went out to California and discovered the drought. He wanted a billion dollars for seven climate change centers. I represented the 1st District for 16 years. I come from western Kansas in terms of my home. Rest assured, I know what farmers want. I certainly do not want another federal regulation or mandate coming down telling farmers of what plants they should plant or not plant. We have already had too much in the federal government. Once again having farmers plant for the government and not for the market.

Rebuttal

Orman: I have come out as a small business owner myself, and I recognize the government getting deeply involved in businesses is a mistake which is why I have my small business plan that is intended to roll back regulations. We currently have a crop assistance program. That program provides a premium so if they have to pay more to insure something, they are less likely to plant it. I do not want to discourage farmers from planting low-water intensity crops because I think it would be good for western Kansas.

Roberts: We had one heck of a time in the last farm bill putting together improving crop insurance. Here you go messing around with water usage and telling farmers what they can plant and what they can’t land, which will directly involved the crop insurance program we improved. It was a bipartisan effort. It was the number one priority. When we did crop insurance, I did not hear anybody saying somebody could come out and say due to your water usage, we will encourage you to go to a different crop.

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