Friday, August 16, 2013

Residents gather for annual Field day

Tom Sidwell speaking 
Whether, like Bob Carr, they came to learn about treated wastewater and irrigation, or, like rancher Tom Sidwell, they came for the camaraderie, about 100 area residents gathered for the annual Field Day at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Tucumcari. New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte defended farmers and ranchers against charges they waste water as the event’s main speaker. In his talk, Witte noted that local farmers who were paying for allocations of three acre-feet of water this year were actually getting no water. A water right, he said, does not equate to wet water these days. Meanwhile, in urban areas, he said, per capita water use has been measured at about 185 gallons a day. Since there is no water right imposed on an urban dweller, he said, the city resident can “take seven showers a day” without worrying about exceeding limits. Farmers, he said, are not the ones wasting water. Consumers are. A glass of beer, he said, requires 75 gallons of water to make. A gallon of milk requires the use of 250 gallons of water. Processing beef, he said, requires about 4,000 gallons of water per pound. When the same three acre feet that a farm is allocated is the same amount as is used by only a dozen urban households in a year, the farmer gets blamed for wasting water. Urban households use that water “without adding nutrients” in return, Witte said. He also pointed out that farmers have increased yields per acre on all crops over the past 100 years by five to 10 times, which also means each gallon of water is going further in production. On one hayride stop, Tom Sidwell, a Quay County rancher, and Tom Dominguez, the Quay County Agricultural Extension agent, talked about efforts to avoid having the Lesser Prairie Chicken, a field grouse species, listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Environmental Protection Act. The campaign to prevent the listing has involved agricultural specialists, farmers and ranchers, and state, county and federal officials. The effort has persuaded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delay a decision on the listing...more

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