Where do you get your food?
From the grocery store, more likely. But where does the grocery store get it? Well, from farmers in your community, state and even around the globe.
National Farmer’s Day is October 12. It is recognized as a day of honor for hardworking farmers across the country.
Without farmers, there would likely be no food grown for our consumption, and no clothes spun from the fibers harvested. Without farmers, a significant portion of the economy would not even exist. Just in Texas, 9% of the state economy belongs to the food and fiber sector.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, there are over 2 million farms in the United States, 98% of which are operated by families. One farm in the United States feeds approximately 166 people each year. Cattle, calves and soybeans are the top three farm products produced in the country, but in Texas, cattle, cotton, sheep and goats are among the top commodities.
Farmers produce much of the food sold in the country and throughout the world, but they wouldn’t be able to do that without water for irrigation.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) said that irrigation is the state’s largest water-use sector, using approximately 9 million acre-feet each year. In 2017, about 35% of surface water and 76% of groundwater was used for agricultural needs. According to the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), in the United States, Texas ranks third in both agricultural acres irrigated and irrigation water applied. In Texas, there is more agricultural irrigation in the western and southern parts of the state than in the major urban areas located in the northern, central and southeastern areas.
Though agriculture consumes a lot of water, the amount of water contracted through the Brazos River Authority for irrigation came third in water use by BRA customers. Only 8% of the water consumed was used for irrigation in calendar year 2018. Municipal use came in first with 47%, followed by industrial at 44%. The BRA serves 51 agricultural customers.
Agricultural irrigation is essential in crop production, as well as the improvement of crop quality and overall value. New technology is also keeping the water used from going to waste. According to a 2012 report by the TWRI, irrigation efficiency has risen from 60% to 88-95%, allowing farmers to get the most use of their water.
The report also found that agricultural irrigation application has averaged less than 18 inches per acre each year. To compare, a 2004 study by the TWRI found that average households in the Brazos River basin city of College Station applied 22 inches each year just on their lawns.
Just as a person needs water to survive, food is also a necessity. Proper irrigation leads to healthy crops. Healthy crops minimize the need for imported foods and fiber. The TWRI said that Texas farmers continue to work on producing new technologies and irrigation conservation strategies that will ensure the future of the state’s water resources.
To read more about the “Status and Trends of Irrigated Agriculture in Texas,” click here.