Water a Key Focus of the Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona

Return to AWR Fall 2014

by Chris Udall, Executive Director, Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona

Have you ever wondered how the countless food items you purchase from grocery stores get to the shelves? There are people who believe food is manufactured or comes from a grocery store or that milk and eggs come from cartons. I am confident that those reading this Guest View know where food comes from, and so do we. We are the Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona (ABWC), formerly known as the Agri-Business Council of Arizona. We unveiled the name change at our annual meeting last May. Adding the word “Water” to our title better reflects our actual history and mission.

ABWC is a trade association established in 1978 to respond to proposed water legislation and to represent irrigated agriculture and agribusiness interests in Arizona. In other words, we represent Arizona agriculture from “ditch bank to dinner plate.” Our members are growers, ranchers, suppliers of equipment, attorneys, university representatives, consultants, engineers, agricultural processors, financiers of agricultural enterprises, commodity groups, trade associations, and electrical and irrigation districts. Our purpose is to maintain the integrity of Arizona’s water supplies and the industries that rely on these essential resources for the benefit of Arizona’s economy. Our mission is to represent our membership by working to promote and protect water resources in the state of Arizona and to actively educate, support and promote all aspects of water, agriculture and agribusiness. Our goal is to alert, educate and link our members on current issues important to water, agriculture and agribusiness, including, but not limited to, federal and state legislation that impacts Arizona’s water, agriculture and agribusiness; federal and state water, power and land policies and regulations; groundwater management; changes in taxation proposals and policies; and rural, state and regional economic development. We endeavor to generate support within the industry for policy positions and to speak with one voice to local, state and federal entities, as well as to the general public, in order to improve their understanding and obtain favorable action on the issues being debated.

In our efforts to accomplish our purpose, mission and goals, we also serve as the state affiliate to the National Water Resources Association, an organization of state associations and caucuses based in Washington, D.C. at which we represent western water interests including irrigated agriculture and municipal water interests with ties to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation facilities. We are also active members of the Family Farm Alliance, an organization with Arizona roots based in Klamath Falls, Oregon; similarly representing western states’ irrigated agricultural interests, farmers and ranchers.

Among our many initiatives, we are focusing our attention on the development of water use studies demonstrating the positive conservation efforts of the agriculture industry. Agriculture has made and is making strides in the wise use of water resources while exponentially increasing production. We are aggressively commenting on and tracking proposed rules and regulations at the state and federal level with important impacts on agriculture. In particular, we are following various Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers new proposed rules redefining “Waters of the U.S.” that we believe assert new expanded jurisdiction over land and water use. Also under our scrutiny are proposed U.S. Forest Service directives aimed at the regulation of ground water, in what we are convinced is usurpation of state jurisdiction. We are steadfast in opposing these and other efforts we contend will have a negative impact on food and fiber production; all this at a time when our country needs to increase supplies of food and fiber to address an ever increasing national and worldwide growth in population. In addition, we are actively involved in the pursuit of new water, be it through desalination, cloud seeding, forest thinning, or the removal of invasive species from our rivers and streams. I have just scratched the surface on issues in which we are active participants. Other issues include drought on the Colorado River and a potential shortage declaration that will impact agricultural interests first; the power and water cost implications to agriculture of decisions affecting the operation of the Navajo Generating Station; resolving the long drawn out adjudications process; addressing the issue of aging infrastructure, and more.

Water is a precious resource; nothing happens without it, especially the sustaining of life. It takes water and power flowing to a farm to produce a crop, which, through a chain of events extending from the field to the grocery store shelf, provides sustenance to households across Arizona, the nation and beyond. We understand this chain of events and work on a daily basis to protect it and do so with sustainability and prudent use in mind. That is the purpose of the Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona. For more information or to become a member, please visit our webpage at: www.agribusinessarizona.org.