Study: Irrigation Had $11 Billion Impact in Drought


While he swaps stories with friends at the county fair, Jeremy Schulte of Kearney is hoping for rain, something he hasn't seen much of in months.

"It's spotty," he said. "We haven't had anything since Memorial Day. Probably mid June was the last substantial rain where it was over .40 or .50. Things look green but it's all under irrigation. Dryland's burning up probably faster than it did last summer."

2012 was the year of the Great Plains "flash" drought.

The rain shut off just as temps climbed to 90 and 100 for weeks without relief. And without irrigation, a new Nebraska Farm Bureau study says Nebraska would have lost $11 billion.

That's equal to every Nebraskan filling their car with gas 100 times.

And Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson says it's equal to 32,000 jobs that would have been lost without the ability to irrigate.

"And a large portion of jobs are in related industries beyond the farm," Nelson said.

Nebraska may not have much oil or gold, but something far more valuable.

Nelson said, "Our primary natural resource is a good supply of water and great land and great people to grow crops and food on the land. Having irrigation is extremely important."

Jeremy Schulte can only imagine Nebraska without it.

He said, "There'd be a lot more dust blowing."

But farmers were still able to produce close to record levels. And say they will do it again.

Nelson said, "By using water the best we can, we will make sure the future is a bright one."

The study was conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Iowa. They figured every inch of water applied per acre was worth $100 to the state's economy.

And with state lawmakers studying water issues, Nelson said this shows the value of using water for agriculture.

"Farmers are ranchers are using less water to grow more crops. Points out how the impact of continued education and funding and research are," he said.