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Partnering with Farmers Key to Global Water Challenges

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Nebraska might not have everything figured out when it comes to irrigation, but the Cornhusker state is a world leader, and is sharing that water knowledge with leaders from around the globe.

The world is growing, with a population that is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. And that means feeding more people, without using more water.

Governments can't control water on their own. Farmers have to be part of the solution, as speakers at the Water for Food Global Conference discussed.

Peter McCornick said, "The farmers are in the end the private sector, the business, the farm family business is really important even the small scale farmer in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa."

The conference at the University of Nebraska focused on public-private partnerships as the major theme this year. It's an area where policymakers can look to Nebraska as an example of how it can work, where a unique system of natural resources districts work with farmers to manage groundwater.

McCornick is the incoming head of Water for Food Institute. He said, "We have this wonderful story in Nebraska and of course the challenge is trying to produce the same amount of food with less resources but many lessons learned with the investment in the agriculture production systems developed here."

One speaker said irrigation is the best way for farmers in developing nations to escape poverty.

It's a much different scenario in Nebraska, where irrigation is well established, and farmers turn to technology to better manage water.

Kelly Brunkhorst of the Nebraska Corn Board said, "Sustainability is going to be a continual process. As we've evolved through technologies that we've utilized over the years from flood irrigation to pivots to low pressure pivots now to subsurface drip irrigation, continue to utilize those technologies to make sure we're most efficient with every drop we use."

Peter McCornick's work has taken him around the world, most recently to Sri Lanka. Now he heads to Nebraska, where he says the world can learn from our farmers.

"Productivity has increased dramatically so that's a very positive story for agriculture and water in the U.S. generally," he said.

The Water for Food Institute is based at the University of Nebraska.

The conference was sponsored by the Robert. B. Daugherty Foundation, the University of Nebraska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Syngenta, Lindsay Corporation, Senninger Irrigation, Inc. and the Nebraska Corn Board.

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