The Alabama Irrigation Summit, which will bring the state's farmers, policy makers and water-use experts together to discuss irrigation's immense potential for enhancing Alabama agricultural output and revitalizing rural economies, will be held August 15, 2012, at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Richard Beard Building, located at 1445 Federal Drive, Montgomery.
Organizers hope to bring key players closer to the long-sought goal of developing a comprehensive strategy for the widespread adoption of irrigation technologies and practices and remove the barriers that have historically hampered this adoption, according to Samuel Fowler, director of Auburn University's Environmental Institute, who organized the summit.
Farmers will learn how the state's new state income tax credit can be used to adopt irrigation technologies and practices, he says, adding that agricultural lenders, whose support will be critical to building an irrigation infrastructure, will also be included.
The meeting will be held form 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch will be provided by Alabama Ag Credit Lenders.
In addition to remarks by many of the state's principal agricultural leaders and researchers on water- and irrigation-related issues, the Summit will also feature a panel discussion of producers who will share their own experiences regarding irrigation use on the farm.
The Alabama irrigation story is a tragic one of missed opportunities, Fowler says.
In fact, in a state that receives roughly 55 inches of rainfall annually, row-crop production has declined by millions of acres within the last half century.
The state's rural localities have suffered especially acutely from this decline, Fowler says. While row-crop farming typically generates an estimated $500 to $900 an acre each year within local rural economies, the timber farming and conservation set-asides that have replaced it in many rural localities within the last 50 years generate less than $100 an acre.
Following a decade-long, comprehensive investigation into this issue, a team of researchers representing several Alabama universities concluded that the agricultural sector's failure to make full use of its rainfall and irrigation potential accounts in large measure for its loss of competitiveness in row-crop production compared with neighboring southern states.
"While Alabama has fewer than 120,000 acres of row crop irrigation, the neighboring states of Georgia and Mississippi each have well over a million acres under irrigation," Fowler says.
Registration for the Summit begins June 1, 2012. For more information and to register, visit http://www.aaes.auburn.edu/water/conf/2012/.