Brownback: Conserve Ogallala Aquifer

WICHITA — Gov. Sam Brownback called on Congress to consider policies for the 2012 Farm bill that will benefit the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of underground water for western Kansas farmers.

Specifically, he wants to see programs that will encourage producers to conserve water without negative financial impacts.

Brownback made his remarks this morning during a public field hearing of the 2012 Farm Bill, which was being hosted by Sens. Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow. Roberts, R-Kan. Roberts is the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which Stabenow, D-Mich., chairs.

“In order to sustain long term economic growth, we must address the challenges of the aquifer,” Brownback said to the committee. “We are committed in Kansas to working with our stakeholders, creating incentives and eliminating disincentives to conserve, and making progress in sustaining the life of the aquifer.

The Ogallala aquifer, also known as the High Plains aquifer, is a vast and shallow underground water table that stretches from southern South Dakota, through Nebraska and Kansas and down into Texas and New Mexico. It does not recharge and its level is diminishing.

The committee is in the process of taking public input as it prepares to make its recommendation on the 2012 Farm Bill to the supercommittee, a bi-partisan group of 12 senators and congressmen that was created out of the debt-ceiling resolution.

“Everything is on the table,” Roberts said

Stanbenow said that the farm bill is a jobs bill because 16 million Americans work in agriculture.

The farm bill — which is rewritten every four years or so — isn't all about farms.

About 83 percent of the $288 billion farm bill in 2008 went to fund nutrition programs, such as Women, Infants and Children and school lunches.

Sharp cuts are expected to be made in the 2012 farm bill as the federal government looks to trim its $14.5 trillion deficit.

Farm subsidies are expected to be a prime target of those cuts.

Last year, Kansas ranked fifth nationally with $931 million in total subsidies, including crop insurance. Nationally, the subsidy total was $15.2 billion.

In addition to Brownback, Kansas State University president Kirk Schultz and heads of many of the state's grain associations will testify.

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