Producers in the Mississippi Delta have slightly more than four months to meet a voluntary goal for metering of at least 5 percent of irrigation wells, says Randy Knight, or else be faced with mandatory metering of 10 percent of wells.
The voluntary metering effort is being supported by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which Knight serves as president.
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“Every Delta county must individually meet its goal by June 30,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association at Mississippi State University. “Many counties have met their goal, but others have only a small percentage of the number they will need by the deadline.”
With a decline in the aquifer underneath the Delta, particularly the central part of the region, concerns were voiced by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Knight says. The MDEQ is the sole agency with jurisdiction over the state’s water resources.
“Almost two years ago, two members of the agency announced their intent to push for regulations that would mandate that every well in the Delta have a meter installed on it. After numerous meetings and discussions with the agency, they proposed a 10 percent mandate.”
There followed, Knight says, “a very spirited debate within Farm Bureau, and discussions with many other groups,” after which Farm Bureau leaders in the Delta agreed they would support a voluntary metering effort to assist MDEQ in collecting the sample data they needed.
“In February 2013, MDEQ proposed a voluntary metering program, but with several caveats. The compromise encompassed an agreement that producers would participate in a voluntary program, with an initial goal of metering 5 percent of the wells in each county by June 30, 2014, and an additional 5 percent by December 31, 2015.
“If the initial 5 percent goal isn’t met by the June 30 deadline, the mandatory metering program of 10 percent will take effect.” And, Knight notes, “Every Delta county must individually meet its goal or the compromise fails and the mandatory program takes effect.”
A priority, he says, “is to help educate producers on the importance of participating in this voluntary effort, rather than having to comply with a mandatory program. Farm Bureau was the primary organization proposing this voluntary effort as a means of averting a mandate for all wells. Our members pledged their support for this voluntary effort — and now we have to deliver on that promise.”
Farm Bureau will also be pushing water conservation efforts this year, including PHAUCET, moisture sensors, and the use of surge valves, Knight says. “Dr. Jason Krutz at Mississippi State University has some really impressive data on this, and we will fully support implementation of his programs on farms in our state.”