Oklahoma's agricultural industry uses approximately half of the water in this state. This water is used to feed and clothe humanity. It makes sense for agricultural producers to have equal representation on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau strongly supports Senate Bill 965, which would allow for appointments to the board to be made according to districts outlined in the state's Comprehensive Water Plan.
Oklahoma City officials oppose SB 965. They fear it will lessen their control of the state's water resources. They argue that they have more people than rural areas and thus should have more input. A major problem with that argument is that wheat and cotton can't grow in downtown Oklahoma City.
Growing food and fiber is an honorable and necessary occupation. It's also a risky proposition when Mother Nature turns nasty. To add a layer of production security, we must rely on irrigation and other water resources for our crops and livestock.
The devastating drought the past two years has cost Oklahoma agriculture approximately $2 billion. Many producers have been forced to sell their livestock herds and haven't harvested a substantive bushel in several years.
The agriculture industry provides billions of dollars of income for Oklahoma. In Cimarron, Texas and Beaver counties, more than 35.8 million bushels of corn, wheat and grain sorghum were harvested last year, with an estimated value of more than $251 million. When crop and livestock production are combined, these are three of the top four agricultural production counties in the state. This remarkable production has increased over the years, while water usage has decreased. Farmers and ranchers have invested millions of their own dollars in water conservation efforts.
Water usage in Oklahoma City has increased with very few conservation efforts. City leaders claim they have planned and used water wisely. For proof, they point to the city's purchase of water rights at Canton Lake. This indicates that they're looking for ways to use more water, not less.
Despite plentiful spring rains in central Oklahoma, much of the western half of the state remains in a significant drought with no sign of abating. Lakes are at historical lows; southwest Oklahoma cotton farmers are planning on not having irrigation water this year.
The multibillion-dollar agricultural industry is doing everything possible to conserve water. Odd-even lawn watering in Oklahoma City pales in comparison. If your flowers die, what's the worst thing that could happen? If the fields where your food and fiber is produced turn brown, the consequences are much higher.
State Sen. Bryce Marlatt and state Rep. Mike Jackson, authors of SB 965, are visionary leaders. They understand the reality and importance of agriculture in this state. SB 965 gives us a fair and balanced opportunity for input on how water resources are allocated.
We believe there are enough water resources for everyone. These resources must be carefully protected and used in a manner that meets everyone's needs.
Spradling, of Sand Springs, is president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.