From the Tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
I’m afraid it is going to be some time before water issues cease to be a critical concern facing the state. While we have seen some precipitation since the beginning of the year, it is going to take time and a substantial amount of rainfall to bring water levels back to normal.
Even if we see enough rain to get out of a drought, many communities are now focused on long-term plans for water usage and conservation. This long-term vision makes good sense, particularly in light of the state’s anticipated population growth in the next 20 years.
Water policies and restrictions affect all of us, and the agricultural community is seeing that in particular this year.
Increased municipal water restrictions have had a significant impact on segments of N.C. agriculture, particularly the nursery and landscaping industries. Many companies have been forced to lay off workers as sales of plants, trees and nursery products have dropped.
The trickle-down effects likely will be felt in many other businesses as well because these businesses purchase fertilizer, equipment and other goods as part of their operations.
Water-use policies don’t just affect nurseries and landscaping, but can also impact a variety of agricultural processing plants, too. Many people rely on these facilities for their livelihood.
I recently held a roundtable discussion about drought and water issues with leaders from various sectors of North Carolina’s agriculture community. There is great concern about more restrictions and the impact they may have on producing food stocks.
I am not sure everyone understands just how serious this water crisis is. I think part of that is because water still flows freely from our faucets. I know in Raleigh usage is not down that much despite restrictions and calls for conservation. It is hard to envision not having any water, when you can turn on a faucet anytime and water flows.
Many people who rely on wells for water understand clearly the need to conserve. Most know what it is like to reach the bottom of the barrel so to speak.
It is abundantly clear that agricultural use needs to be considered as part of overall conservation goals and plans. My department remains actively involved in drought discussions on a state level and will continue to weigh in on agricultural needs.
In the short-term, I am asking the General Assembly for some funds to try to help the green industry through promotion and educational outreach efforts. The green industry is not the biggest water user in the state.
However, because many homeowners are not familiar with conservation planting and watering, they do nothing.
People who want to beautify their yards do have options.
Xeriscaping, or using drought tolerant plants as landscape features, is a viable alternative. There are many drought tolerant plant choices that people can choose, but helping people understand conservation planting and watering is important to helping this industry weather the drought.
We will continue to work on these issues and also represent agriculture’s interests in drought discussions. And I’ll still continue to pray for rain to bring us some relief.