Irrigation professionals from 10 states joined staff and board members from the Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia, March 28-29 for the 2023 Irrigation Association Fly-In sponsored by Hunter Industries.
The event was held to promote the adoption of efficient irrigation practices and advance the industry’s economic vitality through effective policy and relationships with decision-makers, says Nathan Bowen, Irrigation Association advocacy director.
“It is critical that we demonstrate the impact and value of our industry with decision-makers on Capitol Hill,” says Bowen.
“With the next iteration of the farm bill currently being discussed, uncertainties in the financial sector and potentially harmful changes to critical labor programs on the table, there really couldn’t be a better or more crucial time for our industry to advocate for itself on ensuring these spending packages and programs are shored up to enable irrigation professionals to continue doing their vital work for our communities and nation.”
On the first night of the fly-in, attendees participated in a happy hour to discuss industry priorities and prepare for meetings on the Hill.
On the Hill, attendees met with more than 20 influential policymakers, including Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, as well as other staff members from the committee. Additionally, fly-in attendees met with their respective representatives from the states where they live and work.
The groups discussed a wide range of issues including immigration, labor and tax challenges facing the industry. Irrigation professionals and IA staff shared their insights on how policy could be changed to better support the industry and asked for support from key legislators.
Of the issues discussed, the 2023 Farm Bill is one of the most important topics for the irrigation industry due to its scope, says Bowen.
The Irrigation Association published its priorities pertaining to the bill in March 2023. The priorities include the following:
- Invest in and improve conservation programs, especially the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and ensure those programs maximize producers’ ability to adopt irrigation tools that boost productivity and conserve natural resources.
- Recognize that irrigation efficiency provides multiple benefits such as energy savings, reduced carbon emissions, soil health and water quality.
- Ensure producers have the technical assistance, education and research they need to become more efficient.
- Expand rural connectivity and focus on agriculture’s cybersecurity needs so producers can effectively leverage precision agricultural technology.
Read more about policy.