For farmers, water and electricity go hand-in-hand
By Shawn Martini | Why is affordable electricity so important to agriculture? Because water is important too.
Much of the productive capacity of Colorado farmland is directly attributable to irrigation. Farmers in Colorado can grow the wide range of commodities they do because they have access to irrigation water. But this access is not cheap.
In addition to paying for much of the water they pump, farmers must also pay to power the very pumps that pull the irrigation water from the ground. Irrigation pumps run on electric motors, sometimes as large at 50 horsepower. That takes a lot of electricity.
Marc Arnusch, an irrigated corn, wheat and onion farmer from Prospect Valley in Weld County, says rising electricity costs will make it difficult to budget for coming years. Marc has several wells on his land that allow him to produce onions, something he could not grow without his irrigation pumps. He says that electricity makes up about 18 percent of his farm’s overhead costs, and that number is rising.
"Affordable power is key to the success of my family's farm. Rising energy costs not only hurt me as a producer, but consumers at the grocery checkout too," said Arnusch.
Asked what he sees as the reason for the increase in costs and Marc looks to Denver and Washington. He says that policy makers pushing renewable energy standards and regulations on carbon emissions are the main culprit. These initiatives drive up costs for utiities who then must pass on those costs to end users like him.
Irrigated agriculture is crucial to the success of the agriculture industry in Colorado, and affordable electricity is crucial to the success of irrigated agriculture. Without sensible changes to energy policy at both the state and federal level, many farmers may be pushed out of business, slowing our economic recovery and increasing prices at the grocery checkout line.