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2011 Annual Report AWEP Success Story

2011 Annual Report - Little Red River Irrigation District AWEP Success Story

Having enough water to sustain his crops has been a battle for Bob White since he came back from World War II and took over the family farm more than 60 years ago.

In the 1920s, Bob’s father traded a Southwest Missouri hardware store for 800 acres in White County, Ark., and began farming. Bob was born and raised on the farm. And now, 88-years later, he still drives the tractor and lends a hand and his knowledge where needed.

After a stint in the Army, Bob returned to White County and took over the farming operation in 1950. After 30 years of dryland farming, Bob started purchasing water pumped from the Little Red River from a neighboring farmer.

Pipelines were installed through the Farm Service Agency’s Agricultural Conservation Program in the 1980s. However, in the past several years the demand for water has increased to the extent that Bob and his son-in-law, Danny Barnett, who took over the operation 7 years ago, couldn’t count on receiving water when they needed it.

"Three years ago, we had to stop growing rice because we couldn’t get enough water," Barnett said. "We drew up plans for an irrigation system several years ago but, it wasn’t economically feasible."

But now, thanks to the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program Little Red River Irrigation Project in White County an end may be in sight for Barnett’s water problems. In July, construction on a 30-acre irrigation reservoir and tailwater recovery pit began. The project, designed by NRCS with input from Barnett, will allow him to water his 170-acre soybean and rice operation.

"It was worth giving up the 35 acres of cropland the irrigation system required to have the peace of mind that I’ve gained not having to depend on the weather or others for water," Barnett said. "Having water when I need it will increase the yield and allow me to grow rice again."

The reservoir will store 240 acre feet of water and ties into the existing pipeline system. Ditches along the property will also catch additional water and funnel it to the tailwater pit. From the pit, it can be pumped to the reservoir, then to the fields when required.

The Red River Irrigation Project provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers for addressing water quantity and quality concerns in the Little Red River Watershed.

"Bob and I have been working on getting an irrigation project started in this area since the 1980s," said Elvis Vaughn, Little Red River Irrigation District project director. "It is good to finally see some of our work come to benefit the producers in White County."