Water means crops, potential economic boost

By Steve Hansen

QCS Managing Editor

A renewal of crop production in Quay County, where water is flowing in Arch Hurley Conservancy District waterways for the first time in three years, could mean a $25 million boost to the area’s economy, according to Franklin McCasland, Arch Hurley’s manager.

The season’s allocation comes to about nine inches for each of the 42,000 acres served by the Arch Hurley district, which is about half of a typical year’s release, McCasland said.

“If there’s more rain,” he said, “we could allocate more water” this season,

McCasland said. McCasland said his estimate of economic impact from revived production is less than the $42 million, or about $1,000 per acre, that crops contribute in a normal year.

Since no crops have been raised in the county for at least three years, McCasland said, “we’re expecting a big impact for Quay County” this year. “Crop production contributes to other county businesses, too.”

Quay County farmers are greeting their first allocations of water fromthe Arch Hurley Conservancy District in three years with a mix of caution and optimism.

While all are happy to see the water flowing, four area farmers say they are limiting the acreage that they are actually planting and limiting crop mixes to low water-demand annual grasses and forage plants.

Robert Lopez, who farms a little less than 1,000 acres in the county, said he plans to plant only about 350 acres, based on the present allocation. He plans to plant corn and milo on those acres, he said. If all goes well, he said, there should be a good crop.

“We’re optimistic,” he said. “As farmers, we’re always optimistic.”

Lopez said much work needs to be done to prepare, however.

“The soil has gotten very hard and it’s going to take a lot of water,” he said. He also said that some equipment that has laid idle for three years will have to be reconditioned.

Larry Perkins, president of the Arch Hurley district board, said his family plans to plant about 300 acres of the 1,200 acres they farm in the county. He plans to put in some pasture grass, forage grass and hay grazer crops, some of which will be used just to hold moisture in the soil.

A perennial crop like alfalfa, he said, is too risky to plant when water allocations in future years are doubtful.

For Thomas Evans, water in Quay County may give his family two productive farms this year. Two years ago, he said, the family bought property near Pecos, Texas, to farm.

Quay County farmland could not get water, he said, so to keep equipment productive, as well as to employ the experience of his sons and grandson, the family bought the Texas property and the sons there, taking some equipment with them.

Evans said, however, that he plans to plant low water-demand crops like hay grazer and millet on all of the 500 acres he farms in Quay County east of Tucumcari.

Drake Swenson said he will plant perennial native grasses on his farm land east of Tucumcari. The grasses, he said, will help keep good soil from blowing away.

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