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Economics prof says age is a factor in farmers’ water use

In spite of the drought in Western states, older farmers may opt out of water conservation systems, Professor Eric Schuck told news outlets.

His research shows that adoption of less water-intensive systems and crops is quite low, despite the potential benefits.

“As the number of people entering farming drops, the average age of farmers goes up, and the older they are, the less likely they are to invest in water-conserving technologies,” says Schuck.

“Farmers are looking at investments that have a 15-year timeline. Even though less water-intensive systems can make farming easier and promote better yields for some crops, the investment doesn’t pay off for farmers over 60.

“Unfortunately,” Schuck said, “the low rate of adoption has significant implications for statewide water supplies. We need to find ways to facilitate a move toward conservation.”

“A lot of second- or third-generation farm kids are in my classes because they want to understand what’s happening to their families and towns,” Schuck says. “Ideally, some of them will take those skills back to the farm.”

Forty-six news outlets and blogs carried news about Schuck’s research, including the McMinnville News-Register, Daily News Oregon, Salem-News.com, Produce Journal, Agro Times, Agricultural Water Conservation Clearinghouse, All Voices and Environment Tips.

Schuck was recently recalled for active duty in the Navy. He will be spending most of the rest of the year in the Gulf. After his classes for this semester were curtailed, his students came early and stayed late, making up lost time so they could graduate on time.

“They have done so without complaint, and with an unswerving and unflinching devotion to their studies,” Schuck says. “Words fail in expressing the honor and privilege I feel at sharing a classroom with these young women and men, and it is no small thing to state that after my own family, it is our students I will miss the most.

“Until I return,” Schuck says, “may you all find only fair winds and following seas.”

Article in Produce Journal

Economics Studies at Linfield

Drought Monitor

Oregon Water Resources Department