But it also is a limited resource and requires balanced allocation to provide adequate supplies to all users. “There is something of a battle between environmental, urban and ag users,” he said. “They are all in the system, and we need balance.”

Agriculture must be cognizant of that need but so does society in general. Hurd said agriculture has proven to be an efficient user of resources and “a steward of the land. But agriculture still must be profitable.”

He said the current debate on the farm bill “is puzzling.” Ag policy is being restructured to risk management and subsidy through insurance. “People who voted against cap and trade requested climate risk coverage and don’t acknowledge that climate change exists. But they ‘de facto’ put it into the farm bill.”

Jeff Bader, northern district director, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, said networking and education will be crucial aspects of water management. “Water is the most important issue facing agriculture today,” he said in his welcoming remarks. “We have to address the importance of water issues.”

Robert Anaya, Santa Fe County commissioner, complemented SARE as “investing in groundbreaking research and education,” and for promoting sustainability “before it was in.”

The global economy has fostered change in the U.S. labor force. “Ultimately, we lost (some) workforce to outsourcing,” he said. “We can ill afford to outsource agriculture. We must continue to do what we have done for generations to sustain (U.S.) agriculture as our primary source of food production.”

Stephanie Walker, NMSU vegetable specialist and Western SARE professional development coordinator, said the conference featured some of the top resource management experts in the West to discuss water issues. Stakeholders in New Mexico have identified water as a priority. “That concern is shared by many other states,” she said. “We know we can do better.”

She said the conference was designed to discuss “ways to preserve this valuable resource for future generations.”

The conference, “Water: The foundation of Agricultural Sustainability,” was sponsored by the USDA Western SARE and New Mexico State University.