Agriculture’s water economy has demonstrated growing signs of strain. Recent and persistent extreme weather-related events have highlighted the vulnerability of food and agricultural production to substantial variations in water availability. Consistent water availability is critical to agricultural production everywhere, and intensifying scarcity presents global agriculture with a formidable long-term challenge. Agricultural production has evolved, to a significant extent, on the basis of available water resources, both surface water and groundwater. However, there are growing concerns about the long-term trajectories of water availability and the potential implications for global agriculture.

The 2016 Agricultural Symposium, “Agriculture’s Water Economy” explored the dynamic link between agriculture and water, the role of markets and institutions, and the path forward. The first day of the symposium discussed how the outlook for agriculture depends on long-term water availability, and how the challenges of water scarcity might extend beyond the farm gate. The second day of the symposium discussed how the agricultural sector might adapt through investment, and the role of markets and institutions in addressing issues of long-term water scarcity.

2016 Agricultural Symposium Materials
Special issue of the Economic Review
Summary article from TEN Magazine
Symposium transcript
Symposium program 
(bios, papers, presentations and transcripts are also available by session below)


Keynote Presentation

The keynote presentation described the recent trends surrounding water scarcity, including a discussion of factors driving global demand for water and key areas of supply concerns going forward.

Speaker:

Keynote Presentation Transcript


Session 1: Long-Term Trajectories

This session discussed the likely outcomes for global agriculture over the long-term stemming from issues surrounding water scarcity.

Speaker:   

Discussant: 

  • Pat Westhoff, Professor and Director, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute-University of Missouri 

Panelists: 

  • Chris Hartley, Environmental Markets Analyst, United States Department of Agriculture
  • Guillaume Gruere, Senior Policy Analyst, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Session 1 Transcript


Session 2: Scarcity Beyond the Farm Gate

This session discussed how industries beyond commercial agricultural production view the challenges of water scarcity, the implications for regional economies, and how other business sectors might adapt to long-term scarcity.

Speaker:   

Discussant: 

  • Brad Udall, Senior Water and Climate Research Scientist, Colorado State University

Panelists: 

  • Ellen Hanak, Director, Public Policy Institute of California
  • Les Lampe, Former Vice President and Director of Water Resources, Black & Veatch 

Session 2 Transcript 


Dinner and Speaker

Speaker:
  • Esther George, President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Session 3: Investing in Adaptation

This session discussed how agriculture might respond to water scarcity, investments being made, and potential efficiency gains that might position the agricultural sector to better adapt to the constraints of long-term water availability. 

Speaker:

Discussant: 

  • Qiuqiong Huang, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Arkansas
Panelists:
  • John Hamer, Managing Director, Monsanto Growth Ventures 
  • Robert Meaney, Former Chairman-International, Valmont Industries

Session 3 Transcript


Session 4: Markets and Allocation

This session discussed the economic and social challenges of implementing a market-based structure for allocating water use and the corresponding implications for agriculture.

Speaker: 

Discussant: 

  • Nicholas Brozovic, Director of Policy, Water for Food Institute, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Panelists:

  • Richard Sandor, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Environmental Financial Products
  • Tom Iseman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, United States Department of the Interior

Session 4 Transcript


Concluding Discussion

Speaker: 

Concluding Discussion Transcript