IA hosts 2024 Washington, D.C. fly-in

The event attracted irrigation leaders from coast to coast who gathered in the nation’s capital to advocate on behalf of the industry.

The Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia, connected members with elected officials and federal agencies to discuss policies affecting the industry during its annual fly-in event in Washington, D.C., March 19-21. 

Topics of discussion included the farm bill, business policy and guest worker programs. 

For Natalie Stone, senior manager of utility B2B at Rachio, Denver, Colorado, the experience meant providing context on industry topics to legislators. This was her first year attending. 

“One of my biggest takeaways from the event was the importance of setting the stage and using stories in order to put our industry’s issues into perspective,” she says.  

Stone added that one of the main themes of discussion during meetings with members of Congress was the value that the industry can bring to communities across the country, particularly around the industry’s contribution in terms of conservation. 

“Precision technology was a notable topic throughout the fly-in, as policymakers acknowledged the importance of using just the right amount of water, in the right ways, at the right time,” she says. “From the most efficient nozzles for crops to weather-based scheduling for landscape irrigation controllers, precision technology is a vital component of efficient irrigation and protecting our water resources. It was a great reminder of how our industry’s technology and innovation can have a direct impact on conservation.” 

One of the key priorities pertaining to conservation for the association during the event was to bring awareness to the Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity Act, S.2430, which was introduced during the 117th Congress.  

For Bruno Kiep, associate product manager, Zimmatic and FieldNet Controls at Lindsay, Omaha, Nebraska, the fly-in provided an opportunity to describe the advancements the industry is making and advocate directly for ways to help advance it.  

“The market will continue to push for further innovation and technological announcements, so the key for future policy directions are that we continue to promote those that are advancing not only in water efficiency but all resource management,” he says. “In the irrigation sector we like to say that smart water use also leads to other better resource management such as soil health, energy efficiency, as well carbon emissions reductions. The IA and its members are the best pathway to reciprocate the voice of our customers and get that message across to the policymakers. As our customers win with great policy, the industry and the association come out as winners in the same boat.” 

According to Kiep, the fly-in highlighted the association’s focus uniting industry efforts to prioritize conservation and efficiency to align with policymakers’ and stakeholders’ goals for addressing environmental and food security challenges. 

“The key takeaway was that collaboration is most effective,” he says. “Sustainability and efficiency of resources are something that the industry, growers and policymakers know are requirements going forward. With the continued growth of the population, food security will continue to lead to further increases in production while trying to limit the resource use.” 

Stone says the event served as a pivotal platform for both networking within the industry and learning directly from policymakers about the sector’s critical issues and the solutions it can provide. 

“To prospective future attendees, I would say that the Irrigation Association fly-in is not only a chance to expand your network and push our industry forward, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to learn how policymakers think about our industry’s issues and to grow your communication skill set. As some seasoned attendees shared with me, the fly-in is all about education — it is a chance for us, as industry leaders, to educate policymakers about the latest technologies we’re developing, the issues we and our customers are encountering, and the creative solutions our industry has to protect the environment and conserve water.” 

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