Irrigation bill would improve irrigation tax credit law

Published 11:00 pm Monday, March 18, 2013

Farmers across Alabama await Gov. Bentley’s nod on a bill passed unanimously by the Alabama Legislature Tuesday that would improve the irrigation tax credit law.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. The bill would give farmers five years from the date of a completed irrigation or reservoir construction project to claim a one-time, maximum tax credit of $10,000.

Boothe said increasing irrigation would provide a significant economic boost to Alabama.

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“This is a very important bill for our farmers,” he said. “The bill will expand the number of water miles for irrigation and we’ve got to irrigate in order to be competitive with our farm crops.

“We grow a lot of chickens in Alabama and we are having to import corn grain to feed those chickens. We’re sending Alabama dollars to Iowa and other states in the Midwest that could be staying in Alabama and boosting the local economy.”

Boothe said there are five days when water is critical to the life of the corn stalk.

“If we can control the moisture during those five days, our corn crops will be more productive and we can reduce the amount of corn we have to import,” he said. “Irrigation is a win-win for everybody.”

Boothe said the water sources to support increased irrigation are there.

“We have ground water to support deep wells and rivers with flows of 8,000 cubic feet per second so we have the water we need,” Boothe said.

“This bill could put $120 million in the Special Education Trust Fund over 20 years.”

Boothe said the tax incentive will hopefully encourage farmers to seriously consider the benefits of irrigation and then make the necessary investments when they realize that the returns on their investments will make the dollars spent worthwhile.

A provision of the bill would open additional land along rivers for farmers to use direct withdrawal irrigation methods and qualify for the credit without a reservoir. It also clarifies the process for multiple owners of a farm claiming the credit.

Alabama has around 100,000 acres of irrigated land. Dr. John Christy, state climatologist, said an increase of one million acres of irrigation would have the same economic impact as the addition of two new automobile plants.

By state law, the governor has six days, excluding Sundays, to review the bill and either sign it or veto and send it back to the Legislature with suggested amendments. If the governor does not take any action, the bill automatically becomes law.