Water has always been an important concern in agriculture. According to Jim Beck, Kern County Water Agency general manager, in 2009 California water issues will be more important than ever.

“I can't emphasize enough that we really are at a turning point for California water,” Beck said. “I think we are currently enduring the worst crisis that water users have ever faced and how we face this crisis over the next two to three years will not only shape agriculture but the whole state's economy.”

As the Agency's general manager, Beck has been instrumental in many programs that have placed the Agency at the forefront of water management statewide. He has been with the Agency for 24 years and works closely on the State Water Project, which is a major source of water for irrigated farmland in California.

Beck will be one of the featured speakers at the 2009 Central Coast Cotton Conference, which will be held Jan. 21-23, 2009, at the Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach. The annual meeting is a continuing education course for California growers, agronomists, crop consultants, pest control advisors and educators. Beck will be addressing a variety of water-related issues including the water supply outlook for 2009 and beyond.

According to Beck, water users are facing a three-front battle and should be preparing for what could be one of the worst water years in the past 30 years. His goal for the meeting is to help arm growers and others in the ag industry with information they can use to combat some of these problems.

“Anytime I can get information and hard numbers into growers' hands that they can use to interface with government officials, it's helpful. After awhile, the drone of water managers in Sacramento gets kind of dull. People like growers are the backbone of the water system and make a bigger impact, especially when they can demonstrate knowledge and have hard data,” Beck said.

But not all of Beck's message will be gloom and doom. He said agencies and legislators are closer now than they've ever been to a peripheral canal solution. Beck will also discuss the potential actions growers can implement in the short-term, the ways agriculture industry members can help ensure supply issues are addressed, and the recent report issued by the Pacific Institute that criticized growers for their water use in California.

Beck believes it is now more important than ever for growers and members of the California agriculture industry to get involved, and meetings like the Central Coast Cotton Conference are a great place to do it. The sixth annual meeting also provides members of the cotton and field crop agriculture community an opportunity to come together to learn about these and other important topics.

The conference was launched in 2003 by one of California's premiere cotton experts, Lowell Zelinski. Zelinski is a former University of California farm advisor and private consultant and has worked in upper management for the world's largest cotton seed company, as well as the California cotton seed cooperative formerly known as California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors in Shafter, Calif. The conference was the first and continues to be the only meeting to focus on California cotton production. It is presented in a unique, interactive format, and in 2009 the meeting's expanded focus will include other field crops such as corn, wheat, alfalfa and processing tomatoes.

The theme for 2009 is “New Frontiers: Innovative production strategies for a changing industry.” Three half-day sessions will include topics to help growers maximize production while minimizing costs; adapt new technologies such as precision farming; implement integrated farming solutions; and address water issues. The conference also features production and agronomy sessions with topics such as soils and pest management.

Registration for the meeting is open and space is still available. For more information about the Central Coast Cotton Conference or to register, please visit www.cottonconference.com or call (805) 239-8200. Discounted hotel rates are available at The Cliffs Resort by calling (800) 826-7827 or visiting www.cliffsresort.com. A group discount code is needed to receive conference rates.