By Carol Stender

PERHAM, Minn. —Northern Irrigation owner Steve Kempenich of Perham has been in the business for 30 years and has seen a 40 percent to 50 percent increase in irrigation activity over the past five years.

AgCountry senior loan officer Roger Twedt said the ag lender has financed more irrigation in the last two years than they did over the past eight years.

"They need the irrigation as insurance to make sure they can get something off the land when they put the money into it," Kempenich said.


Lenders have programs to fit producers’ needs — like the 10-year lease program with a pay-off at lease’s end offered by AgCountry.

The first irrigators in the region were installed around 1976 when drought hit the area, said Twedt. Most central pivot systems came in during the 1980s and 1990s. Now, with drought in the area over the last five years, interest in irrigation has increased.

Potato and dry edible beans were introduced to many rotations. Each required investments in fertilizer and herbicides and garnered good yields with irrigation.

"But the easy stuff is gone," said Twedt.

Most fields prime for center pivots already have them. Some Conservation Reserve Program land with expiring contracts is also good for irrigation. However, most fields now under consideration for irrigation are odd-shaped.

No matter how much planning goes into a system, the big unknown is water availability, he said. Soil charts provide profiles to determine what land is best suited for irrigation. Aerial maps that can help in design, but nothing tells if water is available.

Some areas in irrigation have shallow wells in shallow aquifers. Central Minnesota has numerous lakes and the Otter Tail Oasis Aquifer is deep.

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