Brad Lundeen has long been interested in irrigation, water issues and solving water problems. His farm is three miles east of Wilcox and six miles south of Axtell, in the water-challenged Republican River Basin.
Brad grew up on the farm homesteaded by his great-grandfather around 1890 and he’s the fourth generation of his family to farm it. His father passed away while Brad was still in high school in the late 1960s, so he took over the farming. He farmed on the side all the time he was attending the nearby University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he earned a degree in business administration in 1972.
Brad farms with his brother Averil, growing corn and soybeans, most of it irrigated with center pivots. “The irrigated corn is looking pretty good,” he said July 16, “but the dryland (pivot) corners are pretty well shot – they’re deteriorating rapidly. But the soybeans aren’t too bad yet.” With this summer’s drought, even irrigated crops are feeling the stress.
Brad met his wife Patty, a special education teacher, during an outing at Harlan
County Lake. They were married in 1980 and all of their children are involved in agriculture. Their sons, Joe and Scott, have farmed since finishing school at Central Community College in Hastings and UNK, respectively. Joe and Scott farm some of Brad’s land and rent some other ground. Brad and Patty’s daughter, Katie, just graduated from UNL and is working for A&M Ag Partners near Kearney.
Brad’s interest in water led him to seek a position on the board of the Tri-Basin Natural Resources District, which is headquartered in Holdrege. He’s been re-elected several times during his 18 years on the board. He was chairman for four years and served on the executive committee for many additional years. Last year, he brought his water expertise to Nebraska Farm Bureau, when he joined Farm Bureau’s Natural Resources Advisory Committee.
Brad enjoys working on solutions to water problems. “I always have been interested in irrigation and water levels and how we can save groundwater pumping in this area,” he says.
As an NRD board member, he grapples with issues such as how best to manage water in the basin to meet the requirements of the Platte River Recovery Program and the Republican River Compact with Kansas. The board recently approved an augmentation project south of Kearney, where groundwater is pumped into the Platte River to help mitigate surface water depletions.
Farmers have always wanted to be good stewards of the land and water, he says, but recent years have brought additional motivation. “With high fuel prices (for pumping water) you want to make the most efficient use of your resources.” In addition, some NRDs – including two where some of Brad’s land is located – have strict allocation rules that limit how much water farmers can use.
“It forces you to make different crop decisions and to irrigate only when you have to. We as farmers need to stretch the water supply to be here for the next generation,” he emphasizes.
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