History of IA

Sprinkler Irrigation Association Formation in 1949

Courtesy of IA's book: Water and the Land by Bob Morgan

The potential of portable sprinkler irrigation in crop production was clearly recognized following World War II. The catalyst was the growing availability of aluminum. The lightweight metal began to replace heavy steel tubing and fittings made of cast iron or steel.

The proponents of sprinkler irrigation saw an urgent need to form a trade association representing the irrigation industry. In 1948, they seized the opportunity to discuss the idea during the National Reclamation Congress in Oklahoma City. They realized that to represent the industry adequately, the membership would have to include distributors and suppliers, in addition to manufacturers.

The following year at the Palmer House in Chicago, a group of eight industry leaders cast their votes to create an association to represent a cross-section of the sprinkler irrigation industry. They were: Fred Boyton of Reynolds Metals Company, Ken Cadigan of Gorman-Rupp Pump Company, Ray Foss of R.M. Wade & Company, A.R.J. "Bud" Friedmann of Skinner Irrigation Company, Ellsworth Gage of Shur-Rane Company, Marion Miller of Anderson-Miller Company, Charles Race of Race and Race Manufacturing Company and John Seitzinger of Oaks Irrigation Company. They named the new organization the Association of Sprinkler Irrigation Equipment Manufacturers (ASIEM) for the purpose of, "combining the mutual interests of all who are concerned with developing and increasing the use of sprinkler irrigation systems."

The first slate of officers to lead the association included Everett H. Davis; Bud Friedmann, vice president; and A.S. Marlow, Jr., president of Marlow Pumps, Ridgewood, New Jersey, secretary-treasurer. After just three months as president, Davis relinquished the office to Friedmann due to company responsibilities. In addition to the officers, there were four committee members. They were Ken Cadigan of Gorman-Rupp, Larry Johnson of Champion Manufacturing, Marion Miller of Anderson-Miller Company and Ross B. Whidden with Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA).

The need for an association with ASIEM's objectives was quickly demonstrated in 1950 when the country plunged into the Korean War. The War Production Board, established during World War II, again went into immediate allocations of strategic materials. The officers and board of the association recognized that representation in Washington, D.C., was critical to ensure and adequate supply of raw materials for their industry.

They retained Joseph King, and attorney well oriented to the Capitol, as local counsel. His duties were to inform the federal government in general, the War Production Board in particular, of the irrigation industry's needs for aluminum and brass as they related to the production of food and fiber. King was successful in obtaining allocations of these materials for industry manufacturers.

In addition to legal representation, the ASIEM believed it was important to have a full-time industry representative in Washington. R.M. Wade & Company offered to loan the services of Robert C. Mueller to the association for the duration of the conflict in Korea. Mueller went to work for the National Production Administration, a part of the Works Progress Administration.

The efforts of King and Mueller, combined with the support of Wade Newbegin of R.M. Wade & Company, Crawford Reid of Rain Bird and Marion Miller of Anderson-Miller, carried the industry through the Korean War years.

The sprinkler irrigation industry emerged as an established member of the U.S. business community. Overhead sprinkler irrigation was heralded as the greatest U.S. agricultural achievement since the mold-board plow.

In 1953, the association was officially incorporated as the Sprinkler Irrigation Association (SIA). Its next challenge was to seek relief from repressive freight rates. Because aluminum tubing was bulky, even though it was light, freight carriers increased rates on the irrigation hardware by as much as 100 percent. A committee consisting of King, Newbegin, Alfred S. Gray and J.F. Newby was successful in holding the rate increases to tolerable levels through the 1950s and into the 1960s. Their tenacious efforts saved members thousands of dollars as portable sprinkler irrigation gained importance in agriculture.

The significance of aluminum is evident in the statistics for the period. U.S. Government figures reveal that 1,250,000 pounds of tubing were installed in the U.S. in 1946. By 1955, the figure had risen to an astounding 50,000,000 pounds.

The objectives of the Sprinkler Irrigation Association were to increase farmer acceptance of sprinkler irrigation, promote it as a supplement to rain, advocate water conservation throughout the country and to strengthen and broaden the scope of the association.

Over the next three decades it reached the following mileposts that have contributed to its rapid prominence as an irrigation trade association.

  1. An educational program that eliminated prejudice and misunderstanding about sprinkler irrigation.
  2. Entry of the SIA in the American Society of Agricultural Engineers Awards contest.
  3. Launching of the development of "Minimum Performance Standards".
  4. Publication of an Engineering Textbook on Sprinkler Irrigation by Allan W. McCulloch and John F. Schrunk.
  5. Conducting of educational clinics and workshops, forerunners of today's widely heralded IA "Certified Irrigation Design Programs".
  6. An early educational irrigation film, "Weather or Not", jointly sponsored by the National Fertilizer Association and the SIA. It was awarded Blue Ribbon status by the ASAE as a classroom aid.

The association's accomplishments grew as the years passed. In 1976, when the interests of the industry were no longer confined to sprinkler irrigation, the organization assumed the name the Irrigation Association (IA). Nor is the association's influence confined to the borders of the United States. Today, through its annual exposition, seminars, committees and certification programs, the impact of the IA is felt throughout the world.

Museum Sponsor:

Nelson Irrigation