JFleck tells me that Palo Verde Irrigation district is suing Metropolitan Water District; to thank him for that helpful post, I’ve stolen his picture of PVID’s complaint about one externality:
I’ve written that piecemeal, widely dispersed land retirement will add expensive costs to the land that remains in production. I continue to wonder how that will be handled. To my deep surprise, at this year’s California Irrigation Institute conference, the growers on the panel about decreased irrigation acreage all expected the same outcome in the San Joaquin Valley. (Jan 30, Session Two) They thought 30-40% of currently farmed acreage would go out of production, and that every farm would hold their current acreage, but only farm 60-70% every year. I was shocked. That’s expensive! Unfarmed land still has maintenance requirements, but doesn’t bring in any money. I couldn’t tell whether they thought that was their best option, or whether they simply cannot say out loud that irrigated lands should be consolidated, with some farms going entirely out of business.
I’ve been wondering at that for a while, until Lois Henry raised a new possibility: that John Vidovich would hold all the newly not-irrigable land and that he calculates that water sales will cover the expenses from that land. It is also possible that he doesn’t intend to pay full costs for the unfarmed lands that he will hold and that they will become nuisance properties.
At this point, I honestly don’t know how the land will be retired. It is a shame that government involvement is completely taboo. Government involvement could mean designating a state park, letting current farmers remain on their unfarmed lands for a life tenure, paying current farmworkers to restore habitat. Government involvement could coordinate land swaps to consolidate farming communities. But I understand that that might be Stalinism, or maybe Maoism, certainly doomed to failure like everything governments have ever done, and certainly worse than every individual farm in the south San Joaquin Valley carrying 40% of their acreage unfarmed every year. Seems a pity that a coordinated, planned gentle landing isn’t an option.