Alan Kleinman, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional economist for the lower Colorado River basin, said the decision to use fallowing is up to the Valley's residents and elected officials.
Kleinman said the study was conducted for the Imperial Valley only, using crop and water data for the past 12 years that were obtained from the Imperial Irrigation District and the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office.
To generate 200,000 acre-feet of water — the maximum amount being considered for transfer from the IID to the San Diego County Water Authority — would require about 35,500 acres, Kleinman said.
Three fallowing scenarios studied included land with hay, all field crops and land with the full range of crops, including hays, vegetables, melons and specialty. Fallowed land with the least economic impact on the community would be land on which hay is grown, he said.
The fallowing of land would have three types of impacts to workers: direct, indirect and induced. Direct impacts are those job losses from farmers laying off workers. Indirect impacts are to third parties, such as seed and fertilizer sales. Induced impacts are defined as those that result from money not being spent several times in the local economy, or the multiplier effect.
Job losses from fallowing land with hay:
· direct, 360
· indirect, 108
· induced, 13
Job losses from fallowing vegetable-quality land:
· direct, 376
· indirect, 460
· induced, 75
Imperial County had a total civilian labor force of 56,300 in June 2001, with 10,200 in agriculture, according to preliminary information obtained from the state Employment Development Department by the California Center for Border and Regional Economic Studies at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. Of those in ag, about 28 percent worked in field crops and about 40 percent in vegetable/melon crops.
The total economic impacts from fallowing 35,500 acres, in terms of money, under the full-crop scenario is estimated at between $61.9 million and $65.1 million, with a loss of between 885-930 jobs. The total impacts under the field crops scenario is estimated between $24.9 million and $28.2 million, with 460-506 job losses. The total from losses under the hay scenario are estimated between $19.5 million and $23.6 million, with 456-502 lost jobs, according to the presentation.
To mitigate such losses, Kleinman said there are several options. First, he said the decision lies with the Imperial Valley community. In addition, any fallowing project could target those lands for fallowing that would have the least community impact or generate the most water.
Further, Kleinman said there are three options for paying farmers who participate in a fallowing program: they can be paid nothing; paid a break-even amount, of $231 per acre yearly; or paid what's being paid to Palo Verde area farmers to fallow, $550 per acre yearly.
He said long-term mitigation possibilities from the federal government could include economic incentives to diversify the local economy and reductions in the cost of water or power.
Kleinman's conclusions were that the economic impacts of fallowing are important and serious, some of the impacts are of a short-term nature, the impacts are minimized by fallowing hay or field crops, the impacts are greater when fallowing vegetable/melon crops and the impacts can be mitigated by using the money from selling water to the San Diego County Water Authority and through the creation of jobs related to construction, operations and maintenance of projects to restore the Salton Sea.
Several Imperial Valley elected officials on the Salton Sea Authority board made comments after the presentation.
Imperial County Supervisor Gary Wyatt asked what the legality is of moving Colorado River water to the Salton Sea as make-up water. He said his understanding is that it is not legal.
SSA Executive Director Tom Kirk said it is not legal, but that "win-win" methods of saving the sea without impacting the Imperial Valley economy are being sought.
County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber said the sea is absolutely worth saving. He said that in regard to fallowing land on which hay is grown, that hay gets farmers through tough times because it can be stored for future sales. He conceded there is ground under production that probably should not be.