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Voice: There are worse F-words than fallowing

November 01, 2001

It is obvious to me that there exists a significant amount of this Valley's population, including the editorial staff of this newspaper, which is strongly opposed to the practice of fallowing farmland in this Valley. Don't get me wrong. I am all for protecting the future of the Valley, including our guaranteed water rights, but if we want to have a future that includes agriculture, fallowing farm ground needs to be part of the equation.

I'm involved in agriculture and want nothing more than to see it continue in this Valley in a successful manner. Unfortunately, with all the outside pressures on farmers, including NAFTA, increasing governmental regulations, both of which I don't see any near-term relief, things don't seem to be promising. This being the case, we need to do what we can where we can and I see fallowing as something we can do that can provide some sort of benefit.

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Fallowing needs to be kept an economic topic rather than the emotional topic it has turned itself into. Simply put, today's farmer is producing more product on fewer acres. More product means higher supplies, which equates into lower commodity prices, simple supply and demand theory. With better seed varieties, improved cultural practices, modern machinery and the integration of science, to name a few contributing factors, farmers are producing themselves right out of the markets.

Fallowing need not be considered a death sentence to the Valley. For example, if a farmer is farming 500 acres and has the opportunity to fallow 15 percent of his/her farm, he/she would opt to idle his/hers worst ground, which coincidentally produces the poorest yields, both in quality as well as quantity, and costs more money to farm. The money saved (not inclusive of any funds received for diversion of water) by not farming this ground can then be injected into his/her existing farm to repair and purchase machinery and equipment, or whatever else is deemed appropriate.

With less land being farmed, the reduction in commodity supplies should encourage higher commodity prices. It is a well-known fact there exists land in this valley that should not be farmed. With the farming of this poor land there exists the production of poor-quality crops, which further pollutes and drives down our markets.

I'm not saying we need to fallow 150,000 acres, but we need to incorporate some sort of fallowing-management plan while we still have the opportunity. If we are reluctant to adopt some sort of plan, we can continue to see depressed markets that will then begin to put pressure on our land values. When farmers can't afford to farm and need to sell assets, i.e. farmland, to cover debt, who do you think might be lined up to purchase that cheap land? My guess would probably be the Metropolitan Water District and I seriously doubt if they have any desire to become farmers.

Fallowing need not be considered the "F" word or something to be afraid of. I would be more concerned with words like foreclosures, fire sales, farm failures, free trade agreements and filings than the word fallowing.

ROBERT M. TRIMM

Brawley

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