Getting plants to grow in the Sonoran Desert is made possible by importing billions of gallons of water each year. Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops in existence, and each acre cultivated here demands six times as much water as lettuce, 60 percent more than wheat. That precious liquid is pulled from a nearby federal reservoir, siphoned from beleaguered underground aquifers and pumped in from the Colorado River hundreds of miles away. …The hold that cotton and sugar farmers have over the U.S. government has been one of the most puzzling and ridiculous features of our democracy for as long as I have been following politics. And yet despite innumerable calls for reform and myriad calls to rein in Federal spending, the farce goes on.
Over the last 20 years, Arizona’s farmers have collected more than $1.1 billion in cotton subsidies, nine times more than the amount paid out for the next highest subsidized crop. In California, where cotton also gets more support than most other crops, farmers received more than $3 billion in cotton aid.
…If Arizona’s cotton farmers switched to wheat but didn’t fallow a single field, it would save some 207,000 acre-feet of water — enough to supply as many as 1.4 million people for a year.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Cotton Subsidies and the Drought
Why does California have a severe water shortage despite the billions that have been spent on collecting, storing and moving water? Crop subsidies. Much of California's water is used to raise crops that need a lot of water, such as cotton. Really cotton shouldn't be grown in the U.S. at all, and the only reason it is is that the government pays out massive subsidies to cotton growers: