DH was also interested in my question of a few weeks ago: Does IID produce 80% of US winter veggies?.*
He sent the following email:
DH makes some good points, but I wanted to double-check, so I went to the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Shipments report for 2009 [PDF], and I looked at every crop listed for "California -- Imperial Valley." Without exception, for every crop in every month and every year, Imperial Valley is not the single largest producer (making 80% impossible), but often quite a small producer.**
Next I went to Imperial County’s Crop and Livestock Report [pdf] (as mentioned in ‘CRG’s’ comment), which states that IID produces a total of $1.45 billion in crops.
So IID produces about $1.5 Billion a year, similar to Westlands. Already I’m getting suspicious- that’s a pretty small percent of the $171 billion US total to produce 80 % of anything!
Next I decided to check out USDA’s website. I wanted to compare apples with apples (so to speak) – in this case IID production against total US production [pdf] of “vegetable and melon crops” for 2008. So we get:
IID USA Share Value: $675 mil $10,414 mil 6.4% Acres: 117,000 1,733,000 6.7%
So IID has no more than 7% of the total production value and about 7% of the total acreage. There's NO WAY that they produce 80% of the winter veggies (three months!) unless I am missing something. Also, IID uses about the same acreage to produce a given amount of production as the US on the whole -- they don’t appear to be inordinately productive as some of the comments inferred.
Imperial Valley's largest crop, by value, is lettuce. So how about lettuce? Imperial produces 1,720 x 100,000 pound units of iceberg lettuce. That's a lot, but Arizona produces 7,790 units and the CA-Central Valley produces 17,425 units. What about January? In IID's biggest producing month, it's 489 units. Arizona? 1,606 units. Processed and Romaine lettuce are the same.
Not content with that, I went to the USDA's report on California Agricultural Statistics for 2009 [PDF] and discovered that Imperial is 10th in production among California counties. What about individual crops? According to country reports (p. 2), Imperial's big crops are "Strawberries, Nursery Stock, Lemons, Celery, and Raspberries," but pp 6-8 say that Imperial is California's number one producer of "carrots, corn, alfalfa hay, sugar beets, and wheat." And then there's page 10, which says Imperial's big five crops are "Lettuce, Cattle, Wheat, Alfalfa, and Broccoli." That's a lot of confusion, but broccoli is a fresh winter vegetable. Oh darn. Imperial Co. is the third largest producer.
Bottom Line: Imperial County does not produce 80% of America's winter veggies, and it doesn't look like IID produces a majority of any agricultural product. It may be the number one producer of alfalfa hay (tons per acre per year), but that's not a winter vegetable. IID and Imperial Valley are not a critical or strategic source of food. They are a source of a small share of total US agricultural production.
* Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial Valley are used interchangeably here. IID manages water and power in the IV area, delivering 97% of its water to IV farmers.
** I also emailed Dean and Carlos at IID. They referred me to the county ag agent (whose reports are integrated into California reports) and -- for some reason -- data from Arizona. So, nothing from them to support the 80% claim.