15 Apr 2011

IID continues to innovate fail

The Imperial Irrigation District identified recipients for their fallowing grant program, but applicants not selected can appeal.

Nine applicants who scored 75 percent or higher based on their request for proposal will share $2.2 million.

The RFP, scored by an independent panel of professional grant readers, required applicants to show that fallowing created a hardship, and how they would stimulate the economy and boost employment.
The gist of this story is that anyone who claims harm from fallowing that resulted from IID's water sales to SDCWA is eligible for compensation.

So they make up stories, and professional grant readers decide if the stories are good enough.

This is silly.
  1. IID has not agreed to send more than 10 percent of its water to cities. The scope for harm with 10 percent fallowing is pretty small. 
  2. Economists found a net benefit from IID's fallowing/sales program to SDCWA. IID ignored that report.*
  3. There are better ways to decide who fallows.** I'd do a reverse auction: Set the number of acres to fallow (x) and accept the x lowest bids for fallowing. I bet that the price is less than the $200+/- that IID gets for the water.***
Bottom Line: IID continues to find ways to mismange its water.

* I can't find a link on the web, but it's: Sunding, David and Kubota, Gordon H. and Mitchell, David (2004). "Third-Party Impacts of Land Fallowing Associated with IID-SDCWA Water Transfer: 2003 and 2004." Local Entity and San Diego County Water Authority.

**IID, if I remember right, fixes a price (a fraction of the $200+/af they get for water) and then asks for takers. When there are too few acres, IID fallows its own land, but that system may have changed.

*** My impression is also that IID likes to spend that money on itself, not transfer it to the farmers it supposedly represents.


Mister Kurtz said...

I guess this is just some sort of face-saving way to spread the wealth around. Most irrigation districts are saddled with a one-owner/one-vote structure, so there often is no correlation between economic involvement and control. Directors and managers pander to the numerical majority, regardless of what's rational or in the best economic interest of the district. I'll bet the submissions from those who claim to have been harmed make most amusing reading.
BTW, alfalfa prices have skyrocketed this year, so some of the guys who fallowed may be having second thoughts.

California Farm Water Coalition said...

Saying that applicants make up stories to claim hardships is a pretty serious accusation when the writer provides no factual basis for his claim. Furthermore, successful fallowing programs in other parts of California are operated similar to IID's where the buyer sets a price and allows farmers to decide whether it is better to fallow or farm in a given year. That takes the uncertainty out of the equation for the farmers who face enough of that in their daily operations.

Mike Wade
California Farm Water Coalition

David Zetland said...

@Mike -- thanks for your comment. My comment on "made up stories" refers to the need to hire grant readers to review applications. If they were based on FACT, then it would be a simple case of (1) order damages from high to law and (2) pay out. Do you have any evidence of objective facts in these applications? I agree with your note that it's good to set a price and then let farmers choose, but you DO know that IID sets P and Q? Which means that they may get the wrong Q for their P? That's what I am saying. :)

DW said...

Farmers are making good money on fallowed land: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/nov/11/sdge-makes-deal-imperial-valley-solar-farm/

Frankly, even with all their water, there is a large amount of farmland in the Imperial Valley that is marginal at best. They shouldn't be growing water thirsty crops like Cotton there anyway. They should take some of that acreage out of ag altogether, and put solar farms up on those nice flat fields so that they don't have to chew up federal desert parkland. The farmers would get money from SDCWA and MWD for not farming, plus big lease payment from the solar farmers using the fields.

David Zetland said...

@DW -- solar is not installed over temporarily fallowed fields, but I can see a political force in favor of the recent renewables requirement (interesting!)

As for selling excess water, I totally agree, but I'd use markets to make sure the farmers get a fair price and water goes to those who will pay the most :)

Mister Kurtz said...

DW, nobody has grown cotton in Imperial for decades. Since it is a desert plant that uses as much water as most other summer crops, and with its long tap root, does so in a very efficient manner, "thirsty" is a peculiar sobriquet. I don't know where this urban myth began, but it spreads like an STD, and is about as useful. Repeating it just makes you look like another clueless rube; from reading your many other comments here you clearly are not one.

Please don't get hung up on plants. Farmers grow what makes economic and agronomic sense. If they are growing crops that are a waste of money or resources, it is either because of government encouragement, mis-priced inputs, or their own foolishness. Mister Market rapidly culls the ranks of this last category.

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