Water conservation in California needs to begin down on the farm « Jim Gogek

Former editorial writer Jim Gogek blogs:

Don’t get me wrong, California’s rural-based agriculture is very important. The Golden State is the nation’s breadbasket. But California’s urban-based manufacturing is even more important. In 2006, the California gross domestic product for crop and animal production was $15 billion. For manufacturing, it was $172 billion. California needs all of its industries to survive and thrive. So when we talk about conservation, let’s start the conversation with the biggest user – agriculture. After that, we can talk about three-minute showers.

Interesting article, and Jim has an interesting background. I like his  approach to discuss policy instead of politics, and his  approach to rely on facts.  As a high tech Bay Area entrepreneur relocated deep in the Central Valley (Tulare County), I am just starting to looking at some of these matters in order to identify possible solutions.

Of course there is going to be some tension making decisions and policy when there are limited resources available. That is the very definition of economics after all.

But I think he has failed his readers with what is either an incorrect statement or one disingenuously presented in his post, one that lies at the heart of the persuasiveness of his position:

“In 2006, the California gross domestic product for crop and animal production was $15 billion”

Read why this seems unlikely after the jump.

This seems highly unlikely to me.

Here in Tulare County, in 2007 the gate prices for crops and animals was $4 billion alone. There are 2 neighboring counties with similar numbers – Kern and Fresno Counties. So already we see 80% of his number, and we have only looked at 3 counties.

Also, I think his use of the term GDP is misleading. “GDP for crop and animal production” would include all of the times that the money is circulated, we can limit it to the times is circulates in California if you want, but still….

In Tulare County alone, the $4B gate prices represents roughly what packers pay the farmers. The farmers pay most of that to labor and suppliers, who pay it to their labor and suppliers. Most of that stays in California, and is spent within the county at least once.

Not only that, but the $4 billion from the packers represents even greater payments from further along in the channel, processors, wholesalers and retailers let’s say. Some of that money is spent in state on transportation to market costs as well.

By the time you add up the actual GDP in Tulare County alone, I bet it easily reaches $15 billion, and there are no major economic drivers here other then ag to skew the data. Similarly for Kern and Fresno County, and already you are looking at $50 billion GDP with the rest of the state not accounted for at all.

As I said, it is fair to discuss allocation of limited resources as policy, but I expect better rhetoric from an experienced editorial writer from Gogek. He seems like a smart guy, but he does  readers a disservice when he  plays fast and loose with facts and definitions while touting a fact based approach.

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