Colorado River Basin Production Value and Arizona Agriculture
This Spring, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Economist Daniel Munch provided some exciting numbers to the western state Farm Bureaus about the Colorado River Basin, especially at a time when agriculture’s water future in the West can appear uncertain.
Said Munch, “I have put together some baseline Colorado River Basin production by value numbers to hopefully assist in understanding the agricultural importance of the region. As a reminder, these numbers represent the total value of agricultural production in the geographic boundary of both the upper and lower basins and NOT exclusively what is produced using Colorado River water.”
He added, “Obviously, not all agriculture in the Colorado River Basin and adjacently supplied areas use Colorado River water to grow crops or raise livestock. However, utilization of this vital water source by other users, such as towns and cities, offsets demand that would otherwise pressure alternative sources like groundwater.”
Agriculture does use lots of water, a fact anywhere you go in the world [if you are] measuring agriculture’s global water use,” says Arizona Farm Bureau and southern Arizona rancher Stefanie Smallhouse. “That’s what it takes to grow food for all of us. From an agricultural perspective we farm and ranch in Arizona because of, not despite, the desert. Our desert climate lets us grow year around and grow well. Sustainable agriculture in Arizona is critical because we do agriculture so well in this state.”
American Farm Bureau’s takeaway numbers on the value the Colorado River Basin brings to agricultural Production (the following is based on AFBF calculations and USDA-NASS numbers):
- The value of agricultural production within the Colorado River Basin geographic region totals nearly $5 billion. Broken down by categories, this includes nearly $3 billion in livestock-related sales and over $2 billion in crop sales.
- When regions adjacent to the Colorado River Basin that receive water from the Colorado River system are included, such as those along the coast in southern California and across central Colorado, this total increases to over $10 billion, made up of $4.7 billion in livestock-related sales and $5.4 billion in crop sales.
- The value of agricultural production by value within the Colorado River Basin and its adjacent areas includes:
- $2.4 billion in cattle and calves
- $1.2 billion in fruit and tree nuts
- $1.1 billion in field crops (primarily hay)
- $1.3 billion in milk production
- $330 million in berries
- $214 million in corn
- $220 million in cotton
- $317 million in floriculture
- $137 million in wheat
- By state, California leads with $4.2 billion in ag production by value within the Colorado River Basin and adjacently supplied regions including over $1 billion in fruit and tree nuts, over $600 million in cattle, $330 million in berries, and $270 million in nursery crops. This makes up over 8% of California’s total production by value.
- The entire state of Arizona exists within the Colorado River Basin totaling $3.08 billion in agriculture by value. This includes nearly a billion in dairy production and $500 million in cattle and calves.
- If the Colorado River Basin and its adjacent areas were a state, it would rank 15th in ag production by value between Arkansas and Washington and well ahead of states like Georgia, Michigan Idaho, and North Dakota.