|Know Yuma: Ag Impact Study|
Dr. Kurt Nolte, from the University of Arizona, and Ken Rosevear, Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, speak about Yuma's agricultural industry and a new economic study that could help Yuma in the fight to protect water rights to the Colorado River.
|Know Yuma: Agriculture|
Dr. Kurt Nolte, from the University of Arizona, speaks to the gathered crowd about Yuma's agricultural industry and the impact it has on our economy during Thursday's Know Yuma Inside and OutRead more: http://www.yumasun.com/articles/yuma-85481-ag
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Study to provide clearer picture of agriculture's economic impact
Agriculture generally is accepted as Yuma County's No. 1 economic driver, with a crop value of $3.2 million a year.
What is less clear is its actual economic impact on the county when factoring in such things as the indirect sales by workers spending their paychecks or the ripple effect of businesses that support the industry, Kurt Nolte, executive director of the Yuma County Cooperative Extension, said during Thursday's Know Yuma Inside and Out.
And he said it begs the questions: What would be the likely future impact on the area if agriculture continues to thrive – or conversely, if the industry ceased to exist here?
The answers are increasingly important as Yuma County fights to protect its share of Colorado River water from thirstier cities in Arizona. The latest battle was over HB 2338, legislation that would have established regional water augmentation authorities that could buy and sell water. After hearing from a number of concerned Yuma-area representatives during a hearing Tuesday, the House Agriculture and Water Committee held the bill.
But that's likely just the first round in the battle.
To gain a clearer picture of agriculture's importance to the Yuma area, information that might help in that battle, the University of Arizona has undertaken a project to assess the industry's economic impact on the community, Nolte said. Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation is partnering in the study.
The project, being conducted by two UA economists, was begun two weeks ago and is expected to be completed by summer.
Researchers will look at three basic issues: agriculture's indirect contributions to the local economy through supplies, services, labor and taxes; how much agriculture's impact has changed over the last 20 years; and the likely future impact of agriculture.
Then they will try to measure that impact through the IMPLAN software system that helps analysts investigate the consequences of projected economic transactions in a local area, such as the loss of Yuma County's agriculture.
“We will get a clearer indication of agriculture's impact,” Nolte said.
Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce who attended the HB 2338 hearing, noted that the rest of the state is basically ignorant of the value of Yuma's agriculture, and the urban areas are “disdainful of the rural areas. Their intention was made clear ... they're coming after our water. I was notified Wednesday we may have won the first round, but there's more to come.”
At stake is an industry that stretches back 125 years and today produces more than 90 percent of the nation's supply of lettuce and other winter vegetables, Nolte said. It also leads the state in the production of pima cotton, durum wheat, citrus and several other crops.
To support the industry, Yuma has 22 vegetable coolers and nine salad plants as well as two date processing plants and three citrus packing facilities. And it employs some 50,000 workers in the peak of the winter produce season.
“Yuma is Arizona's agriculture epicenter,” Nolte said, noting that it's loss would be “catastrophic” for the area.
The Know Yuma series provides business people with information about the Yuma area and factors that contribute to the local economy. The meetings are hosted monthly by the Yuma Sun in partnership with Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp., Yuma Visitors Bureau, Yuma County Chamber of Commerce and city of Yuma.