This is the follow up article to my previous post, and it focuses on the concerns that some have about the amount of water that it takes to grow hay, compared to other crops, and other non-farm activities. Hay takes a lot of water to grow, but once it’s cut it needs to remain dry until it’s bailed. Because of the combination of irrigation water and little rain, Utah grows high quality, high protein hay that is in great demand in China to feed their growing dairy industry.
Wade Graham, water quality expert and adjunct professor at Pepperdine University’s graduate school of public policy, is critical of growers who are exporting to China because of the high volume of water used, and the environmental concerns about diverting water from the Colorado River. “We are exporting not just water to China, we are exporting the ecosystems and the future sustainability of the Colorado River Basin to China,” Graham said. “The majority of the water that we divert from the Colorado River is to produce hay — both alfalfa and just regular grass.” Graham argues that many more jobs would be produced by an acre foot of water used by a high tech company than an alfalfa farm. But Tom Bailey, of Bailey Farms International, counters that in terms of food value per gallon of water, alfalfa compares well to other crops because 100% of it is harvested and eaten, nothing is left in the field. More than 80% of Utah’s water is used by farmers, and a lot of that is used to grow alfalfa.
First of all, I recognize that this particular article is barely connected by a thread to the “international law” requirement, but I thought it fair to comment on this article since I commented on the last.
Second, I’m no expert. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I’m not at all educated on this particular topic, other than as a buyer of hay. But so many others have no problem giving their uneducated opinion, so I might as well jump on that band wagon.
I won’t dispute that a tech company can produce more jobs with the water that it uses than a farm of any sort, but the question is, how much food does it produce? It seems to me that comparing the efficiency of water use between an alfalfa farm and a tech company is, if you’ll forgive the agricultural reference, comparing apples to oranges. (or…Apples to alfalfa…get it?) Alfalfa isn’t generally consumed by humans directly, it’s a feed crop. While not all alfalfa is fed to livestock bound for our tables, or morning cereal, the portion of the water used to produce alfalfa fed to food producing livestock is water used to ultimately produce food for humans.