Friday, December 13, 2002

WELFARE FARMING AND WATER: A quick post from surgery land. (Lola's fine;L.A. traffic, as always, reminds us why we moved to Vegas.) Virginia Postrel (see item 5), Eugene Volokh and others are engaged in an interesting discussion around a rather bathetic New York Times story that appeared 12/8 about the decline of rural Ameica. The problem is that 70 years of welfare via farm subsidies has led to stasis, giving many farm-state residents incentives to remain dependent on agricultural welfare and maintain an otherwise-unsustainable lifestyle.

Farm welfare of another type could cause havoc in the Southwest, where a handful of farmers in the Imperial Valley of California are basically holding the residents of at least three states hostage. Farmers get water for next to nothing from the Colorado River and use it to grow cotton in the desert, among other things. Monday, farm reps deep-sixed an agreement which would have given the residents of Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona reliable water sources for several decades ... all because ag interests insist on keeping Stalinist-style farm policy alive. Had New Deal-era subsidies been allowed to expire years ago, people in these farm communities would have gradually adopted more sensible, productive ways of life and saved consumers a bundle in the process. An excellent overview of the Imperial Valley controversy appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here's an editorial I wrote about the dustup that appeared Thursday. Gale Norton is headed to Vegas to help sort things out. (While she's in town, she'll meet with the editorial board of the R-J, which includes me.)

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