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LETTER: In defense of growing alfalfa in the desert

Re: The Nov. 26 piece by ProPublica “Measuring the Legacy of Water Use” and the accompanying table with “Top 20 water users” in the California Imperial Valley, which contrasted water “used to grow hay” versus water “used to grow food for people”:

You may not eat alfalfa, but you may eat animals and use imported or domestic products from animals that eat alfalfa. Cows, sheep, goats and even hogs eat alfalfa. This creates food and products, whether or not it is food you approve of. Quality protein is needed for animal feeds and vegetarianism is not the total answer.

I’ll bet the “problem” of these farmers using water will go away as expenses mount, cities demand more and more water and governments fail to support farmers due to politics.

Notably, we have increasing consumers and decreasing producers with significantly fewer farms and farmers every year since 1935, and the average age of U.S. farmers is just a few years shy of 60, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Small farms, which are primarily inherited, are not great profit centers. Farm owners consolidate for survival. There are also more corporations subletting land to contract farmers.

Everyone depends on farms for food, but most people live lives divorced from the realities of what it takes to produce food. With decreasing amounts of arable land, decreasing desirability and profitability of farming and increased lack of understanding of the public about how we get the things we use and consume, one hopes that we don’t do a lemming leap with respect to alfalfa and other forms of farming like we have with other industries and shoot ourselves in the foot. We must weigh varying interests and goals.

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