Why in the world are they growing crops in the middle of the Arizona desert?

I realize the bottom one is money or greed, but overall deciding to setup shop in the middle of a desert to grow crops or sustain milk cows seems stupid. It can’t last and will impact any future generation that tries to make use of the land in a sustainable way. It feels like selfishness, but maybe there’s more to it than that?

American agricultural policy has never, ever been what we might call rational. It’s always been a combination of greed, politics, culture, and mendacity.

It was the promise of cheap or free land and water for agriculture that got people to settle the southwest in the first place. You’d think that a closer look at the deserted / abandoned towns, fields and irrigation canals left behind by the prior inhabitants might have given them pause, but nope.

Same reason they grow apples in the (near) desert in central Washington, probably: it’s easy to precisely regulate how much water they get that way.

See also: Southern California.

A lot of the West would be kind of fucked without massive redistribution of water. Oh, hi climate change!

My (least) favorite example of this is in western Colorado. The town of Palisade grows peaches that are branded as Palisade peaches and marketed heavily in supermarkets, at least in Colorado.

As you drive along I-70, you pass through the town and it’s peach tree fields. The highway is the actual dividing line between life and death - on one side, near white sandstone desert hills, with zero vegetation. On the other side, miles of green irrigated peach fields.

Water Rights and money? Central California is technically desert, but you build a few dams and suddenly it is one of the most productive ag regions in the world.

Air conditioning is what made most of Arizona and Nevada viable for people.

With the current drought farmers are now removing almond trees. Cotton started disappearing years ago. They still grow cotton in southern Arizona.


One thing that surprised me being out here was being told that the urban areas take less water than the agriculture they’ve replaced when I was wondering how the Phoenix area could keep growing. Yeah, the ag in desert thing is odd to me being from Iowa. There is a dairy farm between here and Tuscon that has tours that we’ve taken the kids to before on some property that used to be a ranch owned by John Wayne.

If it was up to me I would’ve left a long time ago, but my wife is set on staying here.

I look forward to the day when things are tough enough that somebody says to everyone from west Texas to the high desert of east Oregon and Washington “we are turning off your water. Go buy stilsuit if you plan to stay here.”

Residential and commercial water use is not why water is a problem in the southwest.


It’s like residential lightbulbs; replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs is spitting into a hurricane. Likewise removing all the people from the southwest would only make water use worse because the land would be converted to agriculture.

Yep - a lot like telling people to recycle. I mean, sure, that’s fine, but the top 100 companies in the world create something like 70% of its pollution.


I can’t wait til we have meat substitutes that are cheaper than pigs.

Water rights are a weird thing. You need to change those first. Corporations are busy right now buying up water rights in ways that should be illegal.

This seems timely. I don’t think Arizona will protect the watershed and the river will be all but gone in a a decade.

And while looking for articles about farmers stealing water I came across this:

Four years ago, Thomas Buschatzke, Gov. Doug Ducey’s choice to head Arizona Department of Water Resources, told a reporter, “People are concerned about the water embedded in crops, obviously. However, our viewpoint is that there is an economic value in growing of crops. Those folks have as much right as any other individual in the state of Arizona to grow their produce, grow their crops, sell them, export them.”

I think that last article is about a place up off I-10 towards the Arizona/California border. You are driving along through the desert and all the sudden that pops up.