Yuma Ag and You: Land Use and Yuma Agriculture

Roberta Stevenson-McDermott          March 15, 2015 publication

In a 2015 Yuma Sun article, headline ‘Plan Outlines Ideas to Attract Manufacturing Industry, Jobs’ which included a statement by Roger Dale, a consultant for Natelson Dale Group. The statement, in part, that the county benefits from its location on the international border and within a larger dynamic region; specifically along with unique economic drivers such as military and agriculture, plenty of developable land and “development friendly” government agencies.

The statement that there is plenty of developable land in Yuma County suggests that the consultant did not study the county statistics very carefully. Less than 7 percent of Yuma County land is in private hands. With statistics from the county website, there are 5,522 square miles of land in Yuma County and looking at statistics from the Yuma Natural Resource Conservation Districts, 388 square miles of those 5,522 square miles are private land. In addition, 273 square miles of the 388 square miles are our prime agricultural land, leaving just 115 square miles truly ‘available’.

The statistics on what agriculture brings to Yuma County are staggering. 1 in 4 jobs in Yuma County are related to agriculture. This not only includes the direct crop production side of the industry but also the coolers, salad plants, agricultural chemical dealers, agricultural equipment dealers, fuel providers, parts manufacturers, mechanics, irrigation districts, skilled labor forces in the thousands, tires, pickups, cartons, food safety, and innumerable others. 70 cents of each dollar from agriculture stays in Yuma County providing jobs in numerous service industries, shopping malls, grocery stores, schools, churches and whole hospitality industry. The 6 billion dollar agricultural industry provides the largest percentage of taxes to the county budget.

The types of industries and jobs should be compatible with agriculture and the 2nd largest dollar producer, the Yuma Proving Grounds and Marine Corp Air Station. Will new industry have an effect on our air quality? It is already a concern. Where will the water come from if it is a high water use industry? Is there more industrial and municipal water in the city water budget? The latest statistic I saw indicated that Yuma is a community of 93,000. I am curious where the number came from. If the city is growing that fast, maybe urban water for people, schools, parks and recreational uses need to be inventoried.

There is nothing wrong with planned growth, but Yuma still seems to be in the mode of leapfrog urbanization, extending city services further and further east without infill on the private lands that are already zoned for urban and industrial use. Advertisements for new subdivisions that bypass other undeveloped, urban acreage seem to put a strain on all the infrastructure whether utilities, police or fire services.

We are an agricultural community, an extremely successful one and need to make sure we do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, while pursuing magic beans.