The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Biden’s Handouts to Big Agriculture

Dec 11, 2023

Last May, California, along with Arizona and Nevada, agreed to cut the amount of Colorado River water it uses by 10% until 2026. In return, the federal government is offering recipients of Colorado River water in these states—agricultural landowners—1.2 billion dollars from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

That will amount to handing out millions of dollars to big landowners—supposedly to persuade them to give up part of their irrigation water to save the Colorado River, which has been shrinking under the effects of a long drought.

But all that talk about “sacrificing to save the river” is actually bogus. As Politico also reported recently, big landowners in California have so much water that they have already been forgoing much of it under previous agreements—selling it, basically, and for much less than what the federal government is offering them now.

Landowners in the Palo Verde Irrigation District, for example, a small agricultural area at the California-Arizona border, had already reduced the amount of Colorado River water they used by 130,000 acre-feet per year (a quarter of California’s share of the cuts) since 2004. In return, first the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and then the federal government had been paying them 270 dollars per acre-foot. But now the Biden Administration will pay them 400 dollars per acre-foot—about 50% more!

But the biggest winners of this “water conservation” scam will be the big landowners in the Imperial Valley, another small agricultural area in the Sonoran Desert and the single biggest recipient of Colorado River water. The Biden Administration will pay Imperial Valley landowners 800 dollars per acre-foot, twice as much as what it is offering other water districts, amounting to an annual 200-million-dollar gift to Imperial Valley landowners, at the expense of taxpayers. The excuse for the higher price is that these landowners get 800 dollars per acre-foot for the tons of water they have already been selling to San Diego since 2003.

The federal government has built, and owns, the extensive water system that channels Colorado River water to agricultural landowners in seven states. And big landowners obviously get much more water than they need from the Colorado. So, the government could just impose the cuts. Why, then, is the federal government dishing out hundreds of millions of dollars on top of the free water the landowners get?

Because that’s what politicians that run the government do: they hand out money to big business. And the shrinking of the Colorado River? To these politicians, it’s just another excuse to shovel money to the coffers of big companies.