In Washington's Grant County, where 43% of the farm acres are irrigated, agriculture is turning some big economic benefits.
A new study by Ag Water & Power Users of Eastern Washington says the state's biggest irrigated agriculture county generates not only $2.4 billion in farm revenues, but also $256 million annually in labor wages.
The ag economic impact study by Sieverkropp Consulting found that Grant County had a reportedly "unique economic" situation with a multiplier of 2.65 for every dollar generated by farming. That ripple impact is not common in farm areas, the report indicates, and sets Grant County in a special category of higher than usual bang for the buck, says report author Elizabeth Sieverkropp.
This multiplier would be even higher, she notes, if the economic impact of Grant County's agricultural products have in exports would be included in the measurement. Many of these products are packed or processed in other counties and exported without a yardstick to estimate their value back to Grant County agribusiness.
Grant County's strong farm showing is strengthened by its concentration in bigger return crops such as potatoes, sweet corn, export hay, wine grapes, tree fruits and onions.
Given the stable supply of Columbia Basin Project irrigation water to Grant County fields, orchards and vineyards, irrigated ag is expected to continue to be a strong industry for producers there.
They are already in the process of expanding their interests into even higher return crops such as fresh produce, and the economic impact of the farmer is expected to reach even higher levels, the report indicates.
Ag Water & Power, which commissioned the probe, was formed in 2008 to address critical power rate and water supply issues impacting eastern Washington irrigators.
Objectives of the organization include restructuring of the irrigation power rate schedule to benefit producers, and monitor power rate increases as they occur.
The organization is particularly involved in water conservation methods that save money for producers.