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« Charts of the day: Saudi Arabia's options | Main | Wikistrat briefing on China slowdown (part 1 of 4) »
12:42PM

Smart argument on handling America's water advantage

Smart op-ed in WSJ.

America is sending over huge amounts of alfalfa to China.  Alfalfa is a VERY water-intensive crop.  China uses it to feed their cattle which produce beef and dairy products.

Point of the article:  why not send beef and dairy to China instead and reap the better profit margin for our valuable water?

That's how New Zealand does it.  Its highest-value export is powdered milk, notes the authors of the piece.

The culprit?  America's antiquated and byzantine water-regulation practices - especially in the West.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (2)

Crap, it's behind a pay wall. Can you summarize their argument for the water laws reducing incentives for beef and dairy exports?

As it stands, my biggest frustration as a Coloradan is the disincentives for water recycling. As my state's laws stand, water that isn't used by a water rights-holder is turned over to a rights-holder of lower seniority. Also, water that is used has to be returned to the river or creek to flow downstream to the next state. To my knowledge, the only water that can be used to extinction (i.e. recycled) is water that's been transferred from one basin to another--which is NOT an easy process.

October 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

I have a hard time believing this analysis. Alfalfa can be wrapped up, thrown in a container, and stacked on a container ship. Dressed meat and dairy will need refrigerated compartments. Also, you triple the amount of American labor, feed for the cattle still has to be grown, but now you're also paying for labor to grow and tend the animals, and then labor to milk and/or process the cattle into meat. Then instead of shipping the feed to Chinese farms by train, you need to distribute all that food to consumers while it's still fresh. Is this _really_ going to be cheaper for the Chinese than feeding their own cattle with imported feed?

I also recall, in the 80's I think, that a lot of U.S. ranchers were going bankrupt, and at least part of the reason was that McDonalds and other fast food restaurants were importing beef from Central and South American countries. My guess would be that beef grown in the U.S. is probably still too expensive to compete in the global market, so convincing the Chinese to buy meat and dairy abroad would actually drive them to markets with cheaper labor costs than the U.S.

October 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjnutley

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