Every state has lived through its own economic nightmares in 2010; some worse than others. Arizona residents had their most fiscally ghoulish year in history. The Great Recession hit while Phoenix was the second fastest growing city in the nation. Shopping centers and subdivisions aplenty were built and have never opened.
The feds tapped Arizona, where I am based, as the second poorest state in the nation (just behind my home state of Mississippi). Now we’re like two peas in a pod; left wilted and jilted by economic drought.
2009 and 2010 will long be remembered for the Cinderella-like ascension of Jan Brewer from her post as Arizona’s secretary of state to governor. Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor so the secretary ofstate moves to the top when the governorship is vacated.
The elevation of Gov. Brewer to silver slipper and pumpkin carriage status followed President Obama’s “promotion” of then Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to the federal Homeland Security Secretary. Good riddance for Arizona.
Gov. Brewer never stood a chance in early 2010 to win the governor’s perch by an election of the people until the Arizona Legislature made Brewer an overnight political rock star – a Republican Lady Gaga.
Gov. Brewer signed state Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s new “get-tough on illegal immigration” bill which skyrocketed the state and Brewer to instant international sensation. The legislation is now headed for a certain showdown before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gov. Brewer’s stroke of the pen on SB 1070 garnered a 73 percent approval rating by Arizona residents and locked her election bid. The new law also elevated Arizona to the top wire under the big top by the instantaneous media circus.
Politicos in other states chastised Arizona for taking a tough stand on illegal immigration; a state where about 2,000 people each day illegally cross from Mexico into the United States at the Arizona border. City councils and other groups endorsed travel boycotts against the Grand Canyon State. The last figure I read summarized the boycott-induced business loss on Arizona’s already recession-shattered hospitality industry at about $60 million.
Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, whose job is to help constituents, endorsed the Arizona boycotts. In reality, Rep. Grijalva hurt those who he is sworn to help. Voters re-elected Rep. Grijalva in November.
Moving beyond politics, 2010 was a mixed year for Arizona agriculture. Good news surfaced in an updated University of Arizona study which bumped up the estimated value of Arizona agriculture from $9.2 billion to $10.3 billion. Despite the recession, politicians, and increased regulations, farmer ingenuity expanded agriculture’s net impact; worthy of a toast on New Year’s Eve and every day thereafter.
Agriculture was punched in the gut in late November when a judge reversed a previous ruling on the controversial taking of producer-paid check-off funds by Arizona lawmakers to help balance the state budget. The sucker punch is a felony against the lettuce, grain, citrus, and other agricultural programs whose dollars were held “in trust” by the state before dispersal by the commodity associations for commodity promotion and research.
Looking ahead to 2011, the eyes of central Arizona farmers are sharply focused on future water supplies for crop and livestock production.
Specifically, the water level at Lake Mead has dropped so far that an official shortage could be declared in the Lower Colorado River Basin in 2011. Pray for heavy rain and snow melt in the region this winter. Since Arizona is the low man on the totem pole in Colorado River water rights, available surface water could be reduced for central Arizona farmers.
Meanwhile financially-strapped alfalfa growers will keep their eyes glued on milk price projections in 2011; hoping that higher milk prices might bring profitability back to alfalfa producers. In the meantime, more alfalfa ground will likely shift into grain and cotton production.
Still after a dismal 2010 year, we still have so much to be thankful for: a roof over our heads, a full belly thanks entirely to farmers and an incredible U.S. food supply system.
2011 will be an entertaining year as the new Republican-controlled U.S. House interacts with the Democrat-controlled Senate and executive office toward initial steps to draw in the federal government’s purse strings.
Cinderella found her prince in Arizona in 2010. The fairy tale that elected national leaders in 2011 will construct a pumpkin-like compromise toward a balanced federal budget is a dream.
Then again we are a nation of dreamers. I hope President Obama and Congress deliver the real deal.