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Former Camp Verde Mayor Brenda Hauser’s Speech to the Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, Water and Native American Affairs, Arizona House of Representatives. (Brenda currently serves as a Camp Verde Town Councilor.)
Honorable committee members, staff and visitors: Thank you for allowing me to speak with you this morning.
        My name is Brenda Hauser. I serve as Mayor of Camp Verde, representative of the Verde Watershed Association, alternate for the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee, and that committee’s representative to the Arizona Watershed Alliance. There are 17 watershed groups represented in that alliance. My job today is to speak about agriculture, which is really easy since I belong to a family that has been farming for six generations. My husband, son, and grandsons farm in the Camp Verde and Paulden areas. My husband’s two brothers farm in Tolleson and St. Johns and have been doing so for about 40 years. Their father raised and hauled citrus in North Phoenix from 1948 until his retirement. Prior to that, they farmed in Iowa.
        My message to you today is that I would like the State of Arizona, and especially rural Arizona, to consider farmland an ASSET rather than a water source for urbanization.
        Every water meeting that I attend (and there are many) when talks begin about a new subdivision or golf course, the first place they look for water is to dry up the farms. Yes, farming does use a lot of water but we’re NOT growing hubcaps—we’re growing food to feed the rapidly increasing population! Irrigation water also returns most of the water back to the aquifer which cannot be said for homes or golf courses.
        When the bulldozers come, we are not only losing a food source but also open space, Arizona’s history and character, green belts, wildlife habitat, buffer zones and agriculture soils. We are also increasing the cost of services to the municipalities. Additionally, loss of farmland takes away a tourist attraction which provides economic and educational benefits. People travel for hundreds of miles for fresh sweet corn, other fruits and vegetables, and farm activities.
        Where will we go for water and food when the farms are gone? Will we become as dependent on foreign coun-tries for food as we are oil? I see commercials on TV that tout the wonders of growing fruits and vegetables in Chile. Loss of Arizona agriculture impoverishes our quality of life and economy.
       We in rural Arizona must be given the legislative tools to make informed decisions on water use and agriculture must not be looked at as a water bank account for all other land uses. The Department of Water Resources gives 100 year adequate water supply to rural subdivisions. What does this mean? Is it planned depletion? Shouldn’t we instead be assured of a sustainable water supply? The federal government trades off lands that are valuable to watersheds. Do we not care if our children’s children have water? We must be allowed to involve water in every discussion where land use changes are at issue.
        The water use of a new subdivision in our region dried up the wells and springs in the homes surrounding the area. Was this impact considered during the planning process for the subdivision? Probably not. In fact, we do not even have the legal tools to consider such an impact.
        The Western United States has lost over 555,000 acres of agriculture land to urbanization during the last 20 years. While I commend the founding fathers of Phoenix who had the foresight to plan and initiate the Central Arizona Project, and the farmers who envisioned and created the Salt River Project, please know that YOU must consider rural Arizona in your decision-making.
        There are actually some states, Kentucky, North and South Dakota, Virginia and Iowa— to name a few— who actually value agriculture. They provide capital and technical assistance to farmers who wish to diversify their operations.
        I challenge Arizona’s leadership to value our agricultural community the way many of its citizens do when we think of fresh sweet corn in the summer, driving through blooming citrus groves, the scent of new-mown hay, the excited laughter of our children in the pumpkin patch in autumn. We care that our children know where their food comes from.
                A nation that cannot feed itself is at risk. In these uncertain times, is it wise to become dependent on foreign nations for one of the basic requirements of life—OUR FOOD

March 26, 2003

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