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Decades ago, growing cotton was the main economic engine that drove the development of Casa Grande, Eloy and Coolidge. For many years, agriculture was the leading source of jobs and income. That changed over the years with a few factors, including mechanization, costs, commodity markets and the growth of other parts of the economy. However, agriculture continues to be important in Pinal County’s economy.

Today’s Tri-Valley Dispatch includes our annual section devoted to cotton and agriculture in general. It has been a mainstay for decades, timed with the traditional beginning of the cotton harvest. We have covered trends, and those trends have involved some big changes in the way crops are planted, grown and harvested.

Water is an issue for farmers today, as it has been throughout the state’s history. The Colorado River has been a major source for a few decades, but its phaseout from agricultural use always was planned. Crops have changed over the years, and there has been experimentation with some that use less water. Meanwhile, alfalfa has become a bigger crop as dairies have been a major part of Pinal agriculture. An effort has been made to switch back more to groundwater use, but that is likely to be limited long-term.

Through the years and into the present, the high school FFA program has been important in the area, and it has evolved with job market changes. It always has been an effective leadership program.

Some of the farm changes in recent years have involved sale of land to developers, and many acres that formerly grew crops are covered now by houses and commercial development. Other sites are being farmed on a temporary basis, with development likely coming in future years.

However, agriculture still pays a lot of wages and taxes here, and we salute the contributions that have been made to the economy, community improvement and services over the years and today.

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